General Motors’ European unit Opel/Vauxhall believes it will re-establish itself as the leader for MPV [minivan] innovation with the new Zafira Tourer that will go on sale early next year.

The new car was shown production-ready for the first time at the Frankfurt show will be sold alongside the current model.

The old model set a benchmark for mid-sized MPVs because there it was the first which did not require owners to remove and store seats to vary passenger to luggage flexibility. But Opel now admits that advantage was eroded by subsequent rivals which came up with better ideas.

The new car, which replaces the middle row bench seat with three individual seats, puts the Zafira Tourer back at the head of the pack, Opel claimed. It also has more interior space and storage, easier access, more efficient engines and a greater range of upmarket options, from electronic chassis control to parking cameras and blind spot warning systems.

Two new engines – a 1.4-litre turbo and a 2.0-litre diesel available with three different power outputs – will join the entry-level 138bhp 1.8. An Ecoflex version with stop-start and other fuel-saving measures, will bring emissions down to 119g/km.

“Up to the start of the (Frankfurt) show this was a benchmark for the class, but it still drives nicely,” said Zafira line director Andreas Hafele.

A new direct injection petrol motor and a bigger diesel will be added laterbut this time there is unlikely to be a hot VXR model.

“We are going in a different direction with the Tourer but there will be a sports package with our Flexride damping system and 20-inch wheels,” said Hafele.

The Tourer is 190mm longer, 90mm wider and 20mm taller than the current Zafira and 67kg heavier. Hafele said targeted rivals are the Citroen C4 Picasso, Volkswagen Sharan and Peugeot 5008, all of which are larger than the current Zafira.