By on August 18, 2010

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.

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24 Comments on “Suicide Doors: Still A Gimmick...”


  • avatar

    I think these make quite a bit of sense when B-pillar is removed, as done on Element, FJ Cruiser, and some domestic trucks. It was also tried on Saturn, but made less sense there because it did not have the cargo space that would make these doors worth the extra weight of a pillarless cab. I do not quite understand what the point might be in case of Opel MPV. BTW, IMHO the sliding doors of Mazda MPV are terrific, and yet they failed in the market badly.

    • 0 avatar
      daga

      I love suicide doors, but I have to admit, B-pillars take most of the coolness away. Like the Olds and VW convertibles with the permanent loop brace, B-pillars show the lack of engineering effort in suicide doors. + Suicide doors are about the only way of making a 4D convertible not look ridiculous (300C 4D convertible with suicide doors would be wonderful).

    • 0 avatar
      wheelz64

      I love it, I am in a wheelchair and dont want or need a van. People thiks just because your in a wheelchair you need a van with a lift, not so. There are so many like me that would like to have a car that we could set in drivers seat and take apart our chair and put in the back seat and shut the door and drive.The suiside doors does that for us. I have a 2004 saturn ion that has the suiside doors LOVED IT. But class action law suit against them due to bad transmissions. so mine is parked and dead. Cant find anything thus far, would love to check this new car out.

  • avatar
    twotone

    The only suicide door car on my list is a 1961 – 1963 Lincoln Continental Convertible. The doors made that car.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Suicide doors are terrible for adults seated in the rear of the vehicle. You either rely on the front seat passengers to operate the door or you have the pleasure of applying the force to shut the door at an acute angle instead of normal to the door. The more acute the angle between your arm and door, the more force required to close the door.

    • 0 avatar
      photog02

      Quit being obtuse. :-)

      Very good point though- suicide door are a pain for most people to use. They also can (depending on the degree to which they open) be less accommodating than even normal front-hinged doors.

    • 0 avatar
      Highway27

      That angle can be a problem in normal rear doors, also. The ’08 Ford Explorer has the worst rear door handle design I’ve ever seen. It has an armrest, but the pull handle isn’t a notch in that. There’s no way to grip the armrest. Instead, the pull handle is located just below it, at an angle, up at the front end of the door. So you have to pull without mechanical advantage, and if you don’t let go early enough, you get your wrist smacked by the armrest, cause your hand doesn’t like to bend that way.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Suicide doors are for cars driven by chauffeurs, who open, hold, and close the door for the passengers.

      MPVs need sliding doors.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    If both doors need to be opened for the rear doors to work forget it. As a Element owner its a PIA when parked next to other cars because you get trapped between the front and rear door

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    “Suicide doors” are not a big gimmick. Disappearing doors — or more formally, “rotary drop doors” — now there’s a gimmick.

    http://www.snotr.com/video/1309

  • avatar
    iNeon

    The Saturn I’d experienced with suicide doors scared the ever-loving-snot out of me. When you’re riding down the road, and you put weight onto the armrest– the entire side of the vehicle should not flex outward.

    Woe to those t-boned in such a vehicle.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Suicide doors are neat when u exit because your derriere is hinge to rear so u kind of slide out, I had that experience many yrs ago from riding my bro’s Rover 90.
    To do away the B pillar is another technical marvel, u need very strong body, the facel vega had that issues then.
    I bet when the Contirental get a bit aged they will face the same music.

    For a driver trying to close the rear door would be a real pain, u choose the passenger, if they dont colse the door for u then they dont get to ride it again.

    Perhaps thats the sole reason RR Phantom decided to use them again.

  • avatar
    Invisible

    The suicide doors on the Element are B-pillar free.

    With the doors open, and the front seats forward, it makes loading and unloading large objects much easier than say an equivalent CR-V.

  • avatar
    findude

    Gimmick. Right up there with push-button starters.

    The one advantage to a suicide door is similar to the advantage of riding sidesaddle. It enables a more elegant/less risque exit for woman in a skirt who is having the door opened for her.

    +1 to flexy frames when the B-pillar is eliminated. The 1950s Facel Vega Excellence and Cadillac Eldorado Brougham were both notorious for flexing to the point that the doors would pop open when hitting bumps at speed.

    http://www.shorey.net/auto/french/facel%20vega/1957%20Facel%20Vega%20Excellence%20interior.jpg

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/174/436344012_a522f82fb3.jpg

  • avatar
    210delray

    “First-ever Buick subcompact.” Ed, ask your dad about the Buick Skyhawk of the 70s.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The Element and RX-8 do this right: both lack a B-pillar and, as such, it’s very easy to get in and out, and (in the Element) exceedingly simply to get children and their car-seats set up correctly. Neither car is problematically “flexy” and both crash-test well.

    In this case, yes, it’s a gimmick. The general concept is a good one.

    I always liked the Meriva; I thought the last one should have made the trip over instead of the Astra, and could have opened up Saturn to a whole chunk of buyers without competing with anything else in GM’s North American palette.

    • 0 avatar
      kjs

      I agree. The Meriva would have been good for Saturn. But if they’re really going to bring it over as a Buick – I don’t see that really working well. Couldn’t they do it as a Chevy?

  • avatar
    niky

    Suicide doors suck when you have to open both front and rear… even on a small car like the Mini Clubman, they’re a pain in the parking lot.

    It’s more convenient to step out rather than to step out from behind a door… but it’s easier to slide out sideways from behind a door (holding the edge with your hand to keep from scratching against the car beside you) than to slide out sideways in front of one. Even easier if the door simply slides back.

  • avatar
    ford trucks

    The first of the suicide doors are how to section that how to swing them doors in reverse mode.After you stop jumping with joy just witnessed your door opening in suicide mode,
    can finish it with the hinge pocket to the cab or trucks,opening around hinge pocket is in rare case.handle file should be used to remove the extra metal.The manufacturer should used some good thick steel for the inner door skins won’t have any problem.

  • avatar

    I just recently installed a set of 300c suicide doors on my 2005 chrysler 300c. I have to disagree with what others have said about them being difficult in any way. I find them to be a dramatic improvement to regular doors. These suicide doors are wide open in the front so your legs have nothing restricting them when you sit down and turn into the vehicle. The same applied when you get out. They are much better than conventional doors that way. Now if the seats pointed toward the back of the vehicle, lol , then I would prefer conventional doors.


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