REVIEW | The 2022 Opel Zafira Life is a lounge on wheels
For larger SA families crossover or sport-utility vehicle options are not up to task for their space requirements. They might consider a station wagon, but virtually no manufacturer sells those locally in 2022. Only one comes to mind, the Volvo V90 Cross Country starting at R979,700.
Luckily, the realm of the large people-mover — the minibus — remains alive. And there are a number of compelling offerings. Volkswagen has a well-established reputation with the T-Series lineage, in Kombi and Caravelle guises. Ford still sells the Tourneo Custom, Hyundai offers the radical Staria, Kia serves the Carnival and Mercedes-Benz has the covetable V-Class, in addition to the more commercial-focused Vito counterpart.
Earlier this year Opel revived a nameplate that was absent for many years: Zafira. But instead of being applied to a C-segment multi-purpose vehicle as it was originally, the new Zafira (Zafira Life is its full title) is a large people-mover.
The Zafira Life is not an Opel product by birth. It is a badge-engineered version of a vehicle sold as the Peugeot Traveller and Citroën Space Tourer in markets abroad. Even Toyota has a clone, sold under the Pro Ace Verso moniker, as part of an agreement with the French firm. A reminder that Opel is part of the Stellantis group, which has as many as 14 other brands in the stable: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Peugeot, Ram and Vauxhall.
We drove the Zafira in range-topping Elegance trim , positioned as a luxurious minibus for families as well as for upmarket establishments providing customer transport. It has those executive transportations and will not be confused with the average garden-variety people-movers. One passer-by mistook it for a Mercedes-Benz V-Class! Deep tinted windows, an unusual (but attractive) shade of rich brown and diamond-cut alloys (17-inch) lend the Zafira Life a sophisticated look.
On the inside, you are sure to note the Peugeot identity from the get-go. Every bit of switchgear and instrumentation will be familiar to those au fait with the Gallic brand. This is an observation and not a criticism, as general fit, finish and the textures of materials used are of an acceptable standard.
What is more than acceptable, is the generosity of standard equipment. It has all the ingredients to make any family (or executive) commute feel special. Let’s start with those well-padded leather seats. Front occupants are treated to heating and massage functions. The latter didn’t knead with the intensity one had been hoping for, but at the very least it’s pleasant to have the back tickled while sitting in traffic.
The rear compartment of the Zafira Life Elegance offers seating for five, with individual chairs. Genuine wow factor is ensured by a huge panoramic roof which creates a spaceship-type ambience and is likely to keep younger members of the clan excited. Passengers also have their own climate control system. Both sliding doors are electronically-operated. Aside from the convenience factor, the operation also helps occupants look effortless when alighting at their destination.
Other highlights on the list are a 10-speaker sound system, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, head-up display, keyless-entry and start and 180-degree parking camera. While a navigation system is standard, our car’s map appeared to have not been properly configured for SA.
On the driver assistance front, you get blind-spot detection, traffic sign recognition and a driver attention monitor that makes suggestions as to when to have a break. Dual front and side airbags are standard, but no airbags for the rear passenger compartment. There was one puzzling omission from the features list: while most cars in 2022 have powerful xenon or LED illumination systems, the Zafira makes do with uninspiring yellow halogens.
Getting into the vehicle, I spent at least 10 minutes fumbling around for an electronic handbrake toggle before I realised it uses a traditional lever. Like an old Land Rover Defender, it’s placed to the left of the driver and you have to lean down to pull it up or release it. The rotary-dial gear selection also takes some time to get used to.
Aside from those ergonomic oversights, the Zafira is mostly plain sailing. Its 2.0l turbocharged-diesel engine brings sufficient pull with 110kW and 370Nm, coupled with a reasonably sharp eight-speed automatic. Drive is to the front wheels. Average fuel consumption after our test week was 9.2l/100km.
There are the inevitable minor interior rattles and creaks that beset vehicles of this nature, but not to the point of inducing outright frustration. Ride quality is reasonable. However, the rear axle seemed to trip over bumps and other imperfections, hinting that more could have been done to the suspension to quell the commercial vehicle roots. I would still peg the Hyundai Staria as the leader of the pack from an on-road refinement perspective.
Still, you might be inclined to overlook some of the niggles, considering how competitively priced the Zafira is. The standard Edition is R749,900 and our fully-loaded Elegance comes in at R869,900. Similarly-equipped rivals will cost you closer to R1m and beyond. A five-year/100,000km warranty and service plan is included.
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