Road test: Vaxhaull Zafira Tourer

THE Zafira Tourer has pulling power, finds Frederick Manby.

VAUXHALL was quickly into the demand for a medium-sized people carrier with its rebranded Opel Zafira of 1999, based on that era’s Astra chassis. It was a cleanly styled seven-seater with fold away rear seats and plenty of interior space. The words practicality and flexibility summarised the concept.

Zafira proved very popular. On the school run it would accommodate six pupils – or seven if another was at the wheel. More space? Fold away the rear pair of seats and you still had five seats and plenty of room behind for bags.

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There was even a powerful petrol turbo model – I suppose some families need to move very quickly. It had a few revisions over the years and is still on sale, from £18,560 for the Exclusiv 1.6 petrol with 114.5bhp. This returns an official 42 mpg with 157g/km of CO2. The cheapest diesel is the Exclusiv 1.7 ecoFlex with 192 lb ft of torque at £20,760 – posting 55mpg and 134g/km of CO2.

The sales plan at Vauxhall is that the Zafira will stay on sale as an everyday model for mums and dads, while the more expensive and expansive Tourer will attract the lifestyle image seeker.

It is bigger and smarter and has more versatile seating. The middle seat is higher and is in sections (the seat in the Zafira is a bench). This middle seat has a centre section which folds to become an armrest for the outer seats. They may then be moved inwards to give more shoulder and hip clearance at the sides. The back pair of seats are easier to get to than in the regular Zafira, too.

It has a folding rear parcel shelf which can be packed neatly under the floor inside the tailgate. Options include a clever pull-out bike rack from the rear bumper — offered on other Vauxhalls though I have yet to see one in use.

One option not offered is a power tailgate — which would have been a smart up-market attraction. They make loading easier and obviate the risk of dropping the china as you lift the tailgate.

The Zafira Tourer is made in Bochum, Germany, and most will be sold with the Opel badge in Europe. The British are said to desire a different feel to the handling so the UK imports have steering adjustments achieved through mapping tweaks.

There is reduced self-centre return of the wheel, more road feel at normal speeds and added weight at motorway speeds. The result, says Vauxhall’s chassis tuners, is a “less of the floaty European feel” and quicker response in the steering.

The best seller in Britain is likely to be the entry trim Exclusiv with the 128bhp 2-litre diesel engine and stop-start ignition. It costs £23,950 and is worth the extra £235 over the model without stop-start because it averages (as per brochure) almost 63mpg and is taxed at just 119g/km of CO2 – or £30 a year road tax. With torque of 221 lb ft it pulls well.

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The 0-62mph time is 10.6 seconds but its in-gear flexibility is more impressive, thanks to torque of 221 lb ft.