The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is a new seven-seat MPV, designed to compete with other large people-carriers, such as the Ford S-Max and Seat Alhambra.
The existing Zafira will remain on sale as a cheaper option, with this classier and cleverer Tourer model catering for buyers on a bigger budget.
This is our first chance to test it in the UK.
What’s it like inside? The original Zafira was something of a pioneer, because it was the first compact MPV with seven seats. However, rival models have since overtaken it, by offering more space and much better flexibility.
The new Tourer brings things bang up to date. The middle row of seats is made of up of three individual chairs, which slide back and forth independently. This layout – which is found in most modern MPVs – allows all three passengers to set different amounts of legroom, and means only one person needs to get out to give access to the two rear seats.
Before you can access the third row, you need to pull a lever on one of the outer second-row seats, which collapses the seatback and allows you to slide the whole assembly forward. Simple enough, and it leaves a sizeable gap to clamber through.
Once you’re in, though, things are far more cramped than they are in a Seat Alhambra. In fact, anyone over about five-feet tall will find their knees pushed up under their chins – unless passengers in the middle row are prepared to sacrifice some legroom.
Fold down the seats in the second and third rows and you get a van-like loadbay, although there’s a large gap in the floor that you have to cover by unfolding a loose piece of carpet.
Up front there’s a smart – if slightly complex – dashboard, and comfortable and supportive seats for mum and dad. However, there isn’t as much front storage space as there is in an Alhambra.
There are five trims to choose from, but we wouldn’t advise venturing above Exclusiv, which gets you air-con, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, a DAB radio and a USB port. This keeps the Zafira Tourer cheaper than larger MPVs, such as the Alhambra and VW Sharan.
What’s it like to drive? We’ve tried three of the five available engines.
The 128bhp 2.0-litre Ecoflex diesel is predicted to be the biggest seller, and with CO2 emissions of 119g/km and average fuel economy of 62.8mpg it’s easy to see why.
There’s enough pull from low revs to haul around a big family and their baggage without working the engine hard, which is just as well because it gets very noisy at higher revs.
The 163bhp 2.0 diesel provides a bit more shove through the mid-range, but CO2 emissions rocket up to 137g/km. It’s no more refined than the 128bhp version, either, so isn’t really worth the extra.
We’d also advise steering clear of the 138bhp turbocharged 1.4 petrol. You need to rev the engine hard to make decent progress, and when you do that it gets boomy; not an ideal combination for a relaxing family outing.
A 138bhp 1.8 petrol and a 108bhp 2.0 diesel complete the engine line-up, although these are available only on cheaper trims.
Stick to a version with 17-inch wheels and the Zafira Tourer deals with bigger bumps well, while the body stays fairly flat through corners. It’s a shame the ride isn’t more comfortable around town; minor road imperfections cause the Vauxhall to jostle around.
The light steering is great for parking and town driving, but it becomes disconcerting at higher speeds because you’re never quite sure what the front wheels are doing.
Should I buy one? Choose the right engine (i.e. the 2.0 CDTi 130 Ecoflex) and the Zafira Tourer makes sense for families who need only occasional seating for seven.
It’s reasonably clever and spacious, and it will work out significantly cheaper than our favourite MPV – the Seat Alhambra – once you’ve factored in discounts. The sub-120g/km CO2 emissions also make the Vauxhall relatively cheap company car prospect.
That said, the Ford S-Max is similarly priced, offers almost as much seating flexibility and is much better to drive. It’s where our money would go.
What Car? says…
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