Click above for a high-res shot of the Opel/Vauxhall Meriva concept.

We've already seen a rough sketch of the new Meriva concept from Opel/Vauxhall, but after a rendered image began leaking out onto the interwebs this week, GM's European division decided to put out a new image and a more extensive press release. The Meriva concept, set to make its debut in Geneva early next month, is being touted by GM as the future of flexibility and practicality. The automaker is heavily pitching the Meriva's major innovation dubbed FlexDoors, which are what we've all come to know and love as "suicide doors." The rear-hinged back doors supposedly offer easier ingress and egress, better aesthetics and greater safety for the little ones when you're strapping them down in thier child seats. Cool, but hardly what we'd consider truly innovative. We'll let you know how innovative this concept truly is in a couple weeks when we touch down in Switzerland.

[Source: GM]

PRESS RELEASE

MERIVA CONCEPT: NEXT LEVEL OF FLEXIBILITY

  • World premiere: FlexDoors make monocabs more comfortable, versatile and safer
  • Design: Dynamic lines with no concessions in practicality
  • Lifestyle: Exit the rear of the car in style
With the dynamically styled Meriva Concept, Opel/Vauxhall presents the next level of monocab flexibility at the International Motor Show in Geneva (March 6 – 16, 2008). The concept car features rear-hinged rear doors on both sides of the car called FlexDoors. While the front doors are conventionally designed with front hinges, the rear doors swing open towards the back of the car. Another feature of the family-oriented Meriva Concept is that the front and rear doors can open independently of each other. Rear-hinged rear doors already on the market can only be opened after the front door has been opened, which severely limits their practicality.

GM's patented FlexDoors innovation offers a wide range of benefits:

* Greater functionality: entering and exiting the vehicle is more convenient as the rear doors open to a 90-degree angle, creating a much wider aperture than standard car doors. Thanks to the high roofline, rear passengers also have more headroom when getting in and out of the car. The interior is much more accessible, so stowing a briefcase behind the front seat, for instance, is considerably easier.
* Higher level of safety: securing children in the back seats is much easier. The rear-hinged rear doors also improve control over children exiting the car, as they can be better seen from the different seating positions. The "safety zone" created between both doors also makes it much more difficult for them to step out into traffic than with conventional doors.
* More style: entering and exiting the rear of the vehicle not only looks cool and elegant, but also feels much more natural.

FlexDoors' smooth operation is backed up by an array of patented innovations developed by GM engineers. A safety system ensures the doors can only be opened from the inside or outside when there is no risk to the passengers. The Meriva Concept also features an automatic electronic child lock, which supplements the conventional mechanical system. The concept car also has B-pillars not only for independent opening but also for side-impact safety reasons.

The Meriva Concept's design is distinguished by its attractive combination of practicality and spaciousness with very dynamic and cool styling. The concept car's distinctive window line, arched roof, wide track and impressively sculpted body give a good indication of what is to be expected from future Opel/Vauxhall production monocabs.

"The Meriva Concept clearly illustrates how our new Opel/Vauxhall design language can be adapted to create bold, fresh design solutions for the monocab segment," says Mark Adams, Vice President of Design, General Motors Europe. Especially eye-catching is the dynamic 'wave' of the window line just behind the B-pillars, which provides an excellent all-round view for rear passengers. This also enabled designers to create a dynamic and unique silhouette and still provide good visibility for children in the rear. The body also boasts the distinctive "blade" bodyside form, which was a design element of the GTC Coupé and Flextreme. Another feature is the U-shaped windshield, which stretches up and back over the rear passengers' heads. Rear section elements – in particular the rear lights – echo the Insignia, Opel/Vauxhall's new upper mid-size class car due to be unveiled in the summer. The monocab's roof slopes gently downward towards the rear, underlining its dynamic character.

"The FlexDoors concept is a logical enhancement of our monocabs' flexibility," explains Alain Visser, Chief Marketing Officer, General Motors Europe. "With the Zafira's Flex7® seating system and the Meriva's FlexSpace concept, we took on a similar pioneering role in interior flexibility."

Opel/Vauxhall is enjoying great success with its monocab designs: in 2007, almost 335,000 Zafira and Meriva models were sold. And with the new Agila, monocab experts Opel/Vauxhall now also offer an entry-level monocab in the mini-car segment. Every fifth Opel/Vauxhall model sold today is a monocab, while in the total market it is just every eighth car.


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