Vauxhall Zafira

The Essentials

  • Price from £18,570
  • What Car? says: 2 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 55.4mpg
  • What is it? The Vauxhall Zafira is a cheap, compact seven-seater but it's very dated and bettered by rivals in every area

Great

  • The Vauxhall Zafira is compact but has seats for seven
  • It's better to drive than many rivals
  • There are some great deals available

Gripes

  • The one piece rear bench is among the features that make it much less versatile than other MPVs
  • Cheaper models are particuarly short on kit
  • The interior is very plasticky
  • Drive

    It's quite good to drive, but it's too noisy and the ride is too firm for family use

  • Inside

    The cabin isn't exactly stylish, and visibility isn't great either

  • Safety

    Decent overall, but curtain airbags stop short of the rearmost seats

  • Reliability

    Rated as average in latest surveys, but no more

  • Space

    There's enough room for seven and a decent boot for their kit, but it's not a particularly clever use of space

  • Standard and extras

    Basic models are a bit too short of kit

  • What's it like to drive?

    This version of the Zafira (not to be confused with its newer sibling, the Zafira Tourer) uses very dated mechanical parts, and it feels like it. The noise levels alone make the car feel uncultured, with too much wind and road noise, and clattery engines that feel as archaic as they sound. We'd go for the lower-powered diesel engine, which has just about enough pull to haul the family around and keeps running costs down. Vauxhall has tried to give the Zafira a slightly sporty feel, so it handles neatly and takes corners without leaning too much. However, the dog and children would probably forgo a little of that neatness for a softer, more comfortable ride - it's too firm for a family car.

  • What's it like inside?

    The Zafira looks very dated next to other MPVs. Two rearmost seats are tight for space, and getting there is a pain: to put the rear seats up and provide access to them, you have to slide the one-piece middle bench forward, meaning that everyone in that row has to get out first. Most rivals allow you to put up the rearmost seats without having to touch the middle row, while individually-moving middle-row seats mean only one seat has to be disturbed to let passengers into the back.

    With seven on board, you'll just about squeeze a slim-folding pram into the remaining boot space; fortunately there's a lot more room with the rearmost seats folded flat. However, while in many rivals it's possible to fold all the seats flat for carrying extra-large items, in the Zafira you can only fold down the middle-row seat backs, which creates a huge step in the loadbay; alternatively, you can lift up the middle-row seat base, cinema-style, then slide the vertically folded seats forward and out of the way. This gives you a fairly large load space but it's not as clever or as efficient as most rivals.

    Up front, there's lots of adjustment to help you find the perfect driving position but you'll still have to crane your neck at junctions because the small front quarter lights are tricky to see through. The fiddly stereo controls are annoying, too.

    All Zafiras come with air-conditioning, a CD player, remote central locking and electric front windows, but on low-end Exclusiv models, you don't get much more. Excite versions add alloys, Bluetooth, front fog lights and tinted rear glass, while Design trim brings electric rear windows, climate control, heated front seats and automatic wipers. All Zafiras have Isofix points on the outer middle-row seats, and these are easy to access. However, there is no facility to deactivate the front passenger airbag so you can't fit a rear-facing child seat up front.

  • How reliable is it?

    Although the Zafira's reliability was rated only average by owners in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey, there's the reassurance of a so-called 'lifetime' warranty (up to 100,000 miles) to help ease any worries. Safety kit includes six airbags and stability control but it's disappointing that the curtain airbags don't cover the rearmost seats. The Zafira also earned the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, but it was tested under the old, less stringent system, which was revised in 2009.

  • Should I buy one?

    There are some massive discounts available on the Zafira, and these make one of the few reasons to buy one when there are so many more practical alternatives out there for a similar list price. The low cost of buying a Zafira also makes up for its dismal re-sale values. At least it shouldn't cost too much to run - the diesel engine averages 55mpg.