Heading North with the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

If you are looking for spacious, comfortable, economical and practical 7-seaters, you don’t have to look far anymore. Long gone are the days where the Vauxhall Zafira was really your only legitimate option. Car Scribbler has driven and reviewed many of the options now on the table – from the likes of Kia with the large Sorento to the Renault Grand Scenic, Citroen’s Grand C4 Picasso, the Hyundai Santa-Fe and the Ford S-Max, to name just a few.

The Zafira in many ways feels like the original though. The Zafira Tourer however, first introduced in 2012, is a bit of a different kettle of fish. It’s a lot larger than the car that went before it, and its Flex7 seating is now even more useful – with boosted storage options and more customisable practicality to make sure even the most demanding of family sizes are kept hpapy.

It’s been around for a while, but the face-lifted version feels like it bring a little bit more premium to the SUV market, intended to take on Ford’s S-Max, and on first glances seeming to do a very good job at it. With Vauxhall’s new design philosophy, the car looks sleeker and more refined from the outside – and this translates well into good height and width inside for passengers.

From a driver’s perspective, Vauxhall have borrowed the Astra’s system for the Zafira. As one of my favourite cars of its type from last year (Vauxhall Astra review here, and more on it from a longer drive here), that’s no bad thing, and I think the way Vauxhall constructs the centre console and switch-gear is to its absolute credit. Other than that, in terms of the interior, the Zafira hasn’t tried to mess around too much with a tried and tested configuration – there’s little in the way of the cheaper plastics that could be found on previous models, and it feels bigger than its rivals, too. For my 9-hour drive to Scotland, it was a very worthy companion.

Engines haven’t been messed around with really, either, but again that’s probably to Vauxhall’s credit, as there’s a good range to suit most buyers. There’s a 1.6 ‘whisper’ diesel, which the test car had, and it was refined, quiet and superbly economical. The 2.0 is less refined, but does have an automatic option, and there’s a 1.4 petrol too if an oil burner is a no-go. Expect mpg to suffer, though, even if the performance figures are acceptable.

I made my way north on the M6, heading for the Lake District as a stop over on the way to Oban in Scotland. I was appreciating the sense of quiet in the Zafira’s cabin – it was easy to relax at 70mph and the whisper diesel does its job as it said it will. It’s clear that this car was made for family adventures where motorway driving takes up quite a big portion of the trip. There’s a solid, reliable feel – not something that could necessarily have been said about Vauxhall’s of old.

As I had an SE, progress was also helped by the fact that it comes with an impressive sound system. A 315-watt system, with three subwoofers and 8 speakers. More than enough to keep my Spotify playlist happy. The optional Nav 950 was also installed and performed very well – it’s a great deal better than the lesser incarnation, the Intellilink system, and would perhaps be worth spending the extra money on.

The practicality of the Zafira meant that when I reached my stop for the night, unloading the car was easy and packing it all back up again in the morning a similar doddle – there are so many cubby holes and storage units you’d be hard pressed to find enough stuff to fill them. I made my way further north, the landscape changing as Scotland takes its grip on the north of the country. The roads are a delight around here, and for its size I found the Zafira was a good match for the tarmac – being responsive and nimble when it wanted to be and dealing with corners with minimum role. I wouldn’t go as far as fun, but for the speed, refinement and economy that was being provided by the diesel, it was certainly impressive.

In my mind the Zafira still ranks as the best in the segment for doing what it does. The drive isn’t as involving a perhaps some of its rivals, but are you really going to worry about that when you have 4 screaming children to transport long distances on holiday? There’s a reason I chose to take this car to Scotland and stretch its legs – many of its buyers will be doing more or less the same thing – albeit with the kids and the family dog in tow. For this purpose, I can’t think of another vehicle I’d want to transport them with, and general updates to the car borrowed from the new Astra do a lot to strengthen its hand, especially on the inside. The Vauxhall Zafira is still a winner.

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