Opel Zafira

Success of Renault Scenic started a Mini MPV era in Europe. Every giant car makers create their own mini MPV base on their conventional hatchbacks. From Brava's parts bin, Fiat created the 6-seater Multipla. Similarly, Nissan transformed the Almera into Tino with 5+1 seating plan. Both of them and Scenic have 2 rows of seats. In where the sun rises, Toyota made a 3-row, 6 passengers mini MPV called Spacio out of the mainstream Corolla. However, many people think it is just a gimmick as the space in the 2nd and 3rd row compromises too much. 

Opel Zafira follows the approach of Spacio. It has 3 rows capable of seating 7 passengers. However, the body shell gets an extra 93mm wheelbase and 220 mm height from Astra, which provides the floorpan, engines and various components. Compare with Scenic, Zafira is 186mm longer, 50mm higher and have 119mm longer wheelbase ! Compare with the ultra-wide and ultra-short Multipla, it is even 326mm longer. Though wheelbase just surpass the Fiat by 33mm, while height and width are shorter by 20mm and 161mm respectively. All these numbers point out the roominess of the Opel mini MPV. 

To be honest, you won't expect the 119mm extra wheelbase over Scenic could fit a limousine-like third row. There should be a bit compromise between the third row and the second row, the latter could be slided forward and backward for at most 200mm. However, it is not too cramped for average size adults. The same when the 2nd row sits a couple of 6ft 4 giants while the back row have children on board. In Toyota Spacio, both the 2nd and 3rd rows are limited to children. 

Compare with other competitors, there is an abundance of storage space, exposed or enclosed. The same is cup holder. The biggest advantage of Zafira is the last two rows of seats can be folded flatly to the floor when huge cargo room is needed. In this case, most other rivals need you to take the seats away, which is a headache for those without their own garage. Without taking the seats away, the Zafira is already capable to provide a 1700 litres volume loading space, nearly matching Scenic's seats-away 1800 litres. 

Least satisfying is the packaging. The conventional exterior styling is still OK, but the cabin lacks any taste and visual build quality very much. As you've already known, the Astra scores lowest points in this aspect. Zafira, which shares Astra's dashboard and center console, looks no better. Assessing against Multipla like comparing hell with paradise. This could be a fatal fault. Its development team could hardly afford. 

Inevitably, engines and running gear, plus suspensions come from Astra. The Ecotec 1.6 litres (100hp), 1.8 litres (113hp), 2.2 litres (147hp) and direct injection diesel (82hp) ensure smooth and competent operation as already proved. Apart from the standard 5-speed manual, a 4-speed automatic is optional. 

The above report was last updated on 21 Feb 99. All Rights Reserved.

Zafira OPC (GSi Turbo)

OPC (Opel Performance Centre), the performance division of Opel, is usually quiet. 3 years ago, it let us know its existence by launching the limited-edition (and very good) Astra OPC. We expected a string of OPC-badged performance models to follow, but that didn't happen until today, the second OPC model comes. You guess what ? surprisingly, it is Zafira OPC, the world's first performance MPV ! 

The super Zafira is powered by the same 2-litre turbocharged engine as Astra Coupe Turbo. It produces 192 horsepower and a lag-free 184lbft from just 1950rpm, easily becomes the fastest MPV. If you don't know what this mean, think about a Honda Stream getting a Type R engine. If you still have no idea, read this figure: 7.9 seconds for 0-60mph. Many GTI will find it difficult to beat. 

To cope with extra muscle, the suspensions are stiffened. The wheels and tyres becomes massive 225/45ZR17, the brakes are also enlarged. Finally, there is a full aerodynamic kit to finish the conversion. Inside, the boring dashboard and clever Flexi-7 are still there, but Recaro sports seats are new. 

Performance MPV is not a particularly pleasing concept, because it mixes two contrasting requirements together - comfort and excitement. However, OPC's conversion gets quite a good balance between them. The suspension setup is not too hard, leaving reasonable ride quality to suit daily driving. That said, only the worst British B-roads can upset it. The suspensions are not too soft either, thus body roll is well suppressed in most conditions. On twisty roads, it is even fun to handle, with abundance of grip and strong brakes to play with. It feels far more nimble than its size and weight suggest, turning into corners cleanly without understeer. The steering is responsive and even less influenced by torque steer than the lighter Astra Coupe. High speed cornering is not so well, because the body lean towards the outside too much. 

Of course, I will never say it as good as hot hatches to drive. The fundamental high center of gravity, long wheelbase and heavy weight still compromise its ability to attack corners. However, no one (excluding some silly reports I read) will compare it with hot hatches, just like you won�t compare Renault Avantime with Peugeot 406 Coupe. You know this is a very exclusive car meeting the requirements of the minority. If you want a practical MPV offering strong performance and sharp handling, this is the only choice. And I would say it is a very sensible choice indeed. 

The above report was last updated on 24 Nov 2001. All Rights Reserved.


Zafira 1.8
Zafira OPC
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd
Size (L / W / H / WB) mm
4320 / 1710 / 1650 / 2699
4317 / 1742 / 1634 / 2694
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl.
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl, turbo.
1796 c.c.
1998 c.c.
113 hp
192 hp
125 lbft
184 lbft
F: strut / R: torsion beam
F: strut / R: torsion beam
225/45 ZR17
1232 kg
1560 kg
Top speed
114 mph*
134 mph (claimed)
0-60 mph
10.2 sec*
7.9 sec (claimed)
0-100 mph
35.2 sec*
* Tested by Autocar

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