Vauxhall Zafira MPV

Review

Vauxhall Zafira MPV

Price  £19,250 - £25,625

Vauxhall Zafira MPV

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Very practical with seven seats
  • Big discounts on new cars
  • Well built and cheap to run
Cons
  • Interior feels quite cheap
  • Resale values are poor
  • Tiny boot with all seven seats in place

At a glance

"The Vauxhall Zafira is a good family car, but its running costs are no longer competitive, making it look increasingly out-of-date."

The Vauxhall Zafira has been such a successful MPV that the brand has kept it on sale, despite releasing a newer version called the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. Vauxhall now sells the ‘old’ Zafira as its budget MPV. On the plus side this means you are getting a large seven-seat family car for less money, with big discounts available. But, you are also buying an MPV originally launched in 1999, with styling and engines which are looking increasingly dated.

With just a 1.8-litre petrol or 1.7-litre diesel engine available, we’d recommend the diesel engine. It costs £130 in annual road tax and will return 55.4mpg – compared to the petrol, which costs £205 each year and returns just 39mpg. Rivals like the Ford Grand C-MAX and Renault Grand Scenic have much more advanced engines which cost as little as £20 each year to tax.

The Zafira's best feature is its flexible seating arrangement and huge boot when they are folded flat, while it also feels very car-like to drive. But other models have caught up and the Mazda5 and Renault Grand Scenic offer similar flexibility, with folding seats that are also easier to use.

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 ageing design is its poor fuel economy. The petrol returns 39.2mpg and 168g/km of CO2, costing £205 in annual road tax and making trips to the petrol station all too frequent. If you really need a petrol MPV, the Ford Grand C-MAX is available with a more modern engine costing just £30 to tax annually, which is also capable of 44.1mpg.

For anyone considering a Zafira, we’d recommend the powerful diesel engine, which is less expensive to run, returning 55.4mpg and emitting 134g/km resulting in a £130 annual tax bill. But despite being cheaper to run than the petrol, it's still miles off the best new MPVs. The thriftiest diesel Renault Grand Scenic can eek out 68.9mpg and costs only £20 each year in road tax, making it far cheaper to run.

It's also bad news when it's time to sell the Zafira, because Vauxhall's tend to lose their 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.

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 good seating position should be easy, particularly in trim levels which feature a height adjustable driver's seat. Materials used for the dashboard and upholstery don’t look very upmarket, but they are tough and should stand up to any abuse kids can throw at them.

Most controls are also logically laid out, although the number of buttons and lack of any touch-screen controls make the interior feel decidedly old compared with the futuristic Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. Like a number of its rivals the Zafira also suffers from blind spots at either side of its windscreen because of thick A-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 might expect from such a tall MPV. While this means it doesn’t smooth out every bump, it's a good compromise which still makes journeys comfortable 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 first launched in 1999 its ‘Flex7’ folding seats were a real game-changer, and they are still the Zafira's best selling point. The Zafira can seat five with a large 645-litre boot for all their luggage, or you can pop up two extra seats from the boot floor. The third row is best suited to children, but two smaller adults can sit in adequate comfort for shorter trips.

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 just the front seats in use, all the rear seats can be folded flat to give a van-like 1,820 litres of space. Rivals like the Mazda5 and Renault Grand Scenic now have very flexible seating as well, and the seats are easier to adjust than those in the Zafira.

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 once on the move, with small door bins and fewer hidden storage cubbies than you’ll find in the Citroen C4 Picasso or Renault Scenic. But, there are some nice features, like an air-conditioned glovebox and roof-mounted storage boxes in top-spec models.

Reliability & safety

3.0 / 5

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

Vauxhall slipped three places to 29th out of 32 manufacturers rated 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 full five-stars in Euro NCAP crash testing, however it was evaluated before the test criteria was made tougher in 2009. The Ford C-MAX, Renault Scenic and Citroen C4 Picasso have all been tested to the latest standards 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 mounting points are included on the middle row's two outer seats and child-proof door locks are fitted to the rear doors.

Engines, drive & performance

2.0 / 5

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

The 1.8-litre petrol is offered with 118bhp or 138bhp, getting from 0-62mph in 11.5 and 10.8 seconds respectively. With identical fuel economy, the higher-powered version makes most sense, particularly if you plan on towing or carrying seven passengers on a regular basis. While slower on paper, both the 108bhp and 123bhp versions of the 1.7-litre diesel feel better-suited to the Vauxhall Zafira. Their relaxed low-revving nature suits the load-lugging qualities of the Zafira better.

While it looks rather tall and boxy, the Zafira is a pleasant surprise to drive. Despite its age, it's still quite fun, with reasonably firm suspension to keep it upright 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 and Citroen feel softer than the Vauxhall, while the Ford Grand C-MAX strikes the best balance between driving fun and a smooth ride.

Price, value for money & options

3.0 / 5

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

With a list price only a few hundred pounds below its rivals, the Vauxhall Zafira can appear quite expensive. But, the reality is you can expect large dealership discounts, which should go some way to offsetting the higher running costs and poor resale values expected for this model.

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 fog lights and Bluetooth, while the top-of-the-range Design trim brings climate control, heated front seats and automatic lights and wipers.

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

What the others say

2.8 / 5
based on 3 reviews
  • 3.0 / 5
    “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.”
  • 2.0 / 5
    "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."
  • 3.5 / 5
    “The original Zafira revolutionised the people carrier market with its clever seating, spacious interior and plenty of family-friendly features.”

Last updated 
7 Aug 2014

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