Opel Zafira

Debut: 2011
Maker: Opel
Predecessor: Zafira Mk2 (2005)

 Published on 11 Nov 2011 All rights reserved. 

In the 15 years history of compact MPVs, Opel Zafira can be said as a game changer. It was the first of its kind to feature 7 seats (5 adult and 2 child seats), an amazing achievement for its compact size. Its innovative "Flexi 7" system also enabled a flat loading bay to be formed by folding the second and third row, saving the need to remove the seats like contemporary rivals. These features have become the class norm today.

Fast forward to the new, third generation Zafira, we can see a further evolution of the Flexi 7 seats and interior utilities, but in our eyes the biggest progress is the styling and packaging. Previous Zafiras were more about practicality than desirability. In contrast, the new car is very stylish. It looks high quality, too. Opel has applied what it learned from Insignia and Astra – both are attractive designs – to shape the Zafira. It has a very aerodynamic shape (with Cd of 0.28) and many clever features to mask its bulk. A pair of sharp crease lines at each side, a stylish kick at each C-pillar and fast-angle quarter windows make it looks dynamic and sophisticated. Up front, arrow-shape light clusters give it a strong character and a family resemblance to Opel Ampera (sister car of Chevrolet Volt). This makes the front grille a little ordinary in comparison. Overall, the new Zafira is easily the most attractive one in its segment.

The new car features high percentage of glass area to deliver a sense of light and airy in the cabin. This is made possible by slim A-pillars, hence large quarter windows, a panoramic glass roof and an optional windscreen that extends well into the roof – more so than Citroen C4 ! Once you are on board, you will find a much more pleasing environment. Not only the dashboard design is stylish by MPV standards, Opel has finally learned how to lift the cabin ambience with tasteful color trims, quality soft-touch plastics and LED ambient lights throughout the cabin.

Utility is also improved. Although it has sacrificed the old car's roof-mounted central spine storage system for the panoramic glass roof, it offers as many as 30 storage cubbies and, like Mini Countryman, a rail system at the central tunnel to clip additional storage boxes, cupholders or other accessories. Frankly, I don't think many people would opt for the latter, but at least it proves that these days Opel can look deep into the details.

Better still, the Flexi-7 seats have become even more flexible. Not only they can fold flat to place luggage, the middle row has now become three individual seats rather than a bench seat so that each of the rear occupants can feel equally comfortable. Moreover, the middle row can slide back and forth for a range of 280 mm, so you can adjust the distribution between second row legroom and third row legroom or luggage space. The rearmost seats are still too cramped for adults, just like any other 7-seaters of this class.

The most innovative new feature is the "lounge seat" option. As such equipped, the middle row can be converted to two seats with increased leg and shoulder room. How to do that? Step one, lower the middle seat cushion. Step two, fold down the middle seatback. Step three, rotate the outer portions of the middle seatback upward. Now it is converted to a narrow, padded armrest. Step four, slide the two outer seats all the way back. Near the end of the travel they also slide diagonally towards the center. Consequently, both occupants get limousine level of shoulder room and legroom plus a comfortable armrest. The only thing limiting seating comfort is the rather thin and flat shape of the seats, something compromised with luggage capability.

Talking about luggage space, the new Zafira is even larger than before. With 5 people on board, the boot measures up to 710 liters, 65 liters up from the old car. With both second and third row folded, it can even swallow some 1860 liters of things. Moving home can't be easier.

Mechanically, the MPV combines the elements of Astra and Insignia, including the former's torsion-beam and Watts link rear suspension and the latter's MacPherson struts front suspension. The powertrains are also familiar, including 140hp 1.8-liter DVVT, 140hp 1.4 turbo and a trio of 2.0CDTi turbo diesel producing either 110hp, 130hp or 165hp. Transmission is either 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto. Due to the car's weight, performance is hardly sparkling, but the 1.4 turbo petrol and the turbo diesels offer enough mid-range torque for everyday driving, so most family buyers are unlikely to complain. Our only criticism is the refinement of the high-power diesel engine. It sounds rather coarse under pressure, and its turbo needs more rev to spool up than most modern diesels.

The chassis dynamics is similar. Its ride is refined except on the poorest roads, especially with optional Flexiride adaptive dampers selected. Body roll is well controlled. Handling is secured and predictable. Motorway cruising is remarkably quiet. It is perfectly acceptable to its target family buyers, but keener drivers will find it not as capable in corners as the Ford duo – C-Max and S-Max. Its light steering also lacks feedback from the road to inspire confidence.

That said, most people searching for a people mover are unlikely to care too much about driving dynamics. To them, the Zafira's versatile interior, high-quality packaging and stylish looks are already good enough to seal the deal.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Zafira 1.4 Turbo
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4658 / 1884 / 1685 mm
2760 mm
1364 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
140 hp
147 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam, Watts link
Adaptive damping
1550 kg (est)
126 mph (c)
10.1 (c)
Zafira 2.0CDTi
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4658 / 1884 / 1685 mm
2760 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1956 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
165 hp
258 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam, Watts link
Adaptive damping
1630 kg (est)
129 mph (c)
9.2 (c) / 10.4*

Performance tested by: *Autocar

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