Review

Vauxhall Zafira MPV

Vauxhall Zafira MPV

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Unimpeachable practicality
  • Cheap to buy secondhand
  • Good-value family car
Cons
  • Only available as a used car
  • Reliability issues well documented
  • Boot is tiny with all seven seats up

“The Vauxhall Zafira offers practicality, flexibility and value in spades for a family on a budget.”

There's no doubt the Vauxhall Zafira – the model in these pictures is the second-generation ‘B’ version, on sale from 2008 to 2013 – was a massive sales success for the company. It was dropped from the line-up in 2014, however, with its place in the range taken over by Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

Since then, there have been some well-documented problems with the Zafira. A series of high-profile fires brought the car back to the public consciousness. The fault was traced and a recall has been ordered, so if you’re in the market for a Zafira B, make sure this work has been carried out. 

There aren’t any other major issues to worry about, however. Okay, so this isn’t the most stylish car in the world and nor is it the best to drive. More modern MPVs will also embarrass the Zafira when it comes to running costs, but it's not all bad news. 

The versatile seating arrangements allow seven people to sit in a car that isn’t all that big. Granted, the boot is tiny with all seven seats up, but the third row folds flat into the boot floor, leaving a cavernous and usable luggage area. 

The Zafira isn’t too bad to drive, either, belying its tall stature to resist the worst body lean in corners and actually feeling reasonably entertaining. Rivals like the Mazda5 and Renault Grand Scenic eventually surpassed it in this respect, however. 

When it was new, the Zafira was also a pretty safe car, with Euro NCAP awarding it the full five stars. Bear in mind, however, that the outfit's testing procedures have become a lot more stringent since the Zafira's test was carried out, meaning a modern (tested post-2009) car with a five-star rating is likely to be much safer than a car tested before this date with the same score.

MPG, running costs & CO2

2.5 / 5

Poor residuals means Zafira’s a bargain to buy, but fuel economy isn’t great

The biggest giveaways that this is a car from the mid-2000s are its fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures. At the time, a naturally aspirated petrol engine returning just under 39.2mpg and emitting 168g/km of CO2 wasn’t too bad, but that’s all changed. That CO2 figure means you’ll have to fork out £205 in road tax every year, which is some way more than you’ll pay for more modern rivals.

The 1.7-litre four-cylinder diesel engine does much better, returning 55.4mpg – a big improvement on the petrol, but still a fair way behind newer rivals. Road tax for this engine will set you back £130 a year, thanks to CO2 emissions of 134g/km. 

It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as thanks to Vauxhall’s extensive dealer network, maintaining a Zafira shouldn’t cost the earth. There are plenty of parts available, too, so these won’t cost a fortune, either. So keeping your Vauxhall Zafira in good condition should be easy, convenient and cost-effective.

Engines, drive & performance

2 / 5

Diesels are better suited to the Vauxhall Zafira’s character

The Zafira’s 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is available with either 118 or 138bhp. Running costs don’t differ, so you might as well get the more powerful version, which completes the 0-62mph sprint in 10.8 seconds – significantly quicker than the less powerful version. 

It’s also better at coping with heavier loads than the less powerful model, so if you consistently carry seven people or use the boot space to its full capacity, then it’s the one for you.

The diesel is probably better suited to the car’s intended uses, though. With more of its power spread more evenly across the rev range, you don’t have to work it as hard to get similar performance to the petrol. If you can find a Zafira diesel in your price range, we’d definitely recommend the more powerful 123bhp version, as again there’s no penalty in running costs compared to the less powerful (108bhp) version. 

To drive, the Zafira is surprisingly competent for such a tall, heavy car. It’s remarkably agile and easy to drive considering its size, and body lean in corners is well controlled. This does, however, mean the ride is somewhat firm. Most buyers in this class prefer a softer ride, and rivals like the Ford Grand C-MAX offer a better balance between ride comfort and handling.

Interior & comfort

2.5 / 5

Inside, the Vauxhall Zafira is comfortable and well put together, but materials feel cheap

Thanks to a high seating position and plentiful glass area, you get a great view out of the Zafira. Both the driver’s seat and steering wheel have plenty of adjustment, so finding the perfect driving position is easy, too. The majority of the controls are logically laid-out as well, making it easy to work out what everything does, despite the many switches on the dashboard.

Our biggest complaint with the Vauxhall Zafira is the quality of materials used inside. They just don’t feel as plush as those used in some of its rivals and whether or not they can handle the sustained abuse they’ll get from children is another matter entirely.

Practicality & boot space

3.5 / 5

Versatile seating system is the Vauxhall Zafira’s main strength

The Zafira’s ‘Flex-7’ seating system was a groundbreaking achievement when the first generation was launched in 1999 and it’s still very clever – even though other manufacturers have caught up in this respect.

With the third-row seats folded into the boot floor, you get a massive 645 litres of boot space, while folding the second row flat gives you a truly vast 1,820 litres to play with. However, with the third row up, that space is reduced to just 140 litres, so if you’re carrying seven people’s luggage, you’re likely to have to invest in a roof box as well.

Thankfully, using the boot space is easy thanks to a wide opening, square shape and lack of a load lip. With all the seats folded down, it’s a very low, flat space, making it easy to slide heavy items in and out.

Unfortunately, newer models outstrip the Zafira in terms of cubbyholes and storage spaces in the cabin, but higher-spec models have some nice touches like an air-conditioned glovebox and storage space in the roof.

Reliability & safety

2 / 5

Well-publicised fires are a concern for the Vauxhall Zafira

Vauxhall’s overall record for reliability isn’t particularly confidence-inspiring – the brand came 28th out of 32 manufacturers for reliability in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. This represents a considerable drop from its 23rd place in the 2014 survey. 

You may have noticed some publicity recently about fires breaking out in Zafiras. The source of this problem has been found, a fix determined and a full safety recall has been issued. Only cars with manual air-conditioning were affected, so if your car (or the car you’re looking at buying) has manual air-conditioning rather than climate control, it’s imperative you ensure this remedial work has been done. 

In terms of safety – once that fire issue has been fixed – the Zafira shouldn’t cause any sleepless nights. It scored the maximum five-star rating when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but that was before the tests became much more stringent. More modern rivals achieve five stars even with the tougher tests, but the Zafira is safe enough for its era.

You get loads of airbags as standard, as well as the omnipresent electronic stability and traction control systems. Naturally, you get anti-lock brakes, too. You also get ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outer two seats on the second row.

Price, value for money & options

3 / 5

Heavy depreciation has made the Vauxhall Zafira a tempting used buy

Thanks to the Vauxhall Zafira being quite heftily discounted when new, it has depreciated heavily on the used market. That’s great news if you’re buying secondhand, but not so great if you bought yours new.

That ingenious Flex-7 seating system comes as standard on all models, as does as air-conditioning, while the Excite version has niceties like Bluetooth phone connectivity and alloy wheels. The high-spec Design model features heated front seats and climate control, as well as automatic headlights and rain-sensitive windscreen wipers.

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 
20 Jan 2016
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