Zafira Tourer

Zafira Tourer

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General Motors Europe will be having a busy 2017, rolling out not only the new Insignia in no less than four body styles, but two new SUVs, the Crossland X and larger Grandland X. So does the latter take over from the similarly sized Zafira Tourer? Not at all, insist both Opel and Vauxhall.

What might a PSA takeover of Opel-Vauxhall mean for the Zafira?

For obvious reasons, writing anything about Vauxhall Motors which contains snippets of what could be ahead is strewn with hazards just at the moment. Whatever the outcome of the current negotiations between General Motors and Groupe PSA, Opel and Vauxhall's current ranges will stay in production for the immediate future. What succeeds many of these vehicles is of course an entirely different matter.

Even assuming that a sale of Opel-Vauxhall goes ahead, the current Zafira will likely remain in production for a good while yet. It has only recently had a substantial makeover, which means the looks are now quite different from the model which the two brands released in late 2011/early 2012. 

Model history & manufacturing

This rival for the VW Touran, Ford S-MAX and Renault Scenic/Grand Scenic had its global debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2011. It had been previewed by the Opel Zafira Tourer concept at the Geneva motor show in March 2011.

The Zafira Tourer is not only larger than the Zafira but is closely related to the Chevrolet Orlando (they share a wheelbase dimension). The rear doors are conventionally hinged, just as they were on the Zafira, which remained in production until December 2014.

The Tourer is available in five- or seven-seater formats, while the second row is comprised of three individual seats in contrast to the bench of the former Zafira.

The frontal styling of this model was initially very distinctive, incorporating the boomerang-shaped lights first seen on the GTC Concept in 2007. The former Opel/Vauxhall Ampera also featured the same shapes in its frontal styling. To some, the facelift might make the front end a little too vanilla but people who want a dramatically styled people carrier will instead head to their local Renault dealership.

Opel started building the restyled model at Rüsselsheim last August but the Zafira Tourer wasn't always made there. 

Following the May 2012 announcement of new investment for the Ellesmere Port plant in England, speculation started anew over the likelihood of the possible eventual closure of the Bochum plant in Germany. Some sources stated that production of the Zafira Tourer would shift to Rüsselsheim, following the closure of Bochum. Opel then confirmed in December 2012 that it planned to end Zafira Tourer production at Bochum in 2016. 

German unions agreed to the closure, which would have taken place at the end of 2016. There was a further twist in the tale in March 2013, when it was announced that Bochum would be shut in late 2014. In May 2013, Opel stated that Zafira Tourer production would remain in Germany: it shifted to Rüsselsheim in 2015. Bochum's vehicle production ceased in December 2014.

In March 2014, Opel confirmed January 2015 as the date for the switch for build location. The Zafira Tourer should remain in production for a few years after the arrival of its eventual successor, which will be a crossover, not an MPV.

Still competitive as it enters sixth year of production?

That's the manufacturing story, but what about the vehicle itself? For an MPV which is now more than five years old, the Zafira Tourer can definitely still compete. Elements of its Global Delta architecture were refreshed as part of the recent restyle, so the driving dynamics are better than many might expect. 

Given that the UK's forcibly neglected roads are a sad fact of life, Opel and Vauxhall engineers will inevitably have been briefed to concentrate on making this family vehicle ride comfortably as a priority. That clearly being the default setting, when compared to the Touran, now the segment's best seller, the Vauxhall is certainly not shamed. The steering is well weighted, the manual gearchange is light and short of throw and body lean is well checked.

A petrol turbo and two diesels

Roads were especially slippery during my days with the Zafira Tourer so perhaps what I found to be an underpowered and laggy 140PS turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine wouldn't be that way come the spring? As it was, the front tyres often wanted more grip than they could find, and below 2,000rpm there simply wasn't enough torque. And that's with just the driver on board too. 

Far better to choose the most powerful of the other two available engines. In addition to the 1.4i, Vauxhall offers a 2.0CDTi (170PS) with manual or automatic transmission, or a 1.6 CDTi (134PS) ecoFLEX. The 1.6 diesel can only be ordered as a manual so I would definitely want the 2.0-litre diesel and auto transmission pairing.

Interior flexibility

As with the exterior changes, a lot has also been altered on the inside. The screen of the infotainment system is now integrated within the dashboard, rather than sitting atop it. Lots of former plastic buttons have been eliminated, replaced by touch-funtionality.

Vauxhall offers two infotainment systems. R 4.0 IntelliLink gives you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, while Navi 950 IntelliLink is for those who also want on-board navigation. 

GM's OnStar telematics system is now a standard feature and this includes Automatic Crash Response, Destination Download (with Navi 950) and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot, which enables up to seven devices to be connected.

Something else which has been updated is the FlexRail console system. This includes a large storage box and cup-holders between the front seats. These slide on aluminium rails, the idea being that you can position them exactly where you want them.

Vauxhall calls the second row a Lounge Seating system. With this design, the back of the middle seat folds and rotates to become armrests for the passengers in the outer seats. These also slide to the rear and towards the centre of the vehicle, should those occupants need extra leg and shoulder room. As for the third-row seats, these can be folded flush with the floor of the boot.

Boot space is a very generous 710 litres, increasing to 1,860 litres when the second-row seats are folded, and for many people this will be one of the best things about the Zafira Tourer.

What next for GM Europe's C-MPV?

The future of Opel and Vauxhall currently being up in the air shouldn't in fact affect this model's successor. That's because it will be a JV with Groupe PSA anyway.

In May 2012, reports emerged that claimed PSA Peugeot Citroen would build the eventual replacement for the Zafira Tourer in France. This would also mean a shift onto a new PSA-GM platform. In October 2012, PSA and GM stated that they would share four new platforms, one of which would be for a 'compact class multi-purpose van'. Then in January 2013, Opel announced that its next 'C-segment MPV' would use a PSA architecture. That is almost certainly going to mean the PSA EMP2 platform.

While by no means certain, the Zafira Tourer will likely remain in production for a few years yet, supplemented by the imminent Opel and Vauxhall Grandland X, an SUV which will be around the same size.

Grandland X succeeds Antara and eventually, Zafira Tourer too

The Grandland X will be the replacement for the Antara, even though the latter will have been out of production for some eighteen months by the time the successor goes on sale. The public debut should be at the 2017 Frankfurt IAA with the Grandland X due to be in Opel and Vauxhall showrooms during the first quarter of 2018. The new model should be manufactured by PSA at its Sochaux plant in France.

As VW selling more than 110,000 Tourans in 2016 demonstrates, there is still good volume in the C-MPV segment (data source: JATO Dynamics). The Citroen C4 Picasso was number two last year with 106,203 deliveries, followed by the BMW 2 Series Active/Gran Tourer (102,109), Ford C-MAX (81,800), Renault Scénic (79,211) and then the Zafira (52,987), well ahead of the Ford S-MAX (40,722) and Galaxy (20,357), though the latter two are closer to D segment size than the others.