Vauxhall Zafira Tourer review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is a more spacious and luxurious seven-seater that's designed to rival the Ford S-MAX

For: 
Luxurious cabin, good range of engines, practical
Against: 
Lacks driving excitement, rough 2.0 diesel, cramped third-row seating

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Vauxhall has tried to move the Zafira Tourer more upmarket compared to the two previous Zafira MPVs by making it larger and more opulent within. And, to a large extent, the gamble has paid off: the Tourer is a refined and premium-feeling machine.

It was the first Vauxhall to get the company’s all-aluminium 1.6-litre diesel engine, which is now widely seen throughout the marque’s product offerings – showing how important the MPV market is to the brand.

With the innovative Flex7 seating arrangement, loads of storage compartments and a big boot with seats folded away, the Zafira scores very highly on the practicality count – and it’s a safe machine too, with a full five-star EuroNCAP rating.

The emphasis here is on comfort over dynamism, so if you want your MPV to drive in a sharp and controlled manner, you might be better off looking at the Ford S-MAX instead. However, most MPV buyers probably want a quiet, smooth ride first and foremost, and the Zafira Tourer delivers that in spades. 

Our Choice: 
Vauxhall Zafira Tourer 1.6 CDTi Start&Stop ecoFLEX Tech Line

Having served as a mid-sized people carrier since its launch in 1999, the Vauxhall Zafira was upsized for its third generation in 2011 to take on the Ford S-Max.

Thus, the Zafira Tourer is a physically larger and grander vehicle than the old Zafira it replaced, with the more compact second-generation car continuing in production as a cheaper alternative until 2014. 

Best MPVs and people carriers

To that end, the Tourer has a much more useable seven-seat configuration, although with all chairs in place the passenger-side seat in the third row is only suitable for people up to 150cm (5ft) tall. Optional lounge seating allows for the middle row’s centre chair to be folded away as an armrest, while there’s a FlexRail storage system in SE and Elite models that improves the car’s already-impressive practicality. 

The engine line-up comprises one turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol, along with a pair of diesels: the excellent, fuel-sipping 1.6-litre ‘Whisper’ unit and a stronger 2.0-litre CDTi, which costs barely more than the 1.6 on equivalent trims.

In terms of gearboxes, the 1.4 petrol and the 2.0 diesel can be had either with the standard six-speed manual transmission, or with a six-speed automatic, which adds cost and has a significant punitive effect in terms of economy/emissions. The 1.6 CDTi can only be had as a six-speed manual, with Vauxhall’s Start & Stop technology fitted to the 1.6 CDTi and the 2.0 CDTi manuals only. All engine and transmission choices are available with all equipment levels. 

Talking of which, Vauxhall’s trim lines are always very confusing and the Zafira Tourer is no exception. There are seven different grades and although some of them build on the kit levels of others, the pricing varies wildly. 

The base trim is Design, coming with 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, DAB, USB connectivity and a CD/MP3 player, cruise control, trip computer and front/rear parking sensors among more. The Exclusiv trim costs a lot more while adding very little (and even ditches the alloys), so the Energy trim is a better bet, adding sat-nav and some nice design touches to the base trim, while costing less than Exclusiv.

From this point, the Exclusiv specification branches up to three choices: the sporty, body kit-equipped SRi, the more luxury-focused SE and the excellent-value Tech Line, which adds many of the SE’s upgrades as well as Navi 650 sat-nav. This grade is aimed squarely at company fleet buyers, but it’s well worth opting for if you’re a private buyer. 

The top grade of all is Elite, which comes with a panoramic windscreen, panoramic sunroof and perforated leather seats.

Rivals for the Zafira Tourer include the Ford S-MAX, Renault Grand Scenic and the Citroën Grand C4 Picasso, although buyers should also consider some large, affordable seven-seat SUVs such as the excellent Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.

Engines, performance and drive

4
Vauxhall Zafira Tourer's limited array of engines is nevertheless impressive, while it's a comfortable and composed MPV to drive

The first thing you notice about the Zafira Tourer is how well road and engine noise are isolated from the cabin. The new 1.6-litre diesel engine is a huge improvement over the old 1.7 and is smoother than the more powerful 2.0-litre CDTi – although there’s still some clatter at idle.

Still, you’ll only notice that clatter outside. Once you’re on the move, the car is more refined than you’ll find with a Citroën Grand C4 Picasso and very quiet at speed.

The Zafira Tourer also has a revised six-speed manual gearbox, with a slicker shift action than before.

Handling is decent rather than great, but the Vauxhall is composed and comfortable. If you push on along a twisty A-road, the ride is a bit bouncy but body control is reassuring. This car drives as you expect a family MPV to drive. The steering is light but accurate, and the suspension delivers a decent ride around town and on the motorway. 

Engines

The only petrol in the current line-up is the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit. It has the same peak power of 138bhp (delivered from 4,900-6,000rpm) as the now-unavailable 1.8, but it has healthier torque, the maximum being 200Nm from 1,850-4,900rpm – dovetailing neatly with the arrival of the brake horsepower.

