The first generation of the Opel Meriva minivan was exhibited at the Opel booth at the 2002 Paris Motor Show. Following its famous predecessor, the Opel Zafira, the new Opel Meriva won praise for its clever adaptability, spacious interior, attractive styling, and manageable size.

The new Opel Meriva minivan, manufactured at the Zaragoza plant in Spain since 2003, faced the daunting challenge of replicating Opel Zafira's sales success in the immediately lower market segment. The two models shared a remarkable ability to transform the passenger compartment, allowing for transporting people or things without needing to remove any seats. While the larger Opel Zafira, with its Flex7 seat reconfiguration technology, the larger Opel Zafira could accommodate as many as seven passengers over three rows of seating. However, the new Opel Meriva was only available with five seats in a more conventional two-row layout.

Understanding that most individuals only need to transport themselves or two other people in a compact automobile, and rarely more than four, inspired this innovative approach for making the most of the available space within. The incredible adaptability of the Opel Meriva began with its wheelbase measurement of 2,630 millimeters, nearly identical to that of the Opel Zafira-e Life (2,694 mm). The Opel Meriva was 27.5 centimeters shorter than its predecessor.

The Opel Meriva was a brand-new endeavor that included gasoline and turbodiesel engines ranging in size from 1,600 to 1,800 cc. "We took a blank slate while designing the Opel Meriva. This was the only way to accomplish the exceptional flexibility of its interior. The result again demonstrates that our designers are at the forefront of the global competition in interior design," the company said.

Even before the initial concept drawings were released, engineers at Opel had already established the groundwork for the new Opel Meriva minivan. These were the five pillars that the House believed were essential to creating a first-rate interior and exterior. The firewall was shifted forward as close as possible to the front axle to preserve space for the inside, and the so-called "comfort dimensions" typical of each Opel model were re-proposed (distances and angles between the steering wheel, pedals, and dashboard). So that everyone in the car, regardless of height, would have a clear view of the road, the windshield was raised to the top of the vehicle.

The dynamic form that the designers settled on for the new Opel Meriva minivan furthers the brand's signature design language. For instance, the first-generation Opel Meriva had curved surfaces rich in tension wedged between straight outlines. The Opel graphic style is highlighted by the brilliant line along the sides, which draws attention to the taillights. The four side windows also contribute to this effect. Concurrently, it generated a pronounced shoulder on the bodywork and, combined with the enormous wheel arches, gave the impression that the minivan was considerably bigger than it actually was.

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However small it was, the Opel Meriva gave off an appearance of roominess. This was achieved by shortening the overhangs of the body, establishing a wheelbase of 2.63 meters, installing thin, curved roof pillars, and sloping the roofline after the second pillar. The new Opel minivan was widely praised even before it hit the market. It received the MPV Design Award from the British Institute of Automotive Engineers in November 2002 for the "freshness of its look."

In 2010, the first-generation Opel Meriva was discontinued and replaced by the Opel Meriva second-generationwhich debuted the distinctive side doors with circular openings that are now standard on all Opel models (just like Opel Crossland).

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