The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is a mini-MPV that still has the ability to show its opponents the way. June Neary reports.
Will It Suit Me?
On the face of it, the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer isn't the sort of car that would immediately turn my head. I have no real need for seven seats and I prefer something a bit smaller and sassier. After driving it, I'm not so sure. I like cars that do what they promise and the Zafira certainly delivers on all its promises. It's undeniably practical but it never feels as if you're making big sacrifices for that level of utility. If I was to own a Zafira, I would have to squirrel away two or three thousand pounds so that I could have a cheeky used roadster or hot hatch on the side for my driving jollies, but I don't doubt the Vauxhall would clock up the bigger mileages.
Where to start? The Zafira Tourer does practicality like no other car in its class. With seating for seven, the entire third row can be folded flush with the floor of the luggage area, but rather than being a bench, the second row instead comprises three separate seats that can be folded and moved fore and aft through 210mm, giving third-row passengers the potential of extra room compared with the old Zafira. Passengers in the second row also benefit from more space. Thanks to a clever folding mechanism (available on certain models), the back of the middle seat can fold forward and rotate, providing occupants in the outer seats with individual armrests. In five-seat mode, the luggage area holds up to 710 litres (up 65 litres), and up to 1860 litres (+40 litres) when all rear seats are folded. For the first time in a Zafira model, a FlexFix integrated bicycle carrier is available, fitting into the rear bumper and pulling out like a drawer to accommodate two bikes, without the need for any special fixing tools. Keep some wet wipes handy though. When I tried it, my bike got a bit grubby with road dirt. The FlexRail is a triple-layer system of containers which slide on rails set between the front seats. Pop bottles, shades, iPods and such like in there. They even feature red mood lighting strips which is a surprisingly extrovert touch.
Behind the Wheel
The model I chose to drive featured the top specification 165bhp diesel engine and it was wholly adequate. Nothing more, nothing less. It rode reasonably well, wasn't too loud and wasn't too slow. I suspect that the less powerful models in the range might require a bit of pedalling, especially if you've got a whole bunch of people and gear on board. The steering is a little numb but the Zafira Tourer corners reasonably well without a load of pitching and rolling. Visibility is good with all of that glass around you, but you'll want parking sensors as this is a sizeable vehicle, measuring 4.65 metres long and nudging it into a multi-storey bay when you've got a bunch of kids launching Happy Meals at each other can be testing.
Value For Money
Prices start at around £21,000 but the Elite trim vehicle I was driving retailed at £28,445 and with a few extras it was creeping over £30,000. That is quite a sum for what is still a compact MPV. Vauxhall have answered this accusation by keeping on the old Zafira in a cut down range for those who want a more basic seven-seat MPV with this Zafira Tourer appealing to those who are after something a bit more chi-chi and it's hard to think of any other seven-seat rival that looks quite as good. It's hard to complain about the amount of gear that you get though. The Elite trim level includes a panoramic windscreen that soars overhead, a digital radio, 18-inch alloy wheels, twin front, side and curtain airbags, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control and anti-dazzle mirrors.
Could I Live With One?
The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is built to a specific brief and achieves its goals in a classy and ruthlessly competent manner. I don't know if it's a car that suits me, but it's nevertheless an easy car to live with. I suspect it would be one of those vehicles that you'd use far more than you'd expect as you became slowly seduced by how easy it makes life.