What is it?
Several years ago, GM Europe decided it was time for its people-carriers to grow up. First, it showed a bigger Meriva, based heavily on chassis components from the Zafira, an MPV positioned a size above.
Then, a few weeks ago in Geneva, it showed a concept version of this same Zafira’s forthcoming replacement, around 15cm longer in both wheelbase and overall length, and about 20cm wider.
The new model, due in the UK early next year at prices believed to be three to five per cent ahead of present levels, combines more advanced and refined chassis, steering and brake components from GM’s Astra and Insignia saloons with a far roomier, more stylish interior to throw out a challenge to Ford’s successful S-Max.
What's it like?
We drove two Zafira prototypes last week on winter test in Sweden and the exercise provided powerful evidence of a more sophisticated, re-purposed MPV in prospect.
The cars were a 140bhp 1.4-litre petrol turbo and 165bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Both were equipped with six-speed autos, and both engines will come to the UK, but the slightly more vocal diesel is likely to be the top seller in the UK.
Styling is hard to judge because both cars were disguised, but driving impressions are clear enough. On smooth, flowing, bitumen roads, the Zafira Tourer has a rolling smoothness and comfort well ahead of the outgoing model’s.
The car corners neutrally, copes quietly with ruts and has a flat and supple ride, aided by optional new adaptive dampers. The electric power steering is impressively responsive and seems to provide plenty of feel.
The biggest plus is dramatically improved front-quarter visibility. A new second-row seat layout allows limo-like comfort for two in the rear, but it can also be configured as a seven-seater because of two compact third-row seats, which fold into the loading floor when not needed.
Should I buy one?
A confirmed verdict will have to await assessment of production-spec cars on UK roads, but all signs are that GM has moved to correct the best-known foibles in an already well-liked model, and made it even more suitable for family buyers. If early signs are accurate, the Vauxhall Zafira is about to become a much more powerful force in family motoring.