For practical cars, being merely practical is no longer enough. Customers expect a degree of multi-tasking.
Vauxhall seems to have been acutely aware of this when designing the new Meriva.
The original model introduced in 2003 offered a vehicle that took up hardly any more road space than a Corsa, but with much more interior space and a few clever touches.
But it could hardly be described as stylish.
The second-generation Meriva arrives in the UK in June and comes with a sophisticated look, inspired by the Insignia and Astra.
Substantially larger than its predecessor, the new Meriva is less than a couple of inches shorter than the original Vauxhall Zafira.
It has a few innovative features that make it stand out from the crowd.
The main one is the rear-hinged rear passenger doors.
On the Meriva they open almost to 90 degrees, making getting in an out of the rear passenger compartment very easy.
The interior has been designed to accommodate items that typically need to be carried in a small family car, while medium specification versions come with a ‘FlexRail’ console running between the front seats to the rear compartment with a sliding storage tray.
Range-topping models add armrest storage.
The spacious interior will seat four adults in comfort and the rear compartment has also been designed with extra depth in the windows to give occupants a better view of the road.
Range-topping SE versions come with a standard panoramic glass roof.
The rear seats can be folded flat to increase luggage volume, or moved rearward and inward to increase leg-room for two rear-seat passengers.
Contrasting colour combinations for the dashboard and door trims can be chosen to give the interior a more upmarket feel. Many switches and controls, as well as the steering wheel, are similar to those in the Insignia.
At launch, there will be a range of 1.4-litre petrol engines – a normally aspirated 100bhp version at the entry level, with a choice of 120bhp and 140bhp turbo-charged units.
CO2 emissions are 144g/km, 143g/km and 156g/km respectively.
Two diesels will be available at launch: a 75bhp 1.3-litre and a 100bhp 1.7-litre, the latter coming with a six-speed automatic transmission.
A 95bhp low-CO2 Ecoflex version and a 130bhp 1.7 CDTi will follow a few weeks after the Meriva’s launch, the former likely to have CO2 emissions below 120g/km.
There is a simplified equipment grade structure which reflects those available on the Astra and Insignia.
Expression is the entry-level version, with S and Exclusiv as mid-spec models and SE as the top of the range. Air conditioning is standard on Exclusiv.
The Meriva impresses with its quality feel and thoughtful features, while there is a dash of style to add to the feel-good factor. It is far more desirable than the model it replaces.