Vauxhall is replacing the Zafira with the new Zafira Tourer - and it also isn't.
Eh? What's with the new Vauxhall Zafira Tourer?
Well, the new Zafira Tourer you see here will be in addition to today's Zafira MPV. Rather like Renault with the Clio, Vauxhall plans to sell both old and new concurrently.
The thinking is it'll give GM a foothold in the larger S-Max category (buyers wanting a bigger, so-called MPV-D vehicle with sophisticated gizmos and style) yet remain competitive in the compact sector too (MPV-C products like Scenic and Touran and C-Max).
So what do we need to know about the new Vauxhall Zafira Tourer?
It's all new, the third generation of the original magic-disappearing-seats seven-seat MPV. Incredibly, Vauxhall and Opel have flogged 2.2 million in the last dozen years, 450,000 of them in the UK.
It's quite a bit bigger, to swell boot space and room for bodies. Mechanically, it's a mix of Insignia (front MacPherson strut suspension), Astra (Watts linkage rear axle) and Vauxhall/Opel group engines.
We try the 2.0-litre diesel in 161bhp spec, the only engine available at the media launch today in Germany. Most Brits will plump for a lower specced 128bhp version of the same engine.
Practicality should be good too: the boot's a whopping 710 litres as a five-seater (up by 65 litres) and it tops out at 1860 litres in white van mode.
How does the new Zafira Tourer drive?
It's impressively refined. First impressions are of a seriously large people carrier - it feels way wider than 1999's original. The large quartlights aid front visibility, amending the wrongs perpetuated by the first Meriva whose blindspots were so large it required a white stick.
The cabin is all GM Europe, which means good quality, sober switchgear and slightly too many small black buttons. Love the glowstick instrument needles, though which cast a mesmerising red arc as they spin.
It's well made though; Vauxhalls have made big strides in quality in recent years and this feels up to family duty. Nice touches include strip lighting built into the centre console.
Ride and handling
Our Zafira Tourer rode on ridiculous 19in rims. I feared the worst but the MPV refused to jiggle, even when we veer off the pre-ordained test route. It's a comfortable ride, soaking up road scars well. Refined too, with little wind roar for such a large bus (they claim a drag coefficient of 0.28).
The top-spec diesel comes with start-stop which goes about its business with discretion. Company car drivers and misers may prefer to wait for spring 2012's Ecoflex version which promises 119g/km of CO2 from its 130bhp-tuned diesel.
As it is, we do worry a bit about performance. This high-output diesel just about keeps up, and if you chug up an incline in the wrong gear, it feels very off boost.
How practical is the new Vauxhall Zafira Tourer?
Very, in a word. All five rear seats are now individual and Vauxhall's pulled off a special trick in row two. Both outer seats slide fore and aft by 280mm, nudging a couple of inches inboard at the same time. It's a very comfy middle row - especially when the middle seat folds up and shrinks into a narrow armrest (they've patented the trick hinge).
Row three is fixed with no sliding, but the mechanism for folding and disappearing is admirably slick. They lift up or plop down with ease. Access is reasonable, as the middle seats topple forward but we were disappointed at the seat rails and gubbins left behind to tangle little feet.
Vauxhall claims there are 30 cubby holes, so you'll easily lose your mobile and keys. The centre storage rack - an aluminium affair between the front seats - is great in principle but the attachments that clip in are rattly and loose. I'm not sure our drinks holder would stay dry.
The new Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is an accomplished MPV. It won't set an enthusiast's pants on fire like a Ford C- or S-Max, but it's well conceived and well judged for its target market.
The seating is very clever, the quality impressive and the attention to detail reassuring. We see no reason why it won't keep that 2.2 million Zafira figure ticking along nicely.
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