Vauxhall's Zafira Tourer is right at the top of the family MPV class and the powerful 2.0-litre BiTurbo diesel engine is a welcome addition. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
There are seven seat MPV s and then there's the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. The Zafira popularised the concept of seven seater MPVs and this BiTurbo model with its 195PS output and 50.4mpg economy figure is about as good as they get. It's not cheap but if you want the best, at times you've got to put your hand in your pocket.
Basic statistics would seem to suggest that most people buy the wrong MPV. How else would you account for all the Citroen Xsara Picassos we see on our roads? But stick with me here. Even after buyers have narrowed their selections down to within an ace of getting their decision right, they usually blow it at the last moment. How? By not buying enough engine. Let's take a look at this a little more closely. Let's say you wanted a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. You'd be commended for that choice right off the bat because it's about as good as manageably-sized seven-seater MPVs get. But choose one without enough torque and you could end up disappointed. That's because MPVs - more than any other class of car - are often driven fully loaded. That inexpensive little engine could well turn into something that requires a lot of fuel because you need to thrash it everywhere, turning a great choice into one that's markedly less so. Hence the reason for this car's existence, the Zafira Tourer 2.0 BiTurbo.
The 400Nm of torque delivered by this turbo diesel means that you'll rarely be too troubled by dawdling caravans and, most importantly, you'll still have meaningful go even when accelerating uphill with a fully-loaded car. To put that figure into perspective, it's what you'd get if you bought something like a BMW X6 with a turbocharged 3.0-litre engine. It also means that the Zafira really shifts when it's empty, getting to 60mph in just 8.5 seconds, which isn't at all bad for a large diesel vehicle. Underneath, you get a smart suspension system which utilises 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 but features a neat Watts link arrangement. Building on the chassis' dynamic prowess is the option of Vauxhall's FlexRide adaptive damping system. This automatically adapts the car's damping to suit road conditions, cornering speed, vehicle movements and an individual's driving style. In addition, drivers can select from a choice of three settings - Standard, Tour and Sport.
Design and Build
The Zafira Tourer is a smart looking piece of design, the flanks featuring deep twin swage lines that are about as far from the archetypal slab-sided minivan look as it's possible to get. 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 original Zafira. 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. There's also an optional FlexFix integrated bicycle carrier.
Market and Model
The 2.0-litre BiTurbo sits at the top of a diesel line up that also includes three other oil-burners as well as a couple of other petrol engines. As the flagship engine in the range, the prices inevitably succumb to the effects of incremental premiums and the asking price starting point of around £28,000 that Vauxhall has put on the entry-level SE trim car with this engine might deter a few. Should you wish, you can also step up to the SRi and Elite models, which means that a couple of optional extras can easily send your Zafira over the £30k mark. That takes a bit of getting your head around. All models get ESP+ stability control, twin front, side and curtain airbags, cruise control, wheel-mounted audio controls for the MP3-compatible stereo, air conditioning and the Flex7 seating system. If you're willing to spend more, there are all manner of high tech function on offer. These include the FlexRide adaptive chassis control system, AFL adaptive forward lighting system and a panoramic windscreen which gives the cabin an airy, spacious feel.
Cost of Ownership
As impressive as the BiTurbo engine is, there is a price to be paid in terms of fuel economy for all that muscle, but it's not as big as you might imagine. Whereas, say, a 136PS 1.6-litre diesel engine would return 68.9mpg in this Zafira, this 195PS powerplant is pegged back to 50.4mpg which is still a very creditable return. It doesn't seem that long ago that we had the 190PS Zafira GSI Turbo, which featured a petrol engine that didn't take you much faster than this BiTurbo but would return a combined fuel figure of 27.8mpg. A decade on and now you get almost twice the fuel economy. That old car's 243g/km emissions figure now looks wholly profligate compared to the bigger Zafira Tourer BiTurbo's 149g/km. This figure is helped by a standard fit stop/start system.
The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer has quietly edged into pole position in the seven-seat MPV market just as its predecessor did. It's easy to malign Vauxhall, a company with little consistency when it comes to launching top drawer product, but don't let the badge put you off. When Vauxhall gets it right, it's usually very right and the Zafira Tourer is a case in point. Most buyers will content themselves with the 136PS 1.6-litre diesel but if you appreciate a vehicle that can get its hustle on loaded or otherwise, there's a lot of satisfaction to be gained from the more powerful 195PS 2.0-litre BiTurbo. There's little doubt that this is the best engine in the best seven-seat MPV, but does the value proposition work out? That's a judgment you'll be in the best position to make and there are those who will feel that getting on for thirty grand is a bit of an ask for a car of this kind, especially with a family budget to balance. Still, if finances aren't quite so tight and you feel like treating yourself, you know what to do.