The Vauxhall Meriva VXR Is A Fast MPV That Time Forgot
The Meriva VXR wasn't anything like as popular as its Zafira big brother, but all these years on, we're oddly tempted
We can’t move for performance crossovers these days. From small to big, brisk to outrageously fast, you’re well catered for if you want something sporty with a bit of ride height.
Perhaps that might have happened with MPVs, had buyers not abandoned the segment in droves for SUV-shaped things. Vauxhall/Opel certainly had a damn good go at establishing the hot minivan, bringing out two VXR/OPC-badged machines in the mid-noughties.
First came the Zafira VXR - the one that everyone remembers. Shoving 237bhp through the front wheels in a tall seven-seater isn’t something you’d forget in a hurry, after all. Road testers of the day noted its ballistic straight-line performance and unruly torque steer, while also expressing bemusement at the choice of roads the international press launch - the route of the legendary Targa Florio in Sicily. That’s quite a statement of intent.
Later on, the much more measured Meriva VXR arrived. Its 1.6-litre inline-four turbo engine offered up 178bhp and 170lb ft of torque, which would climb to 190lb ft for five seconds whenever the ‘overboost function engaged. The 0-60mph time was just under eight seconds, which sounds modest these days, but the VW Golf GTI wasn’t much brisker back then.
Vauxhall did more than just give the Meriva more power plus angrier bumpers and chunky 17-inch wheels. Under the skin, the spring rates were bumped up, the torsion beam stiffened, and beefier suspension bushes went in at the rear. Inside, you got a set of hip-hugging Recaro seats.
Costing the equivalent of nearly £25,000 in today’s money, though, the dinky Meriva VXR was deemed too damn expensive for its own good. As a consequence, Vauxhall didn’t find many buyers for them. If the numbers on How Many Left are to be believed, UK numbers peaked at 254, and there are now only 159 left registered for use on the roads. Three and a half times as many Zafira VXRs were flogged.
That’ll be why there are only two Meriva VXRs for sale on Autotrader - the silver one seen in these images, and a red one with some, erm, interesting painted artwork. The former is the pricier one at £2750, but the mileage is reasonably low for the year at just under 80,000 miles.
The Meriva has only had two former owners, recently had the cambelt changed, and from the sounds of it, there’s a full service history too. Is it weird to be tempted by this thing?