Upright Citizen (Vauxhall Meriva 2003-2010)

ENGINES – Despite its size, there’s no shortage of choice in the Meriva's engine department. The mainly petrol line-up should cater for most wallets and needs, ranging from a modest 1.4 unit to a punchy 1.8-litre lump. If you rack up the miles there’s also a capable 1.7-litre diesel to consider although refinement does suffer a little.

EXTERIOR – The Meriva boasts a compact footprint that’s just right for urban motoring. Despite its ‘people carrier’ moniker, the Meriva is really a high-rise compact hatchback and its profile reflects this.

INTERIOR – This is where the Meriva's tall roofline pays off, as there's more headroom inside the car's cabin than your average compact runabout. Also, everything feels solid and durable, which is just what you want to hear if you have a small family to transport. Supportive seats and a good level of standard equipment also impress, as does the ability to fold the rear seats to create more space.

DRIVING – Driving the Meriva is a pleasant experience, largely thanks to the car's light controls and its lofty driving position. The lively petrol engines make life easy, although if you regularly carry a full load it would be worth investing in the most powerful unit you can afford. It might not appeal to keen drivers but the Meriva does deliver in in terms of comfort and refinement.

OWNERSHIP – A popular model first time around, there is no shortage of choice in the marketplace. Solid build quality and proven technology underpin the car, while never far from a Vauxhall dealer is a big plus when it comes to servicing and repairs.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – With the Meriva originally pitched as a compact family car, always check for the tell-tale signs of use associated with being an urban runabout: soiled upholstery, parking dents, kerbed wheels, damaged interior trim, heavily scuffed boot load lip. Stodgy handling, unusual noises from the suspension or engine and an incomplete service history should have you looking elsewhere.

MODEL HISTORY

2003: Vauxhall launches compact hatch with more space and versatility than its already established Corsa. Family-friendly focus was main aim, and Meriva boasts plenty of storage options and easy to fold rear seats. Varied petrol engine range plus sole diesel forms backbone of the line-up. Short-lived VXR performance model launched in 2006 to coincide with range facelift.

REASONS TO BUY – Good-looking, choice of petrol engines, family-friendly features, affordable, plenty of choice.

REASONS TO BEWARE – Usual family-orientated damage, low mileage city cars with a patchy service history.

PICK OF THE RANGE – Meriva 1.6i 16v Life

WHAT TO PAY

2006 06 2,565

2006 56 2,710

2007 07 3,100

2007 57 3,235

2008 08 3,470

2008 58 3,655

2009 09 4,110

2009 59 4,310

2010 10 4,885

Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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