What is it?
Vauxhall’s seven-seat people carrier, family hauler and hire-fleet workhorse just got posher: the Zafira Tourer, launched in spring 2012, was a concerted effort to take the model range further upmarket. It’s been repositioned as more of a rival for the Ford S-Max, Peugeot 5008 and other mass-market MPVs, with a better-quality and roomier interior, greater versatility and a higher price tag, though it does still undercut much of its opposition.
Engine options in this new line-up are the 1.4i Turbo and 1.8i 16v (both 138bhp) petrols, and the 2.0 CDTi diesel in 109bhp, 128bhp, 163bhp and 192bhp formats. Stop-start and an auto gearbox are optional with the 1.4i Turbo and most diesel versions. The diesels are going to be the more desirable choices, and the 128bhp is a good balance between performance and economy; the 1.4i Turbo petrol is sluggish until you work it hard on turbo boost and will be slow when you’ve got a full load. The diesels tend to be noisy, and for all the Tourer’s pretensions it doesn’t give a very refined ride, though the handling isn’t bad at all for a tall, heavy and van-like vehicle.
The interior configuration of the Tourer has been modified, with a sliding central row of three individual seats in place of the previous one-piece bench, and up to 1,860 litres of load space with all the rear seats folded. The boot is tiny with the rearmost seats in place, however, and those seats are cramped, awkward and hard to manipulate.
There’s little advantage — beyond the snazzier new styling — in spending extra on the Tourer, therefore, since the old-model Zafira (launched 2005, updated 2008) has stayed on sale as a budget option and is around heavily discounted, pre-registered and second-hand in huge numbers. In the line-up are 1.6i and 1.8i petrol engines (113bhp and 138bhp, the latter lively enough) and the economical 1.7 CDTi diesels (109bhp and 123bhp), which return 55.4mpg. There seems little justification for the 200bhp 2.0T petrol model.
The Zafira scored the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests (in 2005), as did the Zafira Tourer in the updated and more stringent tests in 2011; all versions since 2008 have had stability control and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to twin front and side bags. It’s a solid and no-nonsense way to transport a large family, and though the Zafira is no ball of fire to drive, nor a vehicle you’d be particularly proud to see on your driveway, it does what it has to.
What to look out for
Vauxhall/Opel has sold millions of Zafiras so you wouldn’t expect every single one to be trouble-free — and the second-generation Zafira (from 2005) has certainly had some problems. Official recalls have been for faulty trailer hitch bolts and for a new steering shift, but there are many more common issues. Owners have needed new starters, alternators, ignition coils and turbos, and suffered failures in the engine management, water pump, timing belt, exhaust gas regulation, catalytic converter and diesel particulate filter systems, resulting in power losses and breakdowns. The 1.9 CDTi appears to have been particularly problem-prone, and many relatively new vehicles have required replacement engines, clutches, flywheels and gearboxes; the 2.2 CDTi has also had its issues, including fuel pump failures. Other common complaints include overheating, niggles with the door locks and door fit, heating/ventilation/air-con, headlights and windscreen washer jets, water leaks into the footwells, other electrical failures, steering and suspension faults, premature rusting and poor security to prevent theft of the spare wheel. Correct maintenance — including regular oil changes and scheduled replacement of the timing belt — is crucial, so check service history carefully. The Zafira was 12th out of 15 in its class in the 2012 JD Power/What Car? survey of customer satisfaction.
The One to Buy
A 2010 10-plate Zafira 1.6i Life, from around £6,500 at an independent dealership. Fewer reliability concerns and better value than a diesel.
- 1598cc, 4 cylinders
- 113bhp @ 6000rpm
- 114 lb ft @ 4000rpm
- 5-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 12.5sec
- Top Speed:
- 42.2mpg (combined)
- Road Tax Band:
- L 4467mm, W 1781mm, H 1645mm
Vauxhall Zafira rivals
Ford S-Max (check used Ford S-Max car prices on driving.co.uk)
Citroën C4 Grand Picasso (check Citroen C4 Grand Picasso used car prices on driving.co.uk)
Renault Grand Scénic (check used Renault Grand Scenic car prices on driving.co.uk)