One of the big problems affecting Vauxhall’s second-generation Meriva since its 2010 introduction has been its ageing diesels.

While the 1.3 and 1.7-litre engines provided decent performance, they trailed rivals on efficiency and refinement. That’s now set to change, however, as the Meriva becomes the second Vauxhall to benefit from the much-improved 1.6-litre CDTi ‘Whisper Diesel’.

The old diesels will continue to be sold until Euro VI legislation comes into place in September, but the new engine should effectively wipe both from buyers’ minds long before then. It’s up to seven per cent more powerful than before, offering 134bhp and 317Nm of torque, yet also promises to be 10 per cent more efficient, with Vauxhall claiming official 64.2mpg economy.

Emissions have dropped, too, from a 139g/km high to 116g/km, resulting in a potential road tax reduction of £95 per year. While these savings will be what first attracts buyers to the refreshed car, the refinement of the engine may well seal the deal. Vauxhall claims the new diesel is the class’s quietest, and at anything up to 4,000rpm this certainly seems to be the case. Not that you need to push it that far, as peak torque is available from a lowly 2,000rpm, making the Meriva an ideal urban commuter.

This feeling is helped by changes made to the six-speed manual box, which allow quicker and more precise shifting. The transmission still lacks the snappiness of the B-MAX’s, but so do those of most cars in this class. Nor does the Vauxhall drive as well as the Ford – at least, not the cars we tested at the launch in Germany.

The electro-mechanical steering is currently direct but bereft of feel, although Vauxhall says it’ll recalibrate UK cars – as it did with the Mokka – to offer more substance and connection with the road than its European rivals.

A lower-powered version of the 1.6-litre engine will debut in the Vauxhall Astra at the Geneva Motor Show next month, before making its way into the Meriva as the replacement for the 1.3-litre CDTi engine. With 108bhp, claimed 74mpg and 99g/km emissions, it may well be worth holding out for.

The car’s looks certainly are not, as you’d be hard-pressed to pick out any differences without having the pre and post-facelift Merivas parked side-by-side. Vauxhall has redesigned the front bumper to accommodate a lower, more Insignia-like grille, while new rear light graphics mimic those of the recently refreshed saloon.

Other than that, little is changed. It’s a similar story inside: apart from the introduction of an Intellilink-lite system (that pairs the seven-inch screen from the Adam and Insignia with Vauxhall’s usual array of buttons) and the deletion of FlexRails from the back for increased legroom, most things remain the same.

The clever FlexSpace rear seating continues unchanged, as does the 400-litre boot space, which can be boosted to 1,500 litres with the chairs collapsed.

The rear-hinged back doors are another practical touch, helping parents load kids into their child seats from the front. Trouble is, while this was a clever innovation when the Meriva was first launched, the B-MAX’s solution of a sliding door and no B-pillar at all has since proven that there’s an even better way to access the back seats.

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