Opel Zafira

Debut: 2005
Maker: Opel
Predecessor: Zafira Mk1
Since 1999, Opel sold 1.4 million units of Zafira. That made it the second best selling MAV in Europe just behind Renault Scenic. The outgoing Zafira was renowned for versatile seating plan. Its "Flex 7" system was an innovation back in 1999. It offered 7 seats, among which the rear 5 can fold down independently to alter luggage capacity. When the last two rows fold down, a completely flat cargo loading area is formed. It was therefore very convenient to transport a family's luggage and toys such as skate boards, surf boards and mountain bikes. The Flex 7 eclipsed the shortcomings of the car, namely, boring design and low quality interior, and kept the Zafira selling well.

Many rivals copied the Flex 7 in the following years, but it remains to be a timeless design - basically, it is already the most versatile layout a people carrier can offer. Any improvements can only be minor adjustment and supplement. For this reason, Opel decided to retain the Flex 7 in the new generation Zafira. It concentrated on improve the weaknesses of the old car - styling and quality.

Outside, the new Zafira looks sharper and smarter than the outgoing car. It has some family resemblance to the new Astra, especially the aggressive front end. However, the tall and boxy profile delivers the bulkiness normally associated with vans. This means the Zafira does not look as handsome as Honda Edix or Mazda 5.

Inside, the cabin now employs much higher quality plastics, as is the fabrics of the chairs. The dashboard and center console finally got some styling, not just designed for functions but also desirability. As before, the gear lever is mounted high at the center console for ease of use. On the negative side, you can criticize the cabin for looking too cold, just like many German design. Its dark, gray and silver color scheme is not as warm and inviting as Renault Scenic.

As before, the number of seats can vary between 7 and 2. The rearmost 2 seats are primarily for children because legroom is tight and the higher floor requires adults to raise their knees uncomfortably. Fold them flat onto the floor will reveal 645 litres of luggage room. The second row can also slide back and forth to adjust luggage space. Flip them up and forward, the maximum cargo room increases to 1820 litres.

The outgoing Zafira offered few storage cubbies. The new one can be ordered with a panoramic roof with 5 aircraft-style storage boxes mounted in the middle of the roof. This is a unique feature of the Zafira. Apart from those, there are 25 others storage cubbies and pockets throughout the cabin.

ow back to the mechanical side. The new Zafira is again derived from the Astra platform. It therefore shares the same front-drive layout, the same 4-cylinder engines from 105hp to 240hp, gearboxes, strut and torsion-beam suspensions and even the optional CDC electronic adaptive damping and IDS control system which sharpens throttle response, weigh up steering and stiffen damping with a touch of the Sport button. Compare with the old Zafira, its chassis is strengthened by 30 percent in torsion. Aerodynamic drag is a competitive 0.31, although its frontal area is one of the largest in the class.

The smallest engine is a 105hp 1.6 16V with Twin Port technology (i.e., use variable intake butterfly and exhaust gas recircula
tion to save fuel at light load). Next one is a new 140 hp 1.8 16V with twin continuous VVT and 2-stage intake manifolds. It is not only powerful for its capacity, but also torque (90% max torque is available from 2200 to 6200 rpm). Further up will find GM's L850 2.2 16V, now get Opel's first direct injection to boost 150 hp. It's not much more powerful than the 1.8, but the extra 30 lbft of torque and the available of 6-speed gearbox provides extra pulling power that the heavy Zafira desperately needed.

At the top there are two versions of Opel's 2.0 turbo engine, one rated at 200hp and one boosted to 240hp. The latter will serve the OPC version of the Zafira. In the diesel side, Fiat will continue to supply a triple of 1.9 CDTI engine, tuned to 100hp and 120hp for 8-valve versions and 150hp for 16V version. As usual, Fiat's diesel engines are remarkably refined and torquey, thus they are the best partners to the heavy Zafira. In contrast, the frenetic mid-range push of the 200hp petrol turbo engine is somewhat out of sync with the character of this multi-activity vehicle.

On the road, the Zafira displays satisfying combination of ride and handling. Despite of its tall body, its firm suspensions resists body roll very well and deliver more driving fun than Renault Scenic. However, it is slightly off the benchmark set by Ford C-Max and Mazda 5 for communication and cornering fluidity, and trails the latter in ride quality. That said, the new Zafira is a competent all-rounder. It performs very well in most objective areas, just lack some visual excitement outside and a cheerful ambience inside. That's why it will be a choice of brains rather than hearts.
The above report was last updated on 22 Jun 2005. All Rights Reserved.


General remarks

Zafira 1.8
Zafira 2.2
Zafira OPC
Front-engined, FWD
Front-engined, FWD
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Steel monocoque Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
Mainly steel Mainly steel
Length / width / height 4467 / 1801 / 1635 mm 4467 / 1801 / 1635 mm 4503 / 1801 / 1625 mm
Wheelbase 2703 mm 2703 mm 2703 mm
Inline-4 Inline-4
1796 cc
2198 cc 1998 cc
Valve gears
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
DOHC 16 valves
DOHC 16 valves
Other engine features
Max power
140 hp 150 hp 240 hp
Max torque
129 lbft 159 lbft 236 lbft
5-speed manual
6-speed manual 6-speed manual
Suspension layout
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
Suspension features
- -
Tyres front/rear
205/55R16 225/40R18
Kerb weight
1503 kg
1570 kg
1590 kg
Top speed
122 mph (c)
124 mph (c)
144 mph (c)
0-60 mph (sec)
10.8 (c)
10.0 (c)
7.4 (c)
0-100 mph (sec)
Performance tested by: -

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