Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

The latest version of this popular MPV shows the futuristic flair to be a winner in the space race

There is a little bit of the concept car about the new Vauxhall Zafira Tourer.

Those boomerang-shaped front lights and air intakes are what does it, design motifs we have seen on Vauxhall/Opel's show cars but which have not, until now, made it to the production version. They are a brilliant way of disguising the nose-bulk of a modern car.

Actually, there's a lot of bulk-disguising to do on a roomy, seven-seater MPV. Those deep flanks always trouble a car designer; but the new Zafira has some pleasing shaping, with an upward flick to the lower feature line and prominent shoulders flowing into the rear lights. The roof, too, looks like it slopes towards the back more steeply than it does. These things matter if your seven-seater is to avoid looking like a bus.

Inside, stark utilitarianism is equally deftly avoided, although this is actually a very practical cabin with some cleverly conceived features. "Flex" is the keyword here, as in Flex7 (the seat-configuring mechanism) and FlexRail (a triple-layer system of movable containers on rails set between the front seats, for iPods, bottles, handbags, sunglasses and other such life-paraphernalia). The rails even have strips below them that glow red at night.

You might assume, as you read this, that the new Zafira replaces the previous one, but it does not. Not yet, anyway. Instead, the old one finds its range reduced to two models, and it occupies a lower price point, starting at £18,500 rather than the £21,000 required for the cheapest new Tourer. It seems a curious decision, but the idea is to offer both a "basic" seven-seater (the old Zafira) and a grander, more comfortable and more futuristic one (the Zafira Tourer).

So, what do you gain by going for the new one? It looks much better. It has more interior space, thanks to a longer wheelbase. There is a higher-quality feel to the interior, in some ways nudging the notion of "premium" that is every mainstream carmaker's Holy Grail.

And the second-row seats are much more inviting. Previously, there was a single bench which folded on to itself and tipped forward when you wanted to create a clear load bay, but now there are three individual seats. These can be slid back or forth and reclined, or folded flat into the floor, but the SE and top Elite versions also have "lounge" seating. Here, the centre seat folds down and its edges fold further to make the seat narrower. In this condition, the seat's bolsters become armrests for the two outer seats, which slide inwards to meet them and so create more shoulder room.

The rearmost seats also fold flat into the floor for load carrying or to make the boot properly usable. The central-spine roof storage of the old Zafira has gone from the new one, but instead you can have a panoramic windscreen which extends far into the roof.

Under the people-capsule's skin is a combination of parts from the Insignia and the Astra, notably the latter's compact and clever rear suspension. The result is that the Zafira has a smooth, easy ride and there's little need for the optional FlexRide adaptive dampers.

The electric power steering is very anaesthetised and even the most powerful engine, a 165bhp, 2.0-litre turbodiesel, feels no more than quite brisk. Two other engines give 130bhp and a lowly 110bhp, the latter scoring identical CO2 figures to the former's and therefore making itself largely pointless. Two petrol engines are also offered, a 1.4-litre turbo and a naturally aspirated 1.8; both give 140bhp but the 1.8 produces more CO2. Trim levels are ES, Exclusiv (sic), SRi (slightly "sporting"), SE (slightly luxurious) and that top Elite version. Exclusiv, oxymoronically, will be the most popular.

As a motorised domestic appliance of some design flair, the Zafira Tourer hits the spot: it's surely the best-looking of all the seven-seat, relatively compact MPVs, it's quiet and comfortable, and it has lots of the new technology that people think they need. For most buyers, it should prove the ideal family holdall.

The Rivals

Citroën Grand C4 Picasso 2.0 HDI Exclusive: £24,005, 150bhp, 154g/km

Lacks Zafira's styling flair; functional but well-equipped MPV, dull to drive but popular.

Ford Grand C-Max 2.0 TDCi Titanium: £22,745, 140bhp, 139g/km

A bit smaller than Zafira and feels much more agile. Sliding rear doors give awkward looks but practical entry.

Renault Grand Scenic 1.6 dCi 130 Dynamique: £22,200, 130bhp, 115g/km

Re-skin of previous model, well-finished cabin and comfortable ride. New engine gives great economy.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own