Hilton Holloway
17 April 2013

What is it?

This is a late pre-production prototype of the big Vauxhall  Zafira Tourer MPV, powered by the company’s all-new 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine. At the recent technical seminar for the Vauxhall-Opel’s new powertrains and transmissions, company engineers were very upfront about the failings of the current diesel engine range and the inadequacy of the manual transmissions.

Until now, Vauxhall has mostly used diesel engines based on existing units from Fiat and Isuzu. Indeed, Vauxhall-Opel had a Powertrain Engineering centre in Turin, which was born out of its alliance with Fiat.

GM Europe retained the facility, which now employs 1000 engineers, although project manager Gianmarco Boretto says that GM engineers from around the world were involved in development, which needed ’90 million’ Finite Element computer calculations.

Boretto says the clean-sheet project to create a mid-size diesel engine family began in 2008. The primary aims were to achieve ‘class-leading’ power density and for the unit to become a benchmark for low ‘noise, vibration and harshness’.

The final production engine is based around an aluminium block and a single, water-cooled, variable geometry turbocharger. Twin balancer shafts - mounted in the block - will be optional, depending on which market the engines are aimed at, but it seems likely that they will be fitted the UK-spec Vauxhalls.

The direct-injection system operates as high as 2000bar and it uses eight-hole injectors. These injectors can make as many as 10 ‘pre-injections’ in each piston cycle, which is one of the ways of reducing the distinctive ‘diesel rattle’.

To help speed warm-up, the engine’s water pump can be disabled via an electromagnetic clutch. Boretto also claims that the new unit has the lowest internal friction of any current engine (a calculation expressed by ‘Friction Mean Effective Pressure’) and develops 1kw of power per 1.49kg of weight, also a claimed best-in-class figure.

In order to meet the super-stringent EU6 pollution regulations due in Sept 2014, the engine can be fitted with either Selective Catalyst or a Lean NoX Trap, depending on the size of the host vehicle. A ‘close-coupled’ Diesel Particulate Filter is fitted to all versions of the engine, its design and positioning make it easier to ‘regenerate’ and burn off the exhaust soot that it traps.

What is it like?

Very impressive. Fitted into the nose of the Zafira Tourer, this engine is uncannily refined when underway. Even when you extend it around the rev counter, it remains remarkably quiet. Indeed, given a hefty prod when overtaking on the autobahn, it refuses to kick up the typical diesel background thrum, sounding far more like a petrol engine than anything else.

And despite this version of the engine developing a relatively modest 134bhp, even the 1600kg weight of the Zafira and the presence of three adults onboard failed to seriously dull the brisk in-gear acceleration, which is much more useful than the bare 0-62mph figure might suggest. This engine will also also mated to the new six-speed manual ‘box, which is far slicker and quicker than the current unit.

On a short taster drive near Opel’s proving ground in Germany, there was virtually nothing to dislike about the engine and much to be very pleasantly surprised about. Although the quoted average MPG figure is unlikely to be matched very often in the real world, managing to get the thick end of 60mpg in a big seven-seater would be highly impressive.

Should I buy one?

If you are in the market for the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, this has to be the most effective version, mixing decent pace and promised economy.

However, this engine and transmission will also be fitted into the facelifted Insignia later this year. While the Insignia is fundamentally a good car, it is seriously hampered by the noisy 2.0-litre diesel engine and long-winded manual transmission.

Like it has the Zafira Tourer, this engine and the new manual ‘box promise to transform the Insignia. With the new Mondeo still over a year away, the new Insignia promises a big boost for Vauxhall in the UK’s hard-fought business market.

Vauxhall Zafira Tourer 1.6 CDTi

Price TBC; 0-62mph 11.2sec; Top speed 123mph; Economy 68.9mpg; Co2 109g/km; Kerbweight c1600kg; Engine 4-cyls in-line turbo 1598cc; Power 134bhp at 3500-4800rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate



1 year 26 weeks ago

Zafira is a big fat MPV. The specs mentioned seem respectable for a car its size. However let's not forget that Toyota has already broken the 100g/km barrier for 7-seaters. So this diesel engine though rather efficient is not ground breaking.

And I don't know how Zafira compares with the Renault Scenic in terms of size and weight and seats, but that's another MPV that dips lower than this brand new engine from Vauxhall and the French car is a whole second faster.

To be fair...

1 year 26 weeks ago

This is the Zafira Tourer that they're trying it in.  It's bigger than the old Zafira and much, much larger than the Toyota Verso you mention.

The most efficient Renault Grand Scenic (with 7 seats) comes in at 115g/km, so yes, the Zafira is better than that.  Plus, the Renault is lower powered than the version of the Vauxhall that Autocar have tested here.  

0-62 times appear the same, which is not bad considering how truly massive the Zafira Tourer is.

This engine sounds so good it almost tempts me back into a Vauxhall...

134BHP relatively modest ......

1 year 26 weeks ago

[And despite this version of the engine developing a relatively modest 134bhp]

I think that coupled with 236lb/ft are pretty impressive for a 1.6 turbo diesel; my Audi A1 1.6TDi only has 105BHP/184lb/ft with the same the 109kg/km of CO2.

It looks like Vauxhall may be returning to the heady days of the Family 2 engine range of the late 80's, especially 2.0i 16v, but now with a suitably slick gearbox to match. 

This engine should be a good match not only for the Insignia, but the Astra and Corsa too.

"Will accept donation of a Carrera GT, EB110 SS or McLaren F1...oh yeah or a Spyker C8 Aileron Spyder"

Astonishing detail on new engine...

1 year 26 weeks ago

After reading that I almost feel I could knock one up on my kitchen table! Joking aside, Vauxhall definitely needed a new diesel and this one sounds top drawer. They need all the good news stories they can get right now and this sounds like one to me.

I agree

1 year 26 weeks ago

Considering the size and weight of the Zafira Tourer, the performance and economy gains reported here are truly impressive.  Add to the fact it's super refined, and it's clear Vauxhall's really on the right path.

It's amazing what some investment can do, isn't it, GM? Tongue

So why...

1 year 26 weeks ago

...the 3 and half stars Autocar? Fair enough it has other (minor) flaws; but give it a rest (please)! 

German, German, German..............


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Our Verdict

The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is a super-stylish MPV but lacks sliding rear doors

Driven this week