Vauxhall Zafira

How many kids does it take to fill a Zafira? In the case of the Gibson household one - my daughter, Olivia - is plenty. But that doesn't mean the other four seats lie idle all the time. Come the weekend, the Vauxhall regularly acts as unofficial team bus for the Great Baddow thirds football squad.

  • Cabin big enough for seven footballers plus kit, strong 1.9-litre diesel, Sport button, long service intervals
  • Raising and lowering the rear seats, A-pillar blind spots, one-touch indicators

How many kids does it take to fill a Zafira? In the case of the Gibson household one - my daughter, Olivia - is plenty. But that doesn't mean the other four seats lie idle all the time. Come the weekend, the Vauxhall regularly acts as unofficial team bus for the Great Baddow thirds football squad.

My people carrier has been pressed into service for various trips to far-flung corners of Essex, and even with all seven positions filled, and the boot loaded with kit bags, the 1.9-litre common-rail diesel never struggles. What's more, there are remarkably few complaints about overcrowding - even from those in the cheap seats.

That's not to say the seating layout is perfect, though. For much of the time the rearmost chairs are stored under the floor, so the boot can be filled with all my camera kit. But getting them out isn't easy. First, the child seat has to be removed, so the middle row's base can be tilted up and the whole thing slid forward. Only then can you reach in from the boot and pull the handles to raise the rears. But for 90 per cent of the time that's a minor niggle, since I tend to be alone in the car, nipping to and from photo locations.

With time to kill on long journeys, I've been paying attention to the Zafira's other features - qwwespecially the Sport button mounted below the screen. I've never thought of the Vauxhall as a sports car, but this button improves throttle response, as well as sharpening the steering and ride. It's pretty good and makes the car feel more nimble - helpful when I'm trying to keep up with the road testers on their favourite roads through north Wales. I've nicknamed it the "daddy's-on-his-own" button for obvious reasons!

Now the car has some miles under its belt (13,140 to be precise), the 1.9 CDTi engine has loosened up nicely, and is returning some good economy figures - even better, it doesn't need a service until 20,000 miles.

I'm also a fan of the sat-nav. It's an expensive option at £1,250, but I've found it faultlessly easy to use, while dynamic guidance helps avoid jams, and the journey-time predictor is spot on.

The only downside to running the Zafira is the image - put simply, I feel a bit middle-aged and sensible driving it. But I suppose family life catches up with us all at some stage - I certainly haven't heard any complaints from my team-mates on a Sunday morning. Pete Gibson

Second opinion The Zafira was greatly appreciated on a day out to Chessington World of Adventures. With three rather larger sized children than Pete's young daughter Olivia on board, all arguments of not sitting in the middle or behind the 6ft 2in driver were irrelevant, as we even had the option of an extra set of seats at the back. Dawn Tennant, picture editor

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