Ageing people carrier gets the ecoFLEX treatment

What is it?

It’s the low emissions version of Vauxhall’s seven-seat people carrier, the Zafira. Powered by the same 1.7-litre diesel that you’ll find in the Astra Ecoflex, it emits 139g/km of carbon dioxide, does 53.3mpg, and costs just £120 a year to tax.

More interesting is what this car isn’t though because, although Vauxhall probably doesn’t want you to read this, its new Eco-Zafira isn’t quite the lowest carbon or most frugal seven-seater on the market.

Bonus anorak points go to anyone who knows that it’s Renault’s 1.5-litre Grand Scenic dCi that bests it, with a claimed 55.4mpg on the combined cycle, and putting out just 135g/km.

What’s it like?

Very much like a car in need of more grunt, a shorter gearset and an end-of-life cabin refresh.

This Zafira’s 108bhp peak power output and 191lb ft allotment of torque are actually both more generous than the equivalents of the aforementioned Renault and of VW’s Touran Bluemotion. Which just proves that you’ll have to be fully committed to economic motoring to accept the compromised performance of a car like this.

Vauxhall hasn’t just slotted a smaller capacity diesel into this car than any other Zafira gets, it’s also lengthened the car’s final drive ratio with the aim of boosting fuel economy. What that means on the road is that 62mph takes almost 13secs to arrive.

Escaping 3rd gear on a long, fairly steep incline requires an investment of considerable effort, commitment and faith. What’s more, we drove the car ‘one-up’; driving one fully loaded with occupants would definitely require a patient disposition.

At least it’s easy to lower and raise the ‘Flex-7’ seats. But while the rest of cabin is as robust and functional as it’s been since we first saw the car in 2004, you have to concede that it’s looking a bit drab and ordinary relative to the more modern and interesting interiors of the Citroen C4 Picasso and the updated Grand Scenic.

When the soon-to-arrive new Astra comes on stream, it’ll look even more outmoded.

Should I buy one?

Without wishing to put too fine a point on it, no. Getting 53mpg out of a car this size is no mean achievement for GM Europe, but while there’s a Renault Grand Scenic that’s cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, just as roomy and versatile and generally more desirable than this, you struggle to build a case for the ageing Vauxhall.

Because even those who don’t care about the paltry performance of their people carrier are best advised to look elsewhere.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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sniper one 13 January 2011

Re: Vauxhall Zafira 1.7 CDTi ecoFLEX

at least this car id funky looking and practical unlike the c max offering...if i was interested in a vehicle like this,it would be my choice.

dougiemcbeath 13 January 2011

Re: Vauxhall Zafira 1.7 CDTi ecoFLEX

I had one (brand new) for 6 months. I'd get the 1.9cdti if I "had" to get another one. The 1.7 engine feels fine in town, but when you hit the open road it feels like you're driving with the handbrake on. It has now "oomph" and overtaking is not recommended. The MPG stated by vauxhall is not possible to achieve. I got 45mpg on average. I traded it for a 2 year old Ford Galaxy which is brilliant. Bigger and better with 45mpg.