Opel/Vauxhall's Meriva replacement will ditch the minivan looks of the current model for crossover styling but it won't be a SUV.
The Meriva successor will have a "very stylized" design that is softer than the off-road look of the automaker's Mokka subcompact SUV, CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann said.
With sales of SUVs and crossovers booming, automakers face the challenge of giving their people movers a high-riding, SUV-like look while still maintaining the roominess and practicality of minivans.
Opel rival Peugeot has swapped boxy minivan looks for a rugged SUV appearance with its latest 3008 and 5008 models. Another rival, Renault, has given its Scenic and Espace vehicles softer crossover styling while -- like Peugeot -- ditching the boxy styling of previous generations.
For the Meriva replacement, Opel has gone a similar design route as Renault for technical reasons. The model will use a PSA Group platform as part of an industrial partnership between its parent, General Motors, and the French automaker.
Neumann said Opel originally wanted the Meriva successor to be a minivan like the current car but the plan was dropped because the automaker could not make the design work on the PSA platform. "We tried to do a Meriva and failed and so we said maybe this is not the right car," he said, adding that a crossover design looked much better.
The model will be built at Opel's factory in Zaragoza, Spain, where the current Meriva is produced. Opel also will build the replacements for the Peugeot 2008 and Citroen C3 Picasso in the factory as part of the GM-PSA partnership.
Neumann said the Meriva successor will look very different to the Peugeot and Citroen models. "We didn’t want to come with a badged version of something," he said during a roundtable discussion with journalists at the Paris auto show in late September.
Opel has not said whether the model will keep the Meriva name. It's due to go on sale next year after an expected debut at the 2017 Geneva auto show in March.
The Meriva successor is the first of three new SUV-styled crossovers planned by Opel.
The next will be a compact SUV/crossover that will replace the Zafira minivan and the Antara SUV, which is currently being run out. The compact model will be built by PSA in its plant in Sochaux, France, which makes the Peugeot 3008. It is expected to go on sale in 2018.
The car will plug a big gap in the lineup for Opel, which currently has no model to compete against strong-selling mainstream SUVs such as the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Hyundai Tuscon and Kia Sportage.
The third SUV/crossover will be midsize car that will share a platform with the Insignia. This model will have much tougher in looks compared with the softer subcompact and compact crossovers, Neumann said.
Opel's midsize SUV will be built on a GM platform shared with the Buick brand, reports have said. It expected to go on sale by 2020 and will be built at Opel's main factory in Ruesselsheim, Germany.