Vauxhall Zafira MPV

Vauxhall Zafira MPV

reviewed by Carbuyer

  • Very practical seven-seater
  • Well built and cheap to run
  • Dealers offer big discounts
  • No longer on sale
  • Interior feels quite cheap
  • Tiny boot with seven seats in place

"The Vauxhall Zafira is a good family car, but with quite high running costs. It is only available as a used car today."

The Vauxhall Zafira was been so successful that it was on sale at an affordable price alongside the newer Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. Since then, Vauxhall has dropped it from its range of new cars.

So while it's not the last word in style, technology or efficiency, the old Zafira is now a very affordable used seven-seat family car.

By 2014 - the last time we drove the car - engine choice was limited to a 1.8-litre petrol or a 1.7-litre diesel, the latter being the better (albeit more expensive) choice. Annual road tax costs £130 and it'll return 55.4mpg, compared to the petrol's £205 tax bill and 39mpg economy. Rivals such as the Ford Grand C-MAX and Renault Grand Scenic have more modern low-emissions engines thay cost as little as £20 a year to tax.

The Zafira's best features are its flexible seating arrangement and huge boot, while it also feels very car-like to drive. But other models have caught up – the Mazda5 and Renault Grand Scenic offer similar flexibility and are more user-friendly than the ageing Zafira.

Here's what we thought of the car when we drove it in 2014...

MPG, running costs & CO2

2.5 / 5

The Vauxhall Zafira's poor economy and weak resale values could hurt your wallet

Perhaps the most obvious sign of the Vauxhall Zafira’s age is its poor fuel economy. The petrol returns 39.2mpg and emits 168g/km of CO2, so road tax costs £205 a year. If you really need a petrol MPV, the Ford Grand C-MAX is available with a more modern engine that costs just £30 to tax annually and is capable of 44.1mpg.

That's why we’d recommend the diesel engine, which is less expensive to run, returning 55.4mpg and emitting 134g/km of CO2 for a £130 road-tax bill. But the diesel is still miles off the best new MPVs: the most economical Renault Grand Scenic manages 68.9mpg and costs only £20 a year in road tax, making it much cheaper to run.

There will also be bad news when it’s time to sell your Zafira, because Vauxhalls tend to lose value very quickly. The Zafira suffers particularly badly here because of its dated design, faring far worse than the newer Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. If you’re looking for the best resale values, the Volkswagen Touran outperforms all the competition thanks to its desirable badge and excellent build quality.

Engines, drive & performance

2 / 5

Car-like handling makes the big Vauxhall Zafira feel smaller than it is

The 1.8-litre petrol model is offered with either 118bhp or 138bhp, taking it from 0-62mph in 11.5 and 10.8 seconds respectively. Unchanged fuel economy means the higher-powered version makes the most sense, particularly if you plan on towing or carrying seven people on a regular basis.

While they're slower on paper, both the 108bhp and 123bhp versions of the 1.7-litre diesel feel better suited to the Vauxhall Zafira and are a better choice overall for towing and load-lugging.

While it looks rather tall and boxy, the Zafira handles surprisingly well. Despite its age, it’s still quite fun to drive, with reasonably firm suspensions keeping body lean in check in corners. The Zafira feels like a smaller car to drive than the newer Zafira Tourer, but it’s also less refined and comfortable. The Renault Grand Scenic and Citroen Grand C4 Picasso feel softer than the Vauxhall, while the Ford Grand C-MAX strikes the best balance between driving fun and a smooth ride.

Interior & comfort

2.5 / 5

All Vauxhall Zafira models get a high seating position and soft suspension, but cheap interior materials let the side down

You sit quite upright in the Vauxhall Zafira, which gives you a commanding view out of the tall windscreen and deep side windows. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, so finding a comfortable position should be easy, particularly in cars with a height-adjustable driver’s seat. The materials covering the dashboard and seats don’t look very upmarket, but they're tough and should stand up to any abuse kids can throw at them.

Most of the controls are also logically laid-out, although the number of buttons and lack of any touchscreen makes the interior feel decidedly old-fashioned compared to the futuristic Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. Like a number of its rivals, the Zafira suffers from blind spots due to its thick windscreen pillars.

On the plus side, the Zafira is very car-like to drive, so the ride quality isn’t as soft and wallowy as you'd expect from such a tall MPV. While this means it doesn’t smooth out every bump, it’s a good compromise, and could help prevent car sickness.

Practicality & boot space

3.5 / 5

Flexible seating is the Vauxhall Zafira’s main selling point

When the Vauxhall Zafira was launched in 1999, its Flex7 folding seats were a real game-changer, and they're still the Zafira’s top selling point. The Zafira can seat five with a large 645-litre boot reamining, or you can pop up two extra seats from the boot floor. The third row is best suited to children – adults will get uncomfortable back there before very long.

With the Zafira in seven-seat mode, boot space is limited to 140 litres, so you may need a roof box if your passengers have luggage. With all the rear seats folded flat, you have a van-like 1,820 litres of space. Rivals such as the Mazda5 and Renault Grand Scenic now have flexible seating as well, and their systems are even easier to use than the Zafira's.

Open the Zafira’s large hatchback and there’s a wide and low loading lip, making it easy to slide heavy or large items inside. Sadly, there’s not too much storage in the cabin, with small door bins and fewer hidden storage cubbies than in the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso or Renault Grand Scenic. But there are some nice features, such as an air-conditioned glovebox and roof-mounted storage boxes in top-spec models.

Reliability & safety

3 / 5

The Vauxhall Zafira's interior is hard-wearing and perfect for family use

Vauxhall slipped three places to 29th out of 32 manufacturers in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with poor scores for in-car technology, comfort and reliability. It’s not great news, particularly as the Vauxhall Zafira is already looking rather dated. Of its main rivals, the Renault Grand Scenic performed best, finishing 53rd out of 150 models, while the Renault brand was rated 15th, ahead of Volkswagen (19th), Ford (25th) and Citroen (26th).

The Zafira scored the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing, however it was evaluated before the test was made tougher in 2009. The Ford Grand C-MAX, Renault Grand Scenic and Citroen Grand C4 Picasso have all been tested to the latest standard and scored five stars. Front, side and curtain airbags are all standard, as well as technology to help prevent skids and reduce stopping distances. ISOFIX child-seat mounts are included on the middle row's two outer seats and the rear doors have child-proof locks.

Price, value for money & options

3 / 5

Expensive list prices, but expect big dealership discounts on all Vauxhall Zafiras

With a list price only a few hundred pounds below its rivals, the Vauxhall Zafira appears quite expensive. But the reality is you can expect large discounts from dealers, which should go some way towards offsetting the higher running costs and poor resale values.

The entry-level Exclusiv trim includes the Flex7 seating system, air-con and lots of safety equipment as standard. Upgrading to Excite adds alloy wheels, front foglights and a Bluetooth phone connection, while the top-of-the-range Design trim brings climate control, heated front seats and automatic lights and wipers.

Optional extras include an anti-theft alarm for £250, cruise control for £220 and sat nav with Bluetooth and a USB connection for £750. A DAB digital radio is £160 extra.

What the others say

3.8 / 5
based on 3 reviews
3 / 5
"The Vauxhall Zafira has been hugely popular in the UK - it's practical and roomy, comfortable and good to drive, too."
3.5 / 5
“The original Zafira revolutionised the people carrier market with its clever seating, spacious interior and plenty of family-friendly features.”
5 / 5
"The Zafira has seven usable seats at a bargain price, and with thousands of examples on the used market, there's no shortage of cars to choose from."
Last updated 
7 Aug 2014
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