General Motors has introduced the Opel-designed Meriva ‘mini minivan’ in Brazil six months ahead of Europe, writes Rogério Louro.

Sold as a Chevrolet in Brazil, the Corsa-based Meriva is priced from 27% less than the cheapest Zafira minivan. It’s the production version of the ‘Concept M’ unveiled at Geneva last March and is made in GM´s São José dos Campos plant, São Paulo state. This factory also builds the Corsa hatchback and its unique Brazilian sedan derivative as well as the larger seven-seat Zafira.

The production Meriva will be shown for the first time in Europe at the Paris Motor Show next month and production begins in GM’s Spanish Zaragoza plant in January.

The Meriva is 4042 mm long and 1573 mm wide on a lengthy 2630mm wheelbase, 50 mm longer than that of the Renault Scénic which is 4170 mm long overall.

The Meriva has GM´s FlexSpace system, first seen in the Zafira, that folds the three rear seats down to leave a flat floor. When the centre rear seat is folded down, the outer pair can be moved inwards, giving two rear passengers more shoulder room.

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The Meriva’s 292-litre ‘rear seats up’ luggage area can be expanded to 1,380 litres with the rear seats folded.

The Brazilian-made Meriva comes with two versions of GM’s 1.8-litre petrol engine: a 102 bhp eight-valver or a 122 bhp unit with 16-valves.

European versions will have 1.6 and 1.8-litre engines developing 75bhp to 125bhp as well as diesel alternatives.

GM expects to produce about 1,200 Merivas a month in Brazil to start, boosting output to 2,000 units per month by the end of the year when exports begin to Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia.

“With the Meriva we will open up a new segment of young buyers,” said GM do Brazil vice president José Carlos Pinheiro Neto.

“This model is ideal for a young buyer wanting to move from a car to a minivan.”