Vauxhall's improved Zafira Tourer offers a flexibe option if you want a spacious 7-seat family MPV. Jonathan Crouch looks at the 1.4 petrol Turbo version.
Ten Second Review
The improved Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is a handsome seven-seat MPV that faces tough rivals. The Griffin brand is confident though, that its combination of agility, versatility and affordability is going to nudge the opposition aside. Here, we look at the 1.4-litre 140PS petrol Turbo version.
For a vehicle that's so key to Vauxhall/Opel's bottom line, the Zafira Tourer has been a low key member of the brand's product line-up in recent years. The company's hoping that this facelifted model might change that and in this 1.4-litre petrol turbo guise, it's certainly an affordable-sounding option in the 7-seat MPV segment. Vauxhall will need to pull out all the stops with this car to attract the attention of mini-MPV buyers gorged on an all-you-can-eat buffet of excellence. Cars like the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, the Ford Grand C-MAX and the Peugeot 5008 aren't going to just step aside and let Vauxhall reassert dominance. This time round it's going to get very interesting indeed.
Though most Zafira Tourer customers will head straight for a 2.0 CDTi diesel version, many who complete a lower mileage might be better off looking at the 140PS 1.4 petrol Turbo model we look at here. It's a willing enough unit that makes 62mph in just under 10s en route to 124mph flat out but of course, it doesn't have the pulling power of the diesel. 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. Building on the chassis' dynamic prowess is the option of Vauxhall's FlexRide adaptive damping system. FlexRide 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. Hopefully the package will be a little better tied down than the Insignia, where Standard and Tour modes lack the requisite rebound damping to cope adequately with speed bumps. It does bode well for keener drivers though.
Design and Build
If you think this car looks smart from the outside, you'll be especially impressed with the upgraded interior, in which you'll find essentially a reinvention of every neat MPV idea you can think of packaged together into a 'Flex7' format that really works. The 'Flex7' thing has always been a Zafira trademark but before this Tourer model was launched, it had got to the point where third row seating that folded into the floor behind a central rear bench really didn't seem that clever any more. This upgraded system moved things on, a set-up that doesn't have a central bench, three individual more comfortable and more flexible seats instead provided. These can individually slide by around 100mm backwards or forwards and recline for greater comfort into three different positions of 16, 20 or 24-degrees. Go for a plusher Zafira Tourer with so-called 'Lounge Seating' and you'll find that they can do even more, should your need be restricted to the carriage of two rearward occupants seeking greater Club Class comfort. To create such a layout, you've only to slide each of the two outer seats in a L-shape, backwards then inwards. As you do so, the central seat also folds itself inwards, its bolsters becoming comfortable armrests for the remaining two passengers who suddenly find themselves with limousine-like standards of leg and shoulder room. It's certainly not very limousine-like if you've been confined to a place at the very rear, where the seats do very little other than to fold out from the floor. They'll be fine for reasonably agile uncomplaining adults on short to medium-length journeys but it would be a mistake to think of this car as some sort of 7-seater mini-bus. 710-litres of luggage room is available with the third row folded away and up to 1860-litres if you want to fold down the second row as well and switch to removal van mode.
Market and Model
You're looking at around £18,500 to get yourself into a 1.4 Turbo petrol Zafira Tourer - and that's £3,000 less than the diesel version. There are eight trim levels - 'Design', 'Energy', 'SRi', 'SRi Nav','SE', 'Tech Line', 'Elite' and 'Elite Nav'. All get Vauxhall's IntelliLink system and seven-inch central dash inftainment 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 Flex7 seating system and the option of features like ergonomically-certified AGR front seats, the Flex-Fix bicycle 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.
Cost of Ownership
The relatively few customers who opt for this car with petrol power will find it reasonably efficient - 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.
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 the Zafira Tourer being an also-ran in the upper end of the compact 7-seater MPV sector. And the 1.4 petrol Turbo variant we tried could just be the pick of the range for many buyers. Things move extremely quickly in this segment though and the Zafira Tourer will need to continue to undercut its arch-rival, Ford's S-MAX, in order to meet ambitious sales targets. Vauxhall seems quietly confident that this is the car to restore them at the top of the tree. Now all we can do is wait to see if that confidence is justified.