Our staff photographer has a long list of requirements, so has the Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 managed to meet them all?
When it comes to choosing a long-term test car, as staff photographer I have a long list of requirements. Firstly, I rack up huge mileages - over 30,000 in my last motor, a Honda Accord Tourer 2.2 i-CTDi (see issue 878). So, any vehicle in my possession has to be comfortable and economical.
The new Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 CDTI on our fleet should tick those boxes, but with a stack of camera equipment to carry, a big and practical interior is my number one priority. Nor am I off the hook at weekends - there's a host of gear that has to accompany my six-month-old daughter, Olivia.
The Zafira seems to be shaping up as a decent solution to my needs, though, even if the first problem has already come to light. The Vauxhall's 645-litre boot is admittedly huge, but the heavy tailgate opens so high that my wife Georgina can't close it! Suddenly, I miss the Accord's fully electric rear door... Other than that, the cabin height makes loading the baby seat in and out very easy, while the optional £850 panoramic roof lets in loads of light. I've yet to think of anything to put in the aircraft-like storage bins that run down the centre of the ceiling, though.
I'm happy with the driving position, too, as the high-mounted gearlever is nicely positioned, and all the controls are easy to use. The steep A-pillars do cause some nasty blindspots at roundabouts, and the one-touch indicators are frustrating, but that aside there's little to dislike about the interior, since the build and material quality is very good. On the road, the 148bhp diesel engine offers reasonable refinement. While it does feel a little tight at the moment, I'm hoping it will loosen up and become more free-revving. There are no complaints about economy so far, though. Having covered 2,968 miles, the Zafira has averaged 38.1mpg - if it tops 40mpg, I'll be even more pleased.
The ride is also great, although you do get some nasty steering kickback through bumpy corners; other than this, the handling is impressive for an MPV. And with handy optional extras such as sat-nav, parking sensors and cruise control, not to mention part-leather seats, it's a more luxurious car than I expected. It's just a shame it doesn't come with a built-in stepladder for Georgina!
Since I don't have any young children (my son is in his twenties), I'm probably not part of the Zafira's target market, but that doesn't mean I don't like it. For ferrying friends around, it's brilliant - even the rear-most seats are spacious, and the driving environment is vastly improved from the last Zafira.
Lesley Harris, road tester