We finally wound our way over to Opel's booth to check out the newest take on the compact MPV concept. The Meriva's small footprint would lend itself well to the urban confines Opel expects the majority of buyers to be based out of, and the FlexDoors, a modern take on the suicide doors of yore, should make ingress and egress easier for the kiddies and anyone else banished to the back of the mini-bus. Opel wanted to maintain the stylistic edge of a high belt-line, which normally impedes rearward visibility, but the slopping rear windows and D-pillar might make blind spots a bit more bearable when some version of the Meriva makes it to production around the turn of the decade.
You can read up on all the details about the Opel Meriva concept in the press release after the jump.
Opel 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
Rüsselsheim. With the dynamically styled Meriva Concept, Opel 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.
The concept vehicle is powered by a new 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine featuring a full variable valve timing system.
GM/Opel'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/Opel 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 production monocabs.
"The Meriva Concept clearly illustrates how our new Opel 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'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 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 expert Opel now also offers an entry-level monocab in the mini-car segment. Every fifth Opel model sold today is a monocab, while in the total market it is just every eighth car.
Opel Meriva Concept: Epitome Of Flexibility
• FlexDoors: Innovation makes monocab more versatile, more comfortable and safer
• FlexSpace: maximum rear seat variability
• FlexConsole: Individually configurable storage system between the seats
The Opel Meriva Concept takes flexibility to new heights with its rear-hinged rear doors that can be opened independently from the front doors. This innovation, called FlexDoors, makes access to the car interior much easier and also offers a range of safety benefits over conventional car doors. The concept car also boasts the highly variable FlexSpace rear seating concept familiar from the production Meriva. There is also a new storage system called FlexConsole above the center tunnel to make life on board even more comfortable.
Access: Rear-hinged rear doors considerably increase comfort
The most eye-catching innovation is the FlexDoors concept. While the front doors are conventionally designed with front hinges, the rear doors swing open toward the back of the car, which makes, for instance, securing children in the back seat or stowing a briefcase behind the front seat much easier. Entering and exiting the vehicle is more convenient as the rear doors open to a much wider angle. The rear-hinged rear doors provide access at the car's highest point – just behind the B-pillars – and the door openings are not restricted by the wheelarches like conventional door apertures. A further advantage of FlexDoors is that both front and rear doors open to a 90-degree angle. In comparison, the current production Meriva's doors open to an angle of about 60 degrees. Thanks to their innovative design, the rear doors are also relatively short, making access to the interior easier in tight parking spaces.
Premiere: Front and rear doors 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. FlexDoors smooth operation is backed up by an array of patented innovations developed by GM/Opel engineers. In addition, a comprehensive FMEA risk analysis was compiled that listed all conceivable operational and functional errors. The corresponding countermeasures were then defined in the technical specifications. A dual layout, electronic/mechanical fail-proof surveillance system ensures that the doors can only be opened from the inside or outside when there is no risk for the passengers.
As part of the FlexDoors concept's innovative monitoring system, the Meriva Concept also features an automatic electronic child lock, which supplements the conventional mechanical system. The rear-hinged rear doors also improve control over children exiting the car, as they cannot step out into traffic as easily as with conventional doors. Seat belt usage rates are predicted to increase as well, because rear-hinged rear doors enable parents to buckle up smaller children much more easily. The result of these combined factors is higher comfort and a considerable boost in safety.
Comfort: Climb in and out easily
The FlexDoors concept was tested and optimized in an extensive series of car clinics – with potential customers. It quickly became apparent that a vast majority of participants were very impressed with the innovation and had no problems getting used to the rear-hinged rear doors.
Indeed, 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 seats, for instance, is considerably easier.
The FlexDoors concept does not require any concessions in crash performance or body stability, as the B-pillars have been purposely retained – unlike the previous and much more futuristic Flextreme concept car. Just like in conventional vehicles, the Meriva Concept head curtain and side airbags provide additional occupant protection.
Innovation: Flexible FlexConsole storage system between the seats
The FlexConsole system is a further innovation which provides flexible storage space between the seats. Its realization was made possible thanks to an electric handbrake. This creates room for two rails above the conventional compartments in the center console, which extend back as far as the rear seats. Various containers can be easily fixed to these rails and pushed backwards and forwards, so that rear passengers can also make full use of the system. There is no limit to the type of containers which can be simply clicked into the space management system with spring-loaded pins. Anything is possible, from a cool box to a coffee machine, or from a mobile communication center to a chic handbag.
Unsurpassed: Flexible FlexSpace seating system for the rear seats
The Meriva Concept's door system also offers benefits when using the extraordinarily flexible FlexSpace rear seating system, which has been carried over from the current production Meriva. The handles to move or fold down the rear seats are now even easier to reach. In the standard five-seat configuration, the FlexSpace system offers three seats in the rear.
The layout with two single seats in the rearmost position offers particularly high levels of comfort: the Meriva then becomes an extraordinarily spacious four-seater, offering leg and shoulder room for all seats that rivals a mid-size class car. If more luggage space is required, both single outer seats can be individually pushed forward or folded away completely into the car floor quickly and easily. In this configuration, the center seat is simply folded down. Even as a five-seater, the Meriva boasts a cargo capacity of 415 liters – considerably more than usual in the compact car class. If required, the Meriva Concept can be quickly and easily transformed into a two-seat MPV with a 1420-liter load capacity.
