Vauxhall Zafira

The Zafira's become a favourite amongst the Auto Express road test team

  • Strong 1.9-litre diesel, plenty of storage space, decent fuel economy, interior flexibility
  • Height of rear door, temperamental CD system, melting chocolates!

I may not be Billie Piper and I'm pretty sure the Zafira can't travel through time, but it seems to disappear and reappear remarkably like Doctor Who's Tardis. Since taking the keys, my main problem has been holding on to them, as everyone wants to borrow the Vauxhall.

It's been used for road tests, and colleagues have taken it for anything from weekend breaks to transporting products on trial. The travels haven't been uneventful, either, as on one excursion it suffered a puncture; the new tyre cost £120. It has also lost the parcel shelf and rear carpet en route.

Managing editor Graham Hope was the latest to whisk the keys away, for a two-week trip through France and Spain to the Benicassim music festival just north of Valencia. The Vauxhall faced travelling more than 2,500 miles in the height of the summer heatwave. It was the ultimate test - and it passed with flying colours!

Firstly, there were no complaints regarding the room on offer. With the back seats folded, there was plenty of space for bags and camping gear. At 41.6mpg, the car didn't break the bank in terms of fuel costs, and proved a refined and comfort­able performer. In cities such as Lyon, Marseille and Tarragona, it was easy enough to negotiate in busy streets, too, while the parking sensor helped when squeezing into tight spots.

Frustratingly, the Vauxhall sat-nav was equipped to deal only with European A-roads, so Graham also took a TomTom GO 710 portable unit, which proved a superb substitute. Another niggle was the sheer height of the boot door when open, which meant his wife couldn't reach up to shut it.

Of course, storage space is invaluable in models such as this - particularly when touring, as receipts plus toll road and car park tickets amass by the day. The Zafira is no slouch here. Both the side pockets and overhead stowage quickly filled up with all manner of stuff, although in hindsight, storing chocolates in the roof lockers was a bad idea in fearsomely hot Spanish weather!

Indeed, it was only really windy conditions that proved the Zafira's undoing. Left in the makeshift mountain car park outside the Benicassim festival site, it became caked in orange dust, which gave it a surreal look for most of the trip. Other than that, it coped with its marathon adventure and 40-degree temperatures admirably - and came back in far better shape than its occupants, who have vowed never to camp at a festival again...

Second opinion I recently took the Zafira to Norfolk for a weekend. It was filled to the brim with tents, bags and a very large PA system, along with four friends. Even so, the Vauxhall took everything in its stride and also proved very economical. My only complaint is the instrument set-up, with many functions controlled through the complex computer screen.Paul Slater, designer

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