Vauxhall Zafira MPV
Price £19,250 - £25,625
- Very practical seven-seater
- Well built and cheap to run
- Dealers offer big discounts
- Interior feels quite cheap
- Resale values are poor
- Tiny boot with 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"The Vauxhall Zafira is a good family car, but its running costs are no longer competitive, making it look increasingly out-of-date."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 so successful that it's been kept on sale at an affordable price alongside the newer Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. So while it's no longer the last word in style, technology or efficiency, the 'old' Zafira is now a very affordable seven-seater family car – particularly when typical Vauxhall dealer discounts come into play.
Engine choice is limited to a 1.8-litre petrol or a 1.7-litre diesel, and we’d recommend the latter. 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.
MPG, running costs & CO2
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
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
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
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
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
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.