Help: Moveable load floor simplifies luggage loading
Another innovation helps with luggage compartment loading: the vertically adjustable load floor. Thanks to this innovation, heavy luggage need not be lifted up and out of the trunk. Instead, the load floor can be raised by 20 centimeters at the touch of a button.
In addition to the Meriva study's flexibility concept, the compact monocab (length x width x height: 4220 x 1760 x 1601 mm) also sets new standards in the feeling of on-board spaciousness. This was achieved by lowering the instrument panel by around ten centimeters compared to the current production Meriva, and by making the front A-pillars as slim as possible, so that driver and front passenger have optimal visibility. The lower rear door windows also ensure excellent visibility for rear passengers, as do the additional large side windows in front of the C-pillars, which have been pushed far back. Rear passengers enjoy plenty of space thanks to FlexSpace, the long wheelbase of 2640 mm and the wide track (front 1560 mm, rear 1584 mm).
New Level Of Dynamics And Family Friendliness
• Unique window line with dynamic wave just behind the B-pillars
• Distinctive trapezoidal radiator grille with new Opel logo
• Eye-catching day and nighttime wing design for both front and rear lamp signature lighting
Practicality and spaciousness with very dynamic and cool styling: Opel presented this combination, which is unusual for a monocab, at last year's IAA with the FlexTreme concept car. The Meriva Concept now takes this philosophy one step further, and with its distinctive window line, arched roof, wide track and impressively sculpted body, one step closer to a possible series production model. The current concept also boasts the extraordinary, rear-hinged rear FlexDoors, except that this time the concept car does have B-pillars, which feature a striking LED light strip to guide passengers into the cabin and illuminate the road surface beside the vehicle.
"The Meriva Concept clearly illustrates how our new Opel 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" in the window line just behind the B-pillars, which provides an especially good 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 unique window graphics are further emphasized by an aluminum sculpted frame. Designers also integrated FlexDoors' handles precisely level with the shoulder line..
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 – echoing the Astra GTC's panorama windshield. The slim A-pillars and windshield pulled far down ensure plenty of light and a spacious interior atmosphere. Both elements contribute to the outstanding
all-round visibility for the monocab concept's occupants. Large side mirrors, which also house additional turn indicators, are integrated into the window graphics.
Large 19 x 8J aluminum wheels with 235/35 R19 tires fill out the flared wheelarches and give the concept car a bold, dynamic look. The wheels in five-spoke design harmonize with the body's sculpted contours.
The "Pepper Dust" gray concept car's front section is defined by large headlamps and a bold trapezoidal radiator grille, which makes its production debut in the new Insignia. The brand logo – with "Opel" engraved into the bordering – sits proudly on the broad upper crossbar in polished aluminum.
The large, translucent headlamps with state-of-the-art LED technology are housed beneath an aluminum frame. The shape of the special daytime running lamps, which give the car an unmistakable face even at night as a parking light, set the tone for all upcoming Opel models. In-house, the lamps' design has been dubbed the "wing." form The turn indicators are integrated into the lower, transparent section of the headlamp units. The front section is rounded off by Opel's characteristic center crease on the hood.
Rear section elements – in particular the rear lights – echo the Insignia. The "wing" form design is also integrated into the rear light units as a signature feature. When the turn indicator is activated, the lower section changes in color from red to yellow. The gently downward-sloping roof and roof spoiler with integrated third brake light underline the monocab's dynamic character. The Opel logo appears to float on the large rear window, which features an aluminum crossbar at its base.
The cockpit is dominated by a wing-like, wraparound instrument panel. The console's upper section extends from door to door in a continuous line. In order to ensure a spacious interior atmosphere and best-possible all-round visibility, the entire cockpit has been positioned as low as possible and the A-pillars are very slim. The console's upper section has a leather finish with a warm "Cocoa" brown tone, just like the seat trim. This tone creates an attractive contrast to the "Light Galvanised" (light gray) seat upholstery with 3D pattern and longitudinal brown line. The seat covers are accented by orange seams – a detail that is continued on the vehicle floor. Orange seams frame two translucent stripes running the entire length of the cabin. In place of conventional carpeting, a six-millimeter thick sheet of felt covers the Meriva Concept's floor.
The steering wheel's U-shaped aluminum graphic and the red instruments are reminiscent of the GTC Concept car. The center console is dominated by a large navigation screen mounted beneath an arched cover. The red-backlit control units for the infotainment and climate control systems can be found lower down beneath a 10 mm thick Plexiglas cover. All the settings can be accessed via touch screen except for the dials, which pop out when pressed. The light switch left of the steering wheel also glows in signature red from beneath its transparent cover, giving an iPod look.
The button to activate the electric parking brake is positioned for easy access directly below the Meriva Concept's gear lever. By doing away with a conventional mechanical handbrake, the designers were able to realize a new, flexible storage concept: two aluminum rails run parallel along the sides of the center tunnel in a slight arc. These are used to secure a special box, which can be slid backwards to the rear passengers or easily removed when leaving the car, if required. Even more storage spaces are available below the box. In addition, 1.5-liter bottles can fit into the storage compartments in the Meriva Concept's front doors.