Vauxhall Zafira MPV
Price: £18,920 - £25,515
- Highly practical with seven seats
- Big discounts on new cars
- Well built and cheap to run
- Interior feels quite cheap
- Resale values are poor
- Tiny boot with all seven seats in place
"The family friendly Vauxhall Zafira is a common sight on UK roads, and with good reason: It's practical, roomy, comfortable and good value."
Don’t judge a book by its cover – the Vauxhall Zafira may look as old as its 2005 launch date suggests but inside you get bags of practicality, solid build quality and an excellent seven-seat arrangement that is very flexible and makes the Zafira an excellent family car.
The last two rows of the Zafira's seven seats fold down flat to create a van-sized loading space. Its large dimensions create lots of space inside – although the even bigger Zafira Tourer that debuted in 2012 will eventually completely supersede the standard model. The optional panoramic glass sunroof makes the car very light inside and you get even more overhead storage. The Zafira is competitively priced from the outset but lots of deals are available so discounted prices are often easy to find.
The Zafira comes in three main specifications – entry-level Exclusiv, mid-range Excite and top-of-the-range Design. The discontinued VXR model is a great choice for anyone who wants a practical car with good performance – it's very quick and quite a lot sportier than its rivals. It's a great buy if you can find one.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Zafira's popularity helps reduce the cost of replacement parts
The CFTi diesel Zafiras are cheap to run, returning combined fuel economy of 55mpg and emitting 134g/km of CO2. That's a lot better than the 42mpg and 157g/km emissions of the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol model, which we’d recommend avoiding if you clock up a lot of miles on a regular basis. Replacement parts and servicing shouldn’t cost the earth thanks to the Zafira's popularity, which keeps components cheap and readily available.
There are plenty of dealers, too, so it's always worth shopping around to find the cheapest service you can.
Interior & comfort
Soft suspension makes motorway journeys relatively painless
The Zafira's soft suspension copes admirably with the UK's bumpy roads, and the inside barely transmits any wind or road noise – so long drives with the family should be relatively painless. The driver and front passenger seats are quite comfortable and supportive, but lower-spec models don’t offer any adjustment, and some of the materials feel cheap.
The middle row of seats do slide forwards and backwards to allow better access to the third row of seats or to create more boot space or passenger legroom. All but the back row has plenty of headroom and if you add the optional panoramic roof then the feel of the Zafira's interior does improve.
Practicality & boot space
With all the seats folded flat, the Zafira doubles as a removal van
Vauxhall has installed the same Flex7 flexibly seating system that came in the previous model. It's a good system, but the downside is that it's just not as easy to use as those in newer rivals, such as the Renault Grand Scenic, Mazda5 or even its bigger brother, the Zafira Tourer. The sliding middle seats do allow you to change the layout and space inside the car but this can compromise getting into the back.
All seats fold down completely flat and independently of each other to create a van-like load bay of some 1,820 litres. With all seven seats in place, however, that drops to a miniscule 140 litres of boot space – less than in a basic MINI Cooper.
Top-spec models come with roof-mounted storage bins, an air-conditioned glove compartment, cargo net pouches, keyless entry and seat-back trays.
Reliability & safety
The cabin is hard wearing and perfect for family use
Any improvement that Vauxhall showed in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey was wiped away in the 2013 poll, where it dropped a hefty 13 places to rank 26th of 32 in the manufacturers rankings. The good news is that the Zafira Tourer managed an impressive 12th in the list of the top 100 cars. The bad news is that the standard Zafira ranked 145th, so it doesn’t have the best reputation with buyers. The Zafira is based on the Vauxhall Astra, which does have a slightly better reputation for reliability.
The interior is tough, hard wearing and well built, so pretty much perfect for family use. The Zafira also scored five stars for adult protection in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, a reasonable four stars for child protection but a worrying two stars for pedestrian protection. All models come fitted with anti-lock brakes with cornering control to reduce any skidding, front and side airbags (with curtain airbags available on higher-spec cars), electronic brake force distribution and collapsible pedals. Electronic stability control (ESP) is only an option on most models, which is usually the reason a car doesn’t secure the maximum five-star crash rating.
Engines, drive & performance
Diesel engines suit the Zafira best with good performance and economy
The Zafira is reasonable enough around town and comfortable enough on the motorway but it feels big and clunky and isn’t that much fun to drive. It's handling is good thanks to its Astra underpinnings, but it's simply not as good as its bigger brother, the Zafira Tourer.
If you need overtaking power, the top-of-the-range 1.7-litre CDTi diesel engines – either 108bhp or 123bhp – are surprisingly effective for a big car, even when it's filled with people and luggage. However, the 1.6-litre petrol tends to feel quite underpowered, and while the 1.8-litre version is faster, accelerating from 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds, it doesn’t provide as good an overall driving experience as the diesel - and economy does suffer.
Price, value for money & options
Massive discounts available on new models, but depreciation is heavy
We’d always recommend negotiating with a Vauxhall dealer, as historically there have been some pretty big discounts available for the Zafira – despite the competitive starting price of the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol Expression. The standard car is good value, coming with lots of equipment and accessories as standard. However, rivals such as the Mazda5 are even more generously equipped.
Don’t expect resale value in the used car market to be great, as Vauxhalls always lose a lot of value quickly, so if want a good second-hand deal, you need to start by getting a new Zafira as cheaply as you can.
What the others say
"The Zafira is as roomy as any mid-sized MPV, but it's better to drive than most and comes with lots of airbags as standard. Big discounts, plus the reassurance of a lifetime warranty."
"The interior is also stylish and constructed from materials that feel more expensive than rivals. But there are some ergonomic niggles and the driving position still feels a bit van-like. A-pillars are also thick and cause blind spots. Head, shoulder and knee room are ample and, while access to the rear is tricky, all seats are comfortable. However, the Flex7 folding seat system is looking tired now."
"The original Zafira revolutionised the people carrier market with it's clever seating, spacious interior and plenty of family-friendly features. Vauxhall has carried these strengths on to this model but added sharper styling, improved build quality and refinement too. There are plenty of neat features such as storage boxes in the roof, keyless entry and an optional panoramic glass roof but compared to newer people carrier the Zafira is limited in its flexibility and the once class-leading Flex7 now seems clumsy and awkward."
Last updated: 20 Dec 2013