16 February 2005

Britain’s biggest-selling seven-seater has been reinvented. Vauxhall’s Zafira – the first medium-sized MPV to offer a collapsible third row of forward-facing seats – has been given a new lease of life, and the result will be in UK dealerships this July. The second-generation MPV will be launched at next month’s Geneva Motor Show.

Longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, and based on a 2703mm wheelbase (9mm longer than before, and almost identical to that of the Astra Estate), Vauxhall claims space increases in all three of the Zafira’s seating rows. The car’s Flex7 seating concept has also been retained, allowing the rearmost five seats to be folded away.

The new Zafira’s versatility doesn’t end there. Tick the right boxes on Vauxhall’s specification sheet and you could end up with as many as 30 separate storage compartments, five of which are to be found in the central roof console, which bisects a new optional panoramic glass roof. This provides four individual mini-sunroofs, each with its own electric blind.

Up front, the Zafira gets a bespoke dash design, a big step up over the old model. The gearlever has been moved from the cabin floor to the bottom of the dash, and an aircraft-style U-shaped handbrake has been added, like that on the Renault Mégane.

From the outside, the new seven-seater’s headlights are similar to the Astra’s, and its prominent shoulder crease and rear profile are similar to the Astra wagon’s. However, its central roof spine – accommodating the additional cabin storage – and upwardly-kinked A-pillar are both welcome distinguishing features.

Expect the new Zafira to use the Astra’s engines, bringing a choice of 100bhp 1.6-, 125bhp 1.8- and 2.0-litre turbo petrol power in both 170- and 200bhp tunes, as well as 100bhp 1.7- and 150bhp 1.9-litre CDTi common-rail diesels. Prices have yet to be set, but should start at around £14k.

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