Vauxhall Zafira Tourer SRI

Tell the kids, it's a frump-free people carrier

Price: £25,915
Engine capacity: 2.0-litre CDTi turbo diesel
Power output (PS @ rpm): 165 @ 4,000
Top speed (mph): 129
0-62 mph (seconds): 9.1
Fuel economy (mpg): 54.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 137

As someone without kids, it's not often that I get the chance to park in the parent and child zone at the supermarket. Cluttered with child-seat-laden people carriers its wide bays are the stuff of dreams for the childless and last week, with visiting niece and two nephews in tow, it was my chance to pounce. The Zafira Tourer isn't your normal family car though, a generation on from Vauxhall's dependable and popular standard Zafira, it is the company's latest attempt to woo parents with a car that combines style, performance and practicality in one tidy package.

Normally, when mum and dad decide their family saloon is too cramped with flattened Haribo, crushed biscuits and wet wipes, they'll opt for a people carrier to get their family from A to B. Usually this means taking their pick from a dull selection of minibus-like wagons. Yes, they gain space, but they sacrifice style for frumpish and performance for practicality. Not so with the new Tourer claims Vauxhall, which, it says has more upmarket looks, engaging performance and a luxury feel.

Under the bonnet is Vauxhall's flagship CDTi diesel (it comes in two smaller power ratings and as a petrol engine), which offers plenty of in-gear poke to get you to the supermarket on time. And in the sporty SRi guise the Zafira Tourer is an engaging drive with little body roll and a forgiving ride. Ideal then for the few occasions you gets to attack some country lanes alone. And with a high windscreen and sweeping boomerang headlights it won't look like every other people carrier in the car park.

Most of the time though it will be packed with little people and practicality counts more than performance here. It has three rows of seat – Vauxhall's new Flex7 seating system makes switching between five and seven-seat layout a breeze – and a boot that's big enough for a young five-a-side team's kit, including extra balls, cones and bibs. An adult can even fit in the back with two car seats installed either side of them.

The original Zafira broke ground by being the first car of its size to boast seven seats and a large boot, but there's no hiding that the new Zafira Tourer is less spacious than most of its rivals.

Most people carriers rarely carry more than five passengers though, and the Zafira Tourer has a neat trick here. If you transporting four adults in the rear you can slide back the seats for acres of legroom and fold the middle seat up to make an armrest and table.

So if you need to carry around a few children and the occasional extra passenger the Zafira Tourer is up to the job, I'm just not sure it's spacious enough to be a proper people carrier or as exciting enough to be a proper driver's car as Vauxhall claim. My car-obsessed nephew wasn't impressed either. Yes, I could park right in front of the toy shop but he'd rather I drove a proper bus... or a racing car.

The competition

For more load space go for the Ford S-Max or the excellent Seat Alhambra. Its direct competition is the cheaper Ford Grand C-Max.

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