Vauxhall’s new tourer de force

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THE Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is a handsome seven-seat MPV that will arrive facing a far tougher market than its predecessor ever had to contend with.

Vauxhall is confident that its combination of agility, versatility and affordability is going to nudge the opposition aside.

Not at all surprisingly, the Zafira Tourer focuses is largely a diesel engine benefit, oil burners proving more popular with British buyers shellshocked by pump prices.

A 2.0-litre CDTi common rail unit provides the basis for all three of the Euro-5 compliant engines, available in either 110, 130 or 165PS guises.

That’s not to say that you should disregard the petrol powerplants, especially when Vauxhall offers its excellent 140PS 1.4 Turbo unit. Somewhat confusingly it also offers another petrol engine with 140PS, in this case a normally-aspirated 1.8-litre.

Six-speed manual transmissions will be standard with all 1.4T and 2.0 CDTi engines, with the option of a six-speed automatic on certain models. A five-speed manual ‘box is available with the 1.8-litre petrol model.

The Zafira Tourer has a very clever suspension system, using the same strut front mounted on a separate subframe as the Insignia.

The rear end doesn’t feature a multi-link arrangement, Vauxhall rightly reasoning that this adds bulk and cost where it’s not required.

The rear axle is similar to the outgoing Zafira’s but adds a Watt’s link.

In the Zafira Tourer’s case, it supports lateral forces during cornering and makes the car dynamic and agile without compromising on stability and comfort.

Building on the chassis’ dynamic prowess is the option of Vauxhall’s FlexRide adaptive damping system. FlexRide automatically adapts the car’s damping to suit road conditions, cornering speed, vehicle movements and an individual’s driving style.

In addition, drivers can select from a choice of three settings – Standard, Tour and Sport.

Hopefully the package will be a little better tied down than the Insignia., where Standard and Tour modes lack the requisite rebound damping to cope adequately with speed bumps.

The prototype version of the Zafira Tourer was described by Vauxhall/Opel’s vice president of design as a “lounge on wheels” and while some of the high concept features won’t make production, this first glimpse promises much.

With tried and tested mechanicals borrowed from elsewhere in the Vauxhall empire married to a level of MPV know-how that’s hard to better anywhere in the car industry, its hard to envisage the Zafira Tourer being an also-ran.

Things move extremely quickly in this sector and the Zafira Tourer will need to offer strong value for money i to topple the current class-leading incumbents.

Vauxhall seems quietly confident that this is the car to restore them at the top of the tree. Now all we can do is wait to see if that confidence is justified.