Vauxhall Zafira Tourer review
by David Finlay (7 February 2012)
One surprising thing about the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is that it's not as closely related to the regular (and smaller) Zafira as its name might suggest. In platform terms it's actually the front half of an Insignia joined to the rear of an Astra, which I offer as a potentially interesting addition to a conversation in a pub near you some time in the future.
Do we, however, really care about car platforms? We do not. The important thing about the Tourer is that it's Vauxhall's third MPV after the Zafira and Meriva, which between them account for over a third of the UK market in that class. All versions have seven seats arranged in three rows, and with the two at the extreme rear folded down there's 710 litres of luggage space compared with the Zafira's 635.
Fold down all but the front seats and that figure rises to 1860 litres. There are also around 30 smaller storage spaces dotted around the car, depending on trim level.
There's plenty of room for tall occupants of the front seats, as you would jolly well expect there to be in this day and age. The seats in row three don't offer much legroom and are really best suited to children, but at least they're mounted reasonably well forward of the tailgate, which is not the case with other vehicles of this type.
I've skipped metaphorically over the middle row because the situation there is more complex. In all Tourers the three seats - each of them capable of holding an adult, which again can't always be guaranteed in an MPV - are separate and can be individually moved backwards and forwards through a range of 210mm. There's also a choice of four recline angles.
In the top two trim levels, SE and Elite, things become even more impressive, as those models are equipped with something called Lounge Seating. With this system, the central seat folds up and offers two very long armrests to the passengers on either side, whose seats can be moved backwards and inwards, leaving a phenomenal amount of space around them. Up to a point, it's like sitting in the back of a large, long-wheelbase luxury saloon.
SEs and Elites also have the flashiest centre console, a development of the FlexRail arrangement first introduced in the Meriva. It's built in three layers and has storage modules which can be moved backwards and forwards along polished aluminium rails mounted between the front seats. It's very useful but also takes up quite a bit of space, so models fitted with it have an electronic parking brake operated by a button rather than a manual brake with full-sized lever.
The new-generation FlexFix carrier, which can cope with two 30kg bikes (plus another two 20kg ones with the help of an optional adaptor) and is stored inside the rear bumper when not being used, is very clever, but personally I'm even more impressed by the fact that the luggage cover has its own home under the boot floor where it can be put when it's not covering luggage. A perfectly simple idea, but one that I wish occurred to more car designers.
There are two petrol engines in the range - a naturally-aspirated 1.8 and a 1.4 turbo, both producing 138bhp - plus a two-litre turbo diesel available in 108bhp, 138bhp and 163bhp forms. The 1.4 petrol turbo is the only one available with a start/stop system and automatic transmission (though not at the same time), while the 138bhp diesel gets the former and the 163bhp diesel the latter.
The 138bhp diesel start/stop has the best official combined fuel economy at 62.8mpg, and its CO2 emissions of 119g/km mean it's also the cheapest to tax, with annual VED payments of £30 from year two. Having driven Tourers fitted with that engine, the more powerful diesel and the 1.4 turbo I'd say they all have their merits - apart from the economy and tax situations, which greatly favour the 119g/km version, I'd be happy with any of them.
All the versions I've tried handle about as well as a moderately large MPV needs to, though in all cases the ride over uneven surfaces isn't particularly good. The major controls are nicely weighted and smooth in operation, and this applies particularly to the steering, which Vauxhall's UK engineers firmed up from its original German-market setting. The minor controls on the stalks attached to the steering column are less impressive and makes the Tourer feel cheaper than they should.
There's a lot of glass (especially in the Elite, which has a panoramic windscreen and sunroof), and I have to admire the considerable size of the side windows ahead of the front doors. The pillars around them are enormous, though, and visibility is a problem if you have a high seating position. The rearmost side windows are just plain too small, which makes reversing difficult and may make some third-row passengers feel claustophobic.
Prices for the Zafira Tourer start at £21,000, but for that you get the 1.8 petrol engine, which probably isn't the best in the range, and the relatively sparse ES trim level which includes - horrors - steel wheels. Prices for the Exclusiv start at £22,000, both the SE and the sportier SRi at £23,665 and the Elite at £25,165. The most expensive model, before optional extras, is the £28,465 163bhp Elite diesel automatic.