First DriveA mid-life refresh aims to bring the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer up to date. It’s better, but still behind the class best
First DriveThe practical Vauxhall Zafira Tourer MPV gets a new cleaner, leaner all-aluminium diesel engine that’s claimed to be capable of 68.9mpg
What is it?
Vauxhall’s solution to the S-Max problem. Don’t let the Zafira name fool you; this is bigger, better-rounded car intended to compete at the increasingly busy seven-seat end of the compact MPV market.
The Tourer will sit above the current Zafira in Vauxhall’s lineup, and is intended as a premium alternative to its humdrum sibling. Not that the pair share much DNA: the larger car sits on a bespoke platform which affords it an additional 57mm of length in the wheelbase and a substantially wider track.
It also also borrows several major chassis components from the Insignia and Astra to improve dynamic performance, and offer the saloon-like responses which has earned Ford so much critical acclaim.
Inside the Flex7 seating system – once the Zafira’s party trick – has been redesigned and the car’s cabin materials have been upgraded. The motor lineup is propped up by an aged 1.8-litre and new-fangled 1.4-litre petrol engines, but three versions of the same 2.0-litre diesel unit (108bhp, 127bhp and 162bhp) will form the vast majority of sales.
What’s it like?
Conspicuously handsome. Vauxhall’s evolutionary style has been threatening a looker for some time now, and with the bullet train-inspired Tourer it has finally succeeded where the Astra and Insignia failed. By design MPV’s cannot veer far from a preformed cube, but from boomerang headlights to ‘blade’ flanks, Vauxhall’s British-led team has produced a polished head turner.
If only the interior were equally worthy of such praise. Despite the manufacturer insisting that the cabin was shaped around its 30 storage compartments, there are too few innovative places to wedge unwanted items in the Tourer’s murky, button-festooned dash. Material choices have improved, but the real savior inside is the redesigned Flex7 seating system.
Sensibly borrowing from its rivals, Vauxhall has replaced the second row bench with three individually adjustable rear seats, which of course can be folded flat to reveal a palatial 1860 litres of load space. It has also used its own ingenuity to introduce a Lounge Seating option which transforms the rarely used middle chair via mechanical origami into a huge arm rest/sibling divider.
The effect is glibly described by the manufacturer as a provider of limousine-style luxury. It is hardly that, but families with three children (including a young one to lose in the snug third row) might just consider it a masterstroke as it does add an nifty impression of space.
Somewhat less nifty are the engine choices. We tried the most powerful 162bhp version (although more muscular options will follow) of the diesel unit and found its 9.1 second 0-60mph time adequate enough, but the watered down alternatives may flounder under the Tourer’s bulk. That doesn’t bode well for the 63mpg, 119g/km Ecoflex model, which will have to make do with the 127bhp variant when it goes on sale next year.
On Germany’s glassy road surfaces the SE model rode in a reasonably plush manner on its 17-inch wheels (the optional 18-inch alloys ruin the effect), added by a shushed sense of refinement. Despite the inherited running gear, the Tourer fails to duplicate the S-Max’s pliant agility, but is more than competent enough for its likely daily duties.
Should I buy one?
It could be argued that more so than any other class in the industry, compact MPVs only offer slight variations on each other’s theme. Intriguing seating arrangement aside, the Zafira Tourer makes no attempt to upset the apple cart, and does much the same job as a shortlist of worthy rivals.
The obvious key to its potential success – and we’ll admit it’s a subjective argument – is that the car manages to make deathly-dull family transport look surprisingly good. That factor should not be underestimated, nor should the all-round improvements made to Vauxhall’s formula.
It misses out on the sliding doors, dynamic sparkle and innovative engines which would have made it class leader, but upgraded seating, better spaciousness and enhanced refinement add substance to an attractive package.
Vauxhall Zafira Tourer 2.0 CDTi 165 Elite
Price: £25,165; Top speed: 129mph; 0-62mph: 9.8sec; Economy: 54.3mpg; Co2: 137g/km; Kerb weight: 1571kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1956cc, turbodiesel; Power: 163bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 258lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual