Ever since the original was launched in 1999, the Vauxhall Zafira MPV has been a familiar sight on our roads. And it’s likely to remain so as the second-generation car will continue to be sold alongside the new Tourer, which slots in at the top of the range.
The Tourer represents the new face of family friendly Vauxhalls, and it certainly looks the part. The distinctive front end is dominated by the boomerang-shaped sweep from the headlights down into the foglamps, while in profile, the solid shoulderline and sharply creased flanks give the car some character. A tidy, well proportioned tail completes the modern look.
The new Vauxhall sits in the middle ground of the MPV class: it’s slightly bigger and more expensive than cars like the Ford Grand C-MAX and Renault Grand Scenic, and closer on price to its rivals in this test. Yet it has the smallest wheelbase of our trio and is the shortest car overall – and this has a big impact on interior space.
The Flex7 seating pioneered by the original Zafira has been revised, so all the seats fold level with the boot floor and each of the individual middle row chairs slides back and forth. But while there’s no faulting functionality, the Tourer simply doesn’t offer the space of its rivals. The middle chair in the centre row is narrow, so shoulder room is tight with three adults seated across. Plus, the hump of the transmission tunnel and a protruding front storage bin leave the person sitting in the middle seat short of foot space.
Things don’t improve in the two seats right at the back: only children would have enough legroom to be comfortable on a long journey. In comparison, the SEAT can accommodate adults in all three rows. On top of that, the Vauxhall has the smallest luggage capacity and shortest load length whether you have two, five or seven seats in position.
Up front, it’s more of a mixed bag. The cheap, spindly plastic steering wheel in our Exclusiv didn’t create a good first impression, but if you spend an extra £1,350 on the SE, you get a leather wheel, tinted rear glass, an electric parking brake and full climate control.
Unfortunately, this also takes the price £255 past the £25,660 S-MAX Titanium. Still, Vauxhall has got plenty of the basics right in the Tourer. For starters, the thin A-pillars and large quarterlight windows help visibility, while the poor pedal layout that blights the regular Zafira hasn’t been carried over. In fact, the driving position is comfortable, with a decent range of steering wheel and seat adjustment, plus a high-mounted gearlever.
There are some attractive lines in the dashboard, while silver-effect trim and chrome detailing around the dials brighten the cabin. The layout is easy to live with, too, thanks to the multifunction steering wheel and chunky controls for the sound system and heater.
If only the glovebox was bigger and there were more clever stowage solutions. Again, stepping up to SE improves matters as the electric parking brake frees up room for a smart sliding centre rail system.
But MPVs aren’t exclusively about practicality – the S-MAX proves you don’t have to sacrifice quality and driver appeal by choosing a car a from this class. Vauxhall has tried to replicate this on the Zafira, and although the cabin doesn’t feel as upmarket as the Ford’s, we can’t fault the quality.
On the move, we were impressed by the Tourer’s decent ride, composed handling and excellent isolation of road noise. But it lacks the Ford’s sharp reactions, supple suspension and communicative steering, plus the sparkle of its chassis. And while the CDTI engine gives similar performance to rivals, it’s unrefined at idle and has a tentative throttle response.
It’s the cleanest car on test, as well as the cheapest. But spec the Zafira up to SE to get similar kit to its rivals, and the price advantage is wiped out. So while it’s a decent family car, the newcomer faces a tough challenge here.
Chart position: 3
WHY: Slotting into the range above the standard Zafira, new Tourer is designed to add more style and fun to the package.