Opel Zafira: Vauxhall Zafira review

You're in - Car Reviews: New Reviews Vauxhall Zafira The clever Zafira compact MPV is a great family car but prices look high and standard equipment is stingy. Vauxhall Zafira

Driving The seven-seat Zafira can't match class-best compact MPVs for steering feel or agility, but the handling is safe and predictable. Grip levels are strong and body lean through bends isn't excessive. However, damping doesn't cope well over rough surfaces. It's too stuff, yet lacks control under hard cornering. Brakes are very strong though, with a grabby nature at low speed compensated for by very short stopping distances. The aircraft-style handbrake is rather heavy and a bit fiddly. The Zafira offers a wide range of petrol and diesel engines but its weight means smaller, less powerful units do struggle.

Marketplace The Renault Scenic invented the compact MPV sector, but it is the seven-seat Zafira that transformed it. Today, it has spawned imitators such as the Grand Scenic, VW Touran, Toyota Verso and Mazda5. Some rivals offer five-seat versions of their Zafira rival, but Vauxhall has optimised this in seven-seat form; for those who want five seats, it offers the Meriva. The line-up of models is huge - and on top of the range regulars are permanent special editions too, which change periodically. Recently, the maker has taken the model upmarket with an 'Elite' trim. The Zafira is becoming more popular as a fleet offering so Vauxhall offers some powerful 1.9-litre diesels. But retail customers are accounted for as well with smaller, more affordable petrol engines. This is fortunate, as the Zafira looks an expensive car alongside rivals, particularly when you consider equipment levels that are unimpressive.

Owning The latest Zafira, with its rakish Astra-style headlights and smoother lines, is a better-looking car than the dull original. The interior is also stylish and constructed from materials that feel more expensive than rivals. But there are some ergonomic niggles and the driving position still feels a bit van-like. A-pillars are also thick and cause blind spots. Head, shoulder and knee room are ample and, while access to the rear is tricky, all seats are comfortable. However, the Flex7 folding seat system is looking tired now. The centre bench only slides back and forth as one and, while the back seats split and fold, the system isn't as adaptable as rivals. It's heavier work, too - though folding it flat does enhance the already-capacious boot considerably. Only smaller-engined petrol and diesel Zafiras really impress for fuel economy and retained values don't show the advantage they once did, though they're still decent. Servicing costs and intervals are very competitive too.

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