From £19,8707
The practical Vauxhall Zafira Tourer MPV gets a new cleaner, leaner all-aluminium diesel engine that’s claimed to be capable of 68.9mpg
Autocar
30 August 2013

What is it?

This is the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, the seven-seat Ford S-Max-rivalling MPV, with a new 1.6-litre diesel engine.

It’s the first model in Vauxhall’s line-up to receive the new all-aluminium diesel engine, as part of a major powertrain development programme which will see 80 per cent of the engine range renewed by 2016.

The new engine produces a useful 134bhp and 236lb ft and is claimed to be capable of averaging 68.9mpg, impressive given the Zafira Tourer’s dimensions and 1626kg kerb weight.

More notably, its CO2 emissions are rated at 109g/km, meaning road tax costs just £20 a year allied to appealing benefit-in-kind company car tax rates for business users.

Developed entirely within GM, the 1.6-litre diesel is equipped with high pressure common-rail fuel injection, a single variable geometry turbocharger, start/stop and an exhaust gas treatment system. These work together to improve efficiency while retaining drivability.

The engine features ‘sound engineering’ measures, including multiple injection cycles designed to smooth the combustion process and reduce the stereotypical diesel clatter, acoustic shielding and quiet scissor gear drives for the engine’s timing systems.

Vauxhall has also revised its six-speed manual gearbox, with new internals and gearchange mechanisms. These upgrades are claimed to reduce shift travel and effort. An automatic transmission will be offered in the future.

Besides marking the introduction of a new 1.6-litre engine into a diesel line-up that previously consisted of solely 2.0-litre units, other updates include a newly developed Flex7 seating system and a choice of two new infotainment systems.

What's it like?

The Zafira Tourer's new engine is a remarkably smooth and quiet affair, despite its modest displacement and - for its size - relatively high output.

Its power delivery is linear, despite a quoted peak torque of 2000-2250rpm, and even in top gear it will - admittedly slowly - accelerate without bucking or hesitation.

Drop in to a more appropriate gear and it transpires to be suitably willing and eager up to around 4000rpm, and capable of propelling the Zafira Tourer along with ease. It's not as muscular as the equivalent 2.0-litre perhaps, but it doesn't leave you wanting.

Even at higher engine speeds it remains free from the typical diesel harshness that you might expect, although it does predictably become louder - but not to an intrusive extent.

It's still not as quiet under load as equivalent petrol units, but its degree of refinement and flexibility is impressive nonetheless. Consequently it'd be a suitable option for those considering lots of motorway or cross-country driving, thanks to its refined manners.

Acceleration could hardly be described as rapid, but the Zafira Tourer will get from 0-62mph in an acceptable 11.2sec. If necessary, it's claimed to reach a top speed of 125mph.

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The six-speed transmission benefits from well-spaced ratios and a long-legged top gear, but its action is slightly balky and hampered by an ungainly gearlever. Not only does it feel uncomfortable to hold, but it has an awkward and unnatural-feeling action due to its angle and travel, both in the vertical and horizontal planes. A shorter, more precise throw with a slicker feel would be a significant improvement for later versions.

On the road the Tourer delivers a pliant ride, with its suspension dispatching potholes and ruts in a quiet and controlled fashion. Smaller bumps can jar slightly, but it rarely becomes uncomfortable and there's minimal roll in corners. A Renault Grand Scenic is better in terms of ride quality, but not as restrained around bends.

The Vauxhall's steering is fairly precise and quick to act, with a modicum of feel, but it's not as consistently weighted or as confidence-inspiring as that found in a Ford S-Max. Fit for purpose is the key phrase here, and it can equally be applied to the Vauxhall's brakes - which pull it up with ease but could do with a little more initial bite and pedal feel.

During our test we averaged 42mpg, more than acceptable the nature of the test routes and what you'd expect in the real world from a modern 1.6-litre diesel. It's likely that it wouldn't prove difficult to average around 50mpg in day-to-day use which, in conjunction with the Zafira Tourer's 58-litre fuel tank should ensure a range of around 640 miles - ideal for long-distance touring.

Inside it's standard Vauxhall fare throughout, with myriad storage points, a steering column that adjusts for rise and reach, adequately bolstered and supportive seats, flexible seating arrangements and a large boot. There's room for three adults abreast in the second row of seats; even the usually awkward middle seat is comfortable. The cabin is quiet too, which coupled with the good ride means the interior delivers a cosseting experience.

Standard equipment levels are high, with even entry-level models featuring air-con, an aux-in connection, a digital radio, cruise control, and electric heated door mirrors. SE models, as tested, benefit further from kit including climate control, upgraded trim and an electric parking brake. Bluetooth, however, is disappointingly a cost option on most Zafira Tourer models - including the SE.

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Other features in the Vauxhall, such as the optional front camera system which adds collision alert, lane departure and traffic sign recognition, all function unobtrusively and are easy to use. It's only a shame that the car retains its dated-looking orange coloured trip computer.

Nevertheless, the overall impression of the Vauxhall is of a well considered and well-executed product.

Should I buy one?

Many may hesitate at the thought of buying something as substantial as a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer with a comparatively small engine, but the 1.6-litre diesel is more than up to the task.

Crucially, it also delivers on Vauxhall's claims - it's quiet, tractable and economical. Consequently those seeking a cosseting, enormously practical and efficient MPV should take a good look at the Vauxhall.

Some may find the £1325 premium the 1.6-litre diesel commands over the equivalent 2.0-litre version difficult to justify, but the new engine is much more sophisticated and could also potentially work out cheaper to run over the course of several years.

Vauxhall Zafira Tourer 1.6 CDTi SE

Price £26,750; 0-62mph 11.2sec; Top speed 125mph; Economy 68.9mpg; CO2 109g/km; Kerb weight 1626kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Installation front, transverse, front-wheel drive; Power 134bhp at 3500-4000rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 2000-2250rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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paul896 3 September 2013

Review

Excellent review. Clear, detailed and well rounded. Free from any (and mostly failed) attempts to dress up the article and appear smart/ witty. More like this please!

optima 30 August 2013

How much !!!

Its around ten grand too much.

fadyady 30 August 2013

Zafira = £20 road tax

Sounds like Vauxhall has developed a pretty respectable diesel engine. It seems to have everything - refinement, power and efficiency. But its in the wrong car.
1626kg is lot of weight to pull. Wonder how would it do in an Astra? Will it be able to give the C-segment Astra class leading refinement, power and efficiency?