Vauxhall's Zafira Tourer is a stylish family-sized MPV that offers a wide range of trim levels. But the one you'll probably want is the Tech Line spec. Jonathan Crouch finds out why.
Ten Second Review
There's a growing demand for MPV People Carriers that aren't too big - and aren't too small. Vauxhall's Zafira Tourer stylishly meets that need, but can look a little pricey with some of the key spec items you'd ideally want. Hence the importance of the Tech Line trim we look at here. It throws in most of what you'd want at a relatively affordable price. It'll be the level that most customers of this car buy in at.
The Zafira Tourer is one of a fresh generation of Vauxhall models that are really making a market impact. It ticks most of the key boxes with family MPV buyers but people like this will need to be convinced of its value proposition. Which accounts for the importance of the variants we're looking at here - those equipped with what Vauxhall are calling 'Tech Line' trim. The 'Tech Line' approach has already worked well for the Griffin badge as a trim level offered with Astra, Insignia and even the recently announced small SUV Mokka model. Here, it throws in the three key items that buyers will be looking for on the spec sheet - a satellite navigation system, smart alloy wheels and Bluetooth 'phone compatibility. All at a more affordable price than potential customers might be expecting.
There are no under-bonnet changes for the Tech Line trim, so the engine story remains as it is elsewhere in the Zafira Tourer line-up. Which has most customers heading straight for a 2.0 CDTi diesel version, though the 136PS 1.6-litre CDTi unit is probably a better bet. Many who complete a lower mileage might be better off looking at the 140PS 1.4 petrol Turbo model we tried. This is one of two 140PS petrol choices in the range - the other, Vauxhall's aging 1.8-litre unit borrowed from the Insignia. This is cheaper, but produces markedly inferior fuel and performance returns. In other words, if you can stretch to this 1.4 over the 1.8, then try and do so. Whichever Zafira Tourer you choose, you'll find a very clever suspension system, using the same strut front mounted on a separate subframe as the Insignia. The rear end doesn't feature a multi-link arrangement, Vauxhall rightly reasoning that this adds bulk and cost where it's not required. The rear axle is similar to the outgoing Zafira's but adds a Watt's link. This technology has been around for over 300 years, but as with any mechanical principle, it's how it's applied that matters. In the Zafira Tourer's case, it supports lateral forces during cornering and makes the car dynamic and agile without compromising on stability and comfort.
Design and Build
Tech Line-trimmed Zafira Tourer models stand out from their stablemates thanks to a smarter trim package that runs to chrome lower window mouldings, silver roof rails and high gloss black B-pillar and black mirror accents, as well as dark tinted rear glass. Otherwise, it's the same stylish aesthetic recipe. The flanks are especially bold, being about as far from the archetypal slab-sided minivan look as it's possible to get. Twin swage lines dominate, one running from the front wheel, along the sill arcing up to the rear arch while another drives forward from rear light clusters to the front door handle. When combined with the voluptuous wheel arches and the headlamps that merge seamlessly into the driving lamps and intakes to form a characteristic arrowhead, it's clear that the Zafira Tourer is one that will appeal to the aesthete. 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 outgoing 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. The Zafira Tourer's load volumes have increased over the old Zafira's. 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, because if our experience with a similar system in the Meriva is anything to go by, this gets pretty grubby in normal use.
Market and Model
With Tech Line spec, you're looking at just over £20,000 to get yourself into a 1.8-litre petrol version of this car, but we'd suggest stretching a few hundred pounds more and going for the 1.4 Turbo petrol Zafira Tourer variant. There's a £340 premium if you want this engine with the engine start/stop system that provides its superior running cost figures. Most Tech Line Zafira Tourer buyers though, will want a diesel. Around £22,000 will get you the 2.0 CDTi 130PS unit that most choose, though it's better to find another £300 over the cost of that variant to get this model in frugal 1.6-litre ecoFLEX trim. At the top of the Tech Line range at just over £23,500, there's a 170PS version of this same engine. As well as the Tech Line staple items of 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth and sat nav, all versions include cruise control, wheel-mounted audio controls for the MP3-compatible 7-speaker stereo with aux-in point, a DAB digital radio, an illuminated vanity mirror, a 12v rear power point, air conditioning and the Flex7 seating system. 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.
Cost of Ownership
Go for the 1.6-litre CDTi variantand the returns are impressive - 68.9mpg and 109g/km of CO2. The relatively few customers who opt for this car with petrol power will find it reasonably efficient too - the 140PS 1.4-litre petrol turbo manages 42.2mpg on the combined cycle and puts out 158g/km of CO2. Helping in this regard is Cleantech Combustion Technology and a stop/start system that cuts the engine when you don't need it, say when you're stuck in urban traffic or waiting at the lights. Oh and the REPS Rack Assist Electric Power Steering system also helps, an electronic set-up that only kicks in when absolutely needed. Opt for a car with one of Vauxhall's sat nav systems and you'll get functionality that not only shows the fastest and shortest routes but also the one on which a driver can expect to use the least amount of fuel, taking into account vehicle specification, road characteristics and driving style. What else might you need to know? Residual values? They'll be better than any previous Zafira, though not up to premium brand standards.
Most Zafira Tourer customers will opt for Tech Line trim - and it's clear why. It includes most of the features they'll want in a car of this kind in a package that makes this model a lot more appealing than it is in entry-level form. Alloys, sat nav and Bluetooth really should be standard on all variants anyway but having them along with a smart package of exterior upgrades makes this spec level a sensible choice. Otherwise, the Zafira Tourer recipe remains unchanged. With tried and tested mechanicals borrowed from elsewhere in the Vauxhall empire married to a level of MPV know-how that's hard to better anywhere in the car industry, its hard to envisage this Vauxhall being an also-ran in the upper end of the compact 7-seater MPV sector. Just make sure that if you price one up, you do it in Tech spec.