First Drive: New Vauxhall Zafira Tourer 2.0 CDTi Elite – 7/10

Mike Humble:

 

vauxhall_zafira_002
Facelifted Zafira boasts clever LED headlamps and a new front end styling treatment. Most of the revisions are tech related but its now up there with the best. Build quality is very impressive for a mass produced volume brand vehicle.

The Zafira… seemingly its been with us for ages now, and in fairness it has. Without a doubt its one of the most popular MPV vehicles since its introduction way back in 1999. With each and every revision or new model, it gets a little bigger, a little more tech savvy and efficient. But Vauxhall have now put the Zafira in a position whereby for now at least it represents one of the cleverest and safest car purchases potentially out there.

Although at a first glance you may wonder what the fuss is all about, the new Zafira Tourer which goes on sale in October, has worthy and impressive advances in infotainment, a similar advanced LED headlamp system that was pioneered with the new Astra and a brand new grille and front bumper treatment. The front stance is slightly more business-like than before. Not that I ever thought there was anything wrong with the outgoing frontal view, but the new look is both subtle and quite smart.

As with all new current Vauxhall product, the Zafira now gets the OnStar system and 4G / LTE Wi-Fi hotspot allowing no less than seven different devices to hook up and enjoy unlimited Wi-Fi data that’s free for the first year of ownership. Not only this but their latest intellilink head units will also support Apple CarPlay and full Android Auto – haven’t we come along way since Gary Davies on One FM and TDK C90 cassettes? Other advances thanks to the new facia include a welcome de-cluttering of the centre console, but what incidental buttons have been left work with a confidence inspiring damped action.

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Front seats are really good and the new dashboard is stylish, works and looks well and feels solid. Fussy temp and fuel dials spoil it slightly but you cant fault the overall feeling of quality. Nice and easy to drive thanks to a decent chassis and de-cluttered centre console. 4G LTE Wi-Fi and OnStar are both welcome and useful spec additions. (Elite auto shown here)

Engine options span from a turbocharged 140PS 1.4 petrol to the 1.6 “whisper diesel” in 134PS running up to a 2.0 CDTi diesel in 170PS flavour. A six speed manual gearbox or electronic 6 speed automatic final drives will be on offer at launch. ecoFLEX manual 1.6 diesel versions are boasting a credible 119g/Km at the tailpipe and a combined average MPG claim that knocks on the door of 63mpg.

I had a good play with a 2.0 CDTi Elite model and found myself quietly impressed with the chassis control. In point of fact… I found the handling really entertaining with oodles of steering feel at the rim. Switchback Scottish lanes were no issue at all and the sheer torque and guts of the 170PS diesel will not disappoint an eager driver. I managed an indicated 48mpg despite some hard driving – not bad at all in fairness. We were warned to maybe expect the odd squeak and rattle from these pre-production Zafira’s  which were part of a programme to add as much real time real world experience as possible to iron out any potential production bugs.

As I have seemingly experienced with new-generation Vauxhall products tested, the build quality is now getting to the point whereby its exceeding most of the current class rivals. My Zafira on test didn’t make so much as an unintentional noise from within – and this from a car that was a pre-production example. The only thing that made a clatter in the cabin was my rucksack that flew off the seat whilst I anchored up to avoid a suicide sheep that was wandering in the road – superb brakes and quick steering may I add… no lamb chops for tea this time!

The “flex 7” seating system remains but now there is the function of turning the second row of seats into what Vauxhall call “a spacious and comfortable lounge“. By folding down the centre seat and rotating it, the outer passengers gain a pair of substantial armrests and vastly improved shoulder room. This adds further appeal by being worthy of consideration for corporate or business users, examples perhaps by executive chauffeurs of mini-cab operators with a higher class of clientele. Family owners will find almost 1900 litres of cargo / clutter space available, even in five seater configuration there’s still a useful 710.

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Seen here, the dash now has a cleaner look and free of the button overkill of previous Zafira models. Second row passengers gain extra room for two and enjoy huge armrests by folding and turning the centre seat back. A boon for corporate / business users. I didn’t spot any rear media ports or charging points though… this needs dealing with in a family orientated car.

Is there much to dislike about the Zafira? Well… recent events with older generation models have done the model no favours in terms of reputation, this might make the salesman’s job a bit more challenging. Also, the Vauxhall brand lacks the kind of aspirational desire of a Volkswagen Sharan – even though there is barely a hairs width between the two in terms of quality. Low speed ride is slightly bouncy and jarring too, though it does smooth itself out as speed rises… almost to the point of excellency in fact. Just a shame the 2.0 diesel shouts at you when you drive that bit harder. Also… where the hell is the rear occupant media / charging socket? C`mon Vauxhall… get this dealt with, this is a family motor after all.

So to conclude? I reckon the new Zafira Tourer will continue a by-word for the MPV vehicle. Marvellous body hugging seats that still manage to offer long distance comfort allied to a pleasing gear change with agreeable cruising refinement top off what is in most cases a relaxing driving experience. Its a cleverly built and tech-savvy MPV designed with the driver and passenger in mind that just so happens to be easy and nice to drive, particularly down the motorway… a car for all people maybe? We’ll find out in October when it hits the dealers.

The new Zafira Tourer goes on sale this October and the model line up will be:

Design / Energy / SRi / SRi Nav / SE / Tech Line / Elite / Elite Nav

1.4i petrol turbo (140PS) 1.6 CDTi diesel* (134Ps) & 2.0 CDTi diesel (170PS)

6 speed manual or 6 speed automatic

*  = Manual transmission only at launch

Prices starting at £18,615 OTR

INITIAL RATING: 7/10

Likes: Instant and torquey performance from the 2.0 170PS diesel – Seemingly good economy – Tidy handling – Relaxing ride at speed – Comfortable seats front and back – Feels solid and hard wearing in construction – Impressive level of tech and safety kit – Still as practical and clever in its design execution – Lounge function of second row of seats rather novel – New dash is of high quality looks / feels good and is now user friendly.

Dislikes: Slightly restless and firm ride at urban speeds – A bit slab sided when viewed from some angles – Zafira “brand”image has some serious catching up in the public arena owing to recent press – 2.0 CDTi can get noisy when hurried along – The mix of analogue and digital dials may be not to everyone’s tastes – No charging or media points in the rear seating area.

 

 

 


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