This 1.4 petrol is a fine engine in many ways and a 0-62mph time (with a manual gearbox) of less than ten seconds suggests it doesn’t struggle to move the Zafira Tourer’s large body. But its economy and emissions figures are somewhat average, so you’re better off sacrificing a tiny bit of acceleration and choosing the 1.6-litre diesel instead.

Vauxhall calls its 1.6-litre CDTi unit the Whisper diesel, but if you can get past the clunky name it’s a lovely, smooth and very quiet unit – our pick of the range. Maximum power is 134bhp at 3,500rpm, while it’s the superb 320Nm from just 2,000rpm that makes this a relaxing and pleasant engine to deal with.

The quickest Zafira Tourer of the lot is the 2.0-litre diesel, which makes 168bhp at 3,750rpm and a robust 400Nm from 1,750-2,500rpm, although we’d say this engine isn’t quite as refined as the 1.6. It does have an automatic option, though, if that appeals to you.

A word of caution on those automatics: they add £1,520 to the list price of the 1.4-litre turbo petrol, and either £1,055 or £1,120 to the 2.0 CDTi, and in both instances they marginally blunt performance.

The 1.4 manual does 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds and goes on to a 124mph top speed, while for the automatic the same data reads 10.2 seconds and 122mph. For the 2.0 CDTi, the manual’s bests of 9.1 seconds and 129mph compare to the auto’s 9.3 seconds and 127mph.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4
Go for the diesels for the lowest tax and best fuel economy rates in the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer range

Until the arrival of the 1.6-litre CDTi, the 2.0-litre unit was the eco-champ. However, as the Whisper diesel can dip to 109g/km, it’s now the car that should appeal most to both private and fleet buyers.

The 1.6’s best economy returns are as high as 68.9mpg, followed by the 2.0 CDTi’s best of 57.7mpg – both some way ahead of the 1.4-litre petrol (42.2mpg). The 2.0-litre’s emissions figure is 129g/km, which will bump up the tax figures. 

Two options can affect economy and emissions, the first of these being the automatic gearbox. This brings an increase of 10g/km in CO2 emissions to 168g/km, while economy also drops from the manual’s 42.2mpg to 39.2mpg. 

It’s an even worse story on the 2.0 CDTi, as the manual comes with auto stop-start technology whereas the auto doesn’t. As a result, the manual can return 57.7mpg and emissions of 129g/km CO2, while the automatic languishes way down on 46.3mpg and 161g/km – huge penalties which will significantly increase road tax and BIK rates.

The second option to affect the green data is bigger wheels. Apart from on the 1.4 petrol and the two automatic models, stepping from the 17-inch rims (which are standard on most specifications) up to 18- and 19-inch wheels also hits economy and emissions. 

On the 1.6 CDTi, the numbers alter to 62.7mpg and 119g/km CO2, from 68.9mpg and 109g/km, while the 2.0 CDTi worsens from 57.7mpg and 129g/km, to 54.3mpg and 137g/km. SRi and Elite 2.0 CDTi buyers need to take particular notice here, as 18-inch wheels are standard fit on those trims.

Insurance groups

Insurance groups are pretty good for the Zafira Tourer – they start at 14 and only rise to 22 on higher-spec models with the 2.0 CDTi engine, so the Vauxhall people carrier should be reasonably cheap to run on this score.

Depreciation

A difficult area for Vauxhall, as the brand’s image hasn’t always been the strongest in recent years. It has good standard equipment levels and reasonable discounts are available from dealers, but French rivals offer more toys for even less money, while the 45 per cent three-year residual value of the Vauxhall is hardly class-leading.

Interior, design and technology

4.2
Attractive exterior looks and a well-equipped, neatly designed interior mark out the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

Vauxhall hasn’t messed with the styling of the Zafira Tourer but it’s always looked smart. It’s longer, taller and wider than the Citroën Grand C4 Picasso, and the high window line helps to slim the profile. Boomerang-style headlights and sculpted flanks mask the long overhangs.

Tech Line models come with a chrome window line treatment, silver-effect roof rails and dark-tinted rear windows, which help the people carrier look a bit more upmarket.

Inside, it’s refreshingly straightforward. The big buttons on the centre stack are easy to use, while the switchgear is well damped and feels sturdy. And while the cheap plastic steering rim ruins the premium feel, Tech Line models get sat-nav and classy ambient lighting.

Chunky A-pillars and a darker interior ensure the Zafira doesn’t feel all that airy, but there is the option of a panoramic roof and the driving position is fine, offering plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Two trim grades – Energy and Tech Line – come with Vauxhall’s Navi 650 system as standard; it’s £855 as an option on the other five specifications.

However, the flip-side of this is that neither the Energy nor the Tech Line can be upgraded to Navi 950 IntelliLink (£1,200 on all other models), the top software which has mapping down to street level across Western Europe. The 650 only has this function in the UK and Ireland, with coverage for Europe restricted to main and trunk roads. 

