The improved 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. Passengers in the second row also benefit from plenty of 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. 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 170PS 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 1.4-litre petrol version 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 £19,000 but the diesel version costs from around £22,000 and with a few extras, you'd easily spend at least £25,000. That is quite a sum for what is still a compact MPV. Vauxhall have answered this accusation by providing plenty of kit for your cash. All models get an IntelliLink infotainment system with a seven-inch central dash infotainment display, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity available. OnStar is standard across the range and the base model comes with digital radio and cruise control, LED daytime running lights, 17" alloy wheels and front and rear parking sensors. The latest model comes with all the well-known virtues of its predecessors, such as the Flex7aseating system and the option of features like ergonomically-certified AGR front seats, the Flex-Fixabicycle carrier and FlexRide adaptive damping. Most will want to pay extra for the optional foldable and space-saving luggage compartment FlexCover which can create a level load floor and protect the backs of the seats from dirt. The Panoramic windscreen, where glasswork extends up above your head, and the vast Panoramic Sunroof are also both tempting options, the latter explaining the regrettable absence of the central-spine interior roof storage system so useful on plusher version of the old MK2 Zafira.
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 MPV 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.