As Europe moves towards ever more premium subcompact cars, Opel has sought to hop on the bandwagon by giving its Corsa-based Meriva Micro-MPV stylish suicide doors. And with Buick moving towards simple rebadges of Opel’s product, the suicide-doored Meriva seems almost certain to arrive stateside as the so-called “Baby Enclave” MPV, expected to debut in the US market in 2012. There’s little doubt of the suicide door concept’s gimmick value, and we’ve said before that this factor alone could get Americans excited about the first-ever Buick subcompact… but just how much of a difference do the rear-hinged doors make in real life? According to the first German-market comparison test (by Auto Motor und Sport print edition), the Meriva’s suicide doors are still just a gimmick.
With the “FlexDoor” door concept (as it’s known in marketing-speak), Opel promises easier installation of child seats. Theoretically, its advantage is in the ability to move the child seat in and out by moving forward rather than side to side. But then one must still squeeze it through the narrow door frames. Here the small opening and far-back-positioned bench annoy even more when the child seat should be resting against the child-seat-anchor or be belted in… even lifting a child into the Meriva is not noticeably more comfortable [than the competition].
Thank the Meriva’s B-Pillars for the compromise, as safety and cost required the extra steel to make the suicide door concept work. And as could be expected, the design has also taken a toll on that perennial GM bugaboo, weight. With a 120 hp 1.4 liter engine, the Gamma II-platform (next-gen Aveo-based) Meriva weighs 3,064 lbs, making the Meriva the only car in the comparison over 3k lbs (it was tested against the Citroen C3 Picasso, the Kia Venga, the Renault Grand Modus and the Skoda Roomster). Gimmicks are good for business, but only if they don’t require huge sacrifices. With much hype over the Buick Meriva’s suicide doors likely in the years leading up to its US release, it’s nice to know that there’s nothing to get too excited about.