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.
Inside, the dashboard has received a restyle to make room for the Intellilink touchscreen infotainment system that can also be found in the Astra. It’s a big improvement on the old system and it lives lower down the dash; that means it’s less of a stretch to operate. It’s a shame that some of the icons are on the small side, though; it can be tricky to select what you want on the move.
A DAB radio comes as standard, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. That means that you can save a few quid by using your smartphone for sat-nav rather than spend the extra on a built in system. If you do tick the box for navigation, the system is clear enough but still lags behind VW Group touchscreens and especially BMW’s iDrive.
Interior quality is impressive, for the most part, with plenty of soft-touch plastics. Further exploration does reveal some questionable bits, though. The touch-sensitive area around the infotainment screen looks a bit cheap and the Flexrail centre console that SE models and up receive may be a great idea in principle but feels flimsy in practice.
The rearmost two seats aren’t as cramped as those in some MPVs but are still more suitable for children than adults. If you need more space, a Sharan or Alhambra is a much better bet. Although the middle row promises plenty of versatility if you get the lounge seating, they can be tricky to budge from one position to another.