As standard, the Zafira Tourer comes with a six-speaker stereo with 20 watts per channel output, as well as MP3 capability, a USB connector with iPod control and a DAB radio. Either Navi 650 or Navi 950 IntelliLink upgrades those six speakers to premium units.

Splash out £525, if you’ve bought an SE, Tech Line or Elite model, and the Infinity Premium Sound System equips a 315-watt stereo, with all manner of speakers – mid-range, tweeters, wide-bands and no fewer than three subwoofers are included.

Standard on SE, Tech Line and Elite models, and a £395 option elsewhere, Vauxhall OnStar is a fully manned, personal assistance package. Special advisers are a button-press away, the car automatically sends out an SOS signal in the event of a crash, and various functions can be accessed/controlled remotely by smartphone apps, among other services it can perform. OnStar requires an annual subscription fee after the first 12 months.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

4.3
A practical seating arrangement and plenty of storage cubbies boost the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer's appeal, but some rivals are more spacious

The Zafira Tourer has a shorter wheelbase than the Citroën Grand C4 Picasso, but there’s still plenty of room and, as you’d expect, lots of flexibility in the seating layout. The Vauxhall’s second row seats can be moved back and forth, or folded individually, and the middle seat can even be stowed, allowing the two outer seats to slide in to free up elbow room.

But it’s not perfect. While passengers in the middle row get a decent amount of legroom, they have to put up with a small transmission hump. Plus, the Zafira’s centre seat is narrow and only the outer two seats feature ISOFIX child seat mounting points.

Still, Vauxhall’s Flex7 seats are easy to fold and all the levers, handles and runners seem sturdy. The third row seats can be folded completely into the floor to maximise luggage space. 

Depending on trim and equipment levels, the Vauxhall’s cabin can have up to 34 separate storage compartments and cubbies for stowing all manner of items.

Size

The Vauxhall’s a rather sizeable machine, measuring almost 2.1 metres wide (including the door mirrors) and the best part of 4.7 metres long, although Vauxhall helpfully fits front and rear parking sensors as standard to all models. 

Its wheelbase is 2,760mm and the Zafira Tourer isn’t a light machine, weighing 1,626kg in our favoured 1.6 CDTi trim (the 1.4 is a bit slimmer, the 2.0-litre heavier). But that means it’s a decent tow car, with between 1,300kg and 1,650kg of braked trailer capable of being hauled by the range.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

As the car is externally 1,685mm tall, headroom in the Zafira Tourer simply isn’t an issue. Leg, shoulder and hip room is decent in the front two rows, but while the rear-most seats have space for children, they’re a bit cramped for average adults.

Boot

With all seven seats in place, there’s just 152 litres of boot space. Fold the two third-row chairs down and that increases to a much more useful 710 litres, although bear in mind the Zafira’s boot has a narrow load floor and low parcel shelf in this setting.

Even with all five rear seats tucked away, the Zafira Tourer still has less space than the Citroën, with 1,860 litres in total.

Reliability and Safety

4
A moderately strong showing on owner satisfaction and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating makes the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer easy to recommend

No Vauxhall did stunningly well in the 2015 Driver Power survey, but the Zafira Tourer polled comfortably in the top half of the 200-vehicle chart, coming home in 79th place; it was the top-ranked model the Luton company makes as a result. 

Owners deemed it middling on a number of factors, including reliability (100th place), but scored it excellently on ride comfort (43rd), road handling (58th) and performance (61st), a strong set of results.

From what we understand, neither the 1.4 petrol nor the CDTis are unreliable engines, especially the 1.6 which has benefitted from millions of pounds worth of Opel/Vauxhall development money, as it’s part of a new wave of advanced engines being introduced by the manufacturer.

It also has a good safety record, with a five-star EuroNCAP crash test rating. The Zafira Tourer scored 94 per cent for adult protection, 83 per cent for children and 86 per cent for its safety assist systems. Shame that it only recorded 53 per cent for pedestrian safety.

For £850 on SE, Tech Line and Elite, the Front Camera System brings in adaptive cruise control, following distance indication with forward collision alert, automatic brake intervention, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition; Blind Spot Alert is a further option.

Warranty 

The Vauxhall Lifetime warranty ended at the start of 2015, meaning the company now provides a fairly average 60,000-mile/three-year warranty – although, save for Renault’s four-year package, none of its obvious rivals better it.

For a variable fee, the warranty can be extended on cars less than seven years old and with fewer than 70,000 miles on the clock, but there is still a 100,000-mile overall cap on such cover. For £25, the Vauxhall warranty can be transferred if the car is privately sold. 

Servicing

Like most Vauxhalls, the Zafira Tourer needs servicing every 20,000 miles or annually, whichever comes first – or, if you’re mechanically hard on a car, it will indicate when it needs attention. 

The manufacturer offers a variety of fixed price servicing packages, including a service club with 25 per cent off labour and parts costs, and 50 per cent off MOTs.

Last updated: 23 Feb, 2016