Vauxhall has raised the compact people-carrier bar with the Zafira Tourer, says Andy Russell.

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Vauxhall Zafira Tourer Elite 2.0 CTDi 165

Price: £27,415 (range from £21,010)

Engine: 1,956cc, 165PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 9.1 seconds; top speed 129mph

MPG: Urban 45.6; extra urban 61.4; combined 54.3

Emissions: 137g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 21pc

Insurance group: 19E (out of 50)

Warranty: Lifetime or 100,000 miles for first owner

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,658mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,099mm; height 1,690mm

It’s hard to believe that Vauxhall’s Zafira people-carrier has been around for 13 years… and that it is still going strong.

Having set a new benchmark in the compact multi-purpose vehicle sector with enough space to seat seven in acceptable comfort and its clever Flex7 seating allowing the five rear seats to fold down to create a long, flat load floor rather than seats having to be physically removed altogether it’s hardling surprising it made such an impact. Even in the second decade of the new millennium it was still the best-seller in it class accounting for about one in fivesales.

Now Vauxhall is tightening its hold on the compact people-carrier market with the all-new Zafira Tourer – not a direct replacement but an addition, hence the Tourer tag, because the Zafira will continue as an entry-level seven-seater and, with prices from just under £14,000, will still find favour with plenty of families.

The Zafira Tourer, which features the smart new family styling of contoured and sculpted curves – the ‘wings’ and ‘boomerangs’ first seen on the Insignia and since used to great effect on the latest Astra and Meriva – takes Vauxhall upmarket with the key competition being Ford’s sporty S-Max which, crucially, it also undercuts on price.

But this is a sector where versatility is as important as verve, how it measures up as practical family transport rather than how it looks on the driveway. And the Zafira Tourer doesn’t disappoint.

Being bigger than the Zafira means the new Tourer version is more spacious and even more versatile inside. Even so, the two rearmost seats which fold up out of the boot floor are most suited to children and, despite decent access to them with the middle row folded forward, you need to be reasonably lithe. The middle row of three seats have 210mm of travel back and forth and, right back, give limousine-like levels of legroom. Top SE and Elite models also benefit from ‘lounge seating’ – being able to fold forward and rotate the back of the middle seat to form an armrest for the outer seats which can then slide back 280mm and inwards 50mm for extra shoulder room.

The deep, flat-sided boot has also grown in five-seat mode by 65 litres to a vast 710 litres – more than enough for a family of five – and fold all five seats down to create a long, flat load floor and you have a small van-like 1,860 litres – 40 more than the original Zafira. With all the seats in use there’s just about enough space for a couple of holdalls with the roller tonneau cover stowing under the back of the boot floor.

As befits a vehicle of this kind, the classy cabin has more than 30 storage spaces. The most clever is the innovative FlexRail system in the centre console between the front seats which features a lidded armrest which slides back to reveal cupholders which then slide back to give access to a large cubbyhole.

The new family fascia is a huge improvement on past Vauxhalls with big, clear dials and sensibly-sited main controls and switchgear but there are also a lot of small buttons to find your way round. Plenty of adjustment means you soon feel at home behind the wheel while slim pillars, plenty of glass and large door mirrors give good all-round visibility.

Power comes from 1.4-litre turbo and 1.8-litre petrol engines, both rated at 140PS, but the sensible money will go for one of three 2.0-litre diesel engines with outputs of 110, 130 and 165PS. I drove the most powerful diesel which trickles along happily at low revs and has lots of mid-range poke – just as well as it gets quite boomy when driven hard. With standard automatic engine stop/start it regularly returned 45 to 50mpg overall.

For a tall-sided vehicle it drives well, cornering confidently even fully loaded and the light steering makes parking a doddle although it lacks feel at speed.

The ride is sensitive to pockmarked roads when travelling slowly – not helped by the larger 18in wheels on top models – but improves with speed and feels less fidgety with a full load on board which makes it a capable and comfortable over long distances.

The Zafira Tourer comes in five trim levels – ES, Exclusiv, SRi, SE and Elite – so there’s plenty of choice to meet families’ needs. All come attractively equipped with range-topping Elite getting leather seats, a panoramic glass sunroof with electric blind to flood the cabin with light and a panoramic windscreen which extends over front passengers’ heads.

The Zafira has been a huge hit with families, the new bigger Zafira Tourer again raises Vauxhall’s game when it comes to people-carriers and building on that success will appeal to growing families.

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