Vauxhall’s new Meriva, on sale in the UK from 19 June, owes much to the work Rolls Royce did to gain type approval for backward-opening rear doors ahead of the launch of the Phantom. Such doors had previously been banned because of fears over them opening accidentally and passengers falling out.

“It made it much easier for us to put our doors into production,” Vauxhall product communications manager Simon Hucknall told just-auto, adding that the company is confident of a five-star rating in EuroNCAP crash tests.

The Meriva’s rear doors open independently of the front doors, unlike the rear portals on the Mazda RX-8 or the US-built Honda Element, which can only be opened once the front doors are open.

The rear-opening doors are likely to be one of the main talking points of the car and have several advantages, according to Hucknall. Because they open to nearly 90 degrees, they do not need to be as wide as conventional rear doors which open to no more than 68 degrees, making it easier to park in tight space;  their design also makes getting in and out much easier for both youngsters and older people.

All doors lock automatically at speeds above 2mph (3km/h), there’s a lock warning light by the door handles (like LTI’s London taxi) and the driver has both a visual and audible warning if any door has not been properly closed.

The previous generation Meriva, one of the first small multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) on the market, was launched in 2003 and found 112,000 buyers in the UK alone over six years.

The new Meriva, built at the GM plant near Zaragoza, Spain, is expected to do considerably better. It sits on a modified Zafira platform while the UK Vauxhall models’ steering has been changed from the left-hand drive Opel versions’ to give more feel and reduce the amount of self-centring. The interior owes much to the Insignia and more recently-launched new Astra.

Here in the UK, the Meriva will initially be available with three petrol and two diesel engines. The 1.4-litre petrol unit has power outputs of 100PS, 120PS and 140PS; these reworked units have reduced fuel consumption by 10% and power boosted by 14%.

The launch diesel engines are 1.3-litre (75PS) and 1.7-litre (100PS) I4s. Two additional diesel engines, a low CO2 ecoFlex version and a 130PS 1.7-litre with a six-speed manual gearbox, will be added later this year.

UK prices start at GBP12,995 for the 1.4 with base Expression trim and climb to GBP21,255 for the 1.7CDTi auto with SE specification. Best seller is expected to be the 140PS 1.4 Exclusiv trim at GBP18,140.