Opel's existing Meriva range has been bumped up a notch with the addition of a 1,8-litre derivative, guaranteed to add a new dimension to the compact MPV category.

Opel's existing Meriva range has been bumped up a notch with the addition of an 1,8-litre derivative, guaranteed to add a new dimension to the compact MPV category.

With its double overhead camshaft Ecotec engine, the 1,8-litre produces 92 kW at 6 000 r/min and 165 N.m of torque at 4 600 r/min. The Elegance is available with either a five-speed manual or the Easytronic five-speed transmission.

Easytronic allows for the convenience of automatic shifting or clutchless manual gear selections. Since it is not equipped with a clutch pedal, an electronic actuator operates the clutch. A click of the shift lever towards either the + or - symbol initiates the gear changes.

As seen on the Meriva Club and Comfort derivatives launched late last year, the Elegance comes standard with DSA (dynamic safety assist) suspension, ABS (with ventilated brake discs at the front), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and brake assist. The model, which earned a four-star rating in the EuroNCAP crash tests, comes equipped with front and side airbags, front seat belt tensioners and force limiters and Isofix child seat attachments on the outer rear seats.

The Elegance specification comes with added features, including active head restraints, curtain side airbags, front fog lamps, climate control, 15-inch 7-spoke alloy wheels, and a matte chrome centre instrument panel. Traction control is also offered.

Convenience items added include a "follow me home" headlight feature and a storage drawer under the second row of seats. Central door locking with selective lock and unlock function is standard.

Standard too is the Travel Assistant and Twin Audio system for rear passengers, first seen on the Meriva Comfort. The Travel Assistant can be attached to the back of the centre seat once it has been folded down and provides more than 50 litres of additional space and extra cupholders.

The audio system allows rear passengers to listen to their own selection of music through a module in the rear console with controls for programme selection and volume adjustment with sockets for two headphones.

With all five seats in use, the Meriva's load area - depending on the position of the rear seats - holds between 350 to 560 litres. And if more space is required, the Meriva can be transformed into a transporter with a capacity of 1 410 litres and a cargo-area length of 1,70 metres.

With the front passenger's seat folded down, the load length stretches to 2,4 metres and storage capacity increases to no less than 2 000 litres.

The 1,8-litre Elegance costs R184 000, while the Easytronic costs R189 000.

All Merivas are covered by a five-year/100 000 km Opel Complete Motoring Plan. This includes a full service plan and the replacement of fair wear-and-tear items.

Warranty cover is over three years or 100 000 km, and roadside assistance is provided for five years or 100 000 km.