What is it?
Despite the success of its predecessors, the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer has always seemed like a bit-part player in the MPV world. With the Ford S-Max delivering a better drive, the Seat Alhambra and Volkswagen Sharan duo far more space and the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer a premium option, It was easy to overlook the Zafira Tourer.
Although it was by no means bad to drive and had the option of a punchy 2.0-litre diesel engine, a dated infotainment system, iffy ride comfort and refinement issues counted against it.
After five years on sale, Vauxhall has finally got around to facelifting the Zafira Tourer. You get a new nose that brings the car into line with newer offerings such as the Astra, a new infotainment system and, well, that’s about it. Are these minor revisions are enough to push it towards the top of its class?
What's it like?
With no changes to the chassis, engines and gearboxes, you’ll find the driving experience to be much the same as before. We’d avoid the base 1.4-litre petrol engine and jump straight to one of the diesels. The 1.6-litre oil-burner has enough poke for most situations, while the 2.0-litre unit of our test car is muscular once it hits its stride.
The problem is that this engine feels rather old school; it starts with a grumble before settling into a clattery idle from cold. A bit of heat quietens things down somewhat, but you’ll always be aware of the diesel’s grittiness at all crank speeds.
We also found it to be quite lethargic from very low down in the rev range; there’s a noticeable pause between you putting your foot down and the engine giving a decent amount of shove. Similar-sized diesel engines in rivals feel much more potent, even with a couple of hundred revs less on the dial.
On smooth, flowing roads, the Zafira Tourer strikes a good balance between handling and ride comfort, coping with gentle undulations well. The springs are firmer than you might think, helping to contain body roll better than many rivals. Throw in reasonably precise steering and you’ve got an MPV that can be hustled along surprisingly quickly.
The trouble is that our roads aren’t often smooth and flowing. Get to a typically patchy bit of urban blacktop or craggy B-road and the Zafira Tourer will jostle its occupants around, especially on the larger wheels of high-spec models. While some drivers may be able to deal with this for the handling benefits, we doubt their families will be quite as keen.