Sleeker lines from the latest Astra and added interior space are set to be a recipe for success with corporate buyers despite the flood of recent rivals, believes fleet sales director Maurice Howkins.
He said: ‘We have been delighted by the success of the Astra and have established that potential customers like the fact that the new Zafira has adopted its bold styling.
‘Making the car bigger all round is another significant reason why we’re confident of maintaining our position in what is becoming a crowded market.’
Howkins added: ‘We are convinced this design keeps us at the top of the tree. The appeal of the car has been widened and I’m looking to build on the achievements of its predecessor, even though we’ve decided to take out some of the short-cycle business which has helped fleets account for around 70% of total registrations.’
Vauxhall is understood to be pulling out of several short-cycle deals as it runs out supplies of the current Zafira, which achieved 50,000 registrations in 2004.
Howkins said: ‘The reasoning behind this is our aim to give a better service to the business sector as well as catering for higher retail demand. And the prediction by CAP of a £700 to £800 uplift in three-year/60,000-mile residual values over the outgoing car confirms our view that the future looks good for this model.’
Longer, wider and featuring increased overhangs at the front and rear, the new car boasts a fresh appearance and looks a higher-grade product.
Though the engineering of its Flex7 seating arrangement remains unchanged, detail modifications make it easier to use and loadspace is up by 120 litres to a van-like 1,820 litres when the two rear rows of seats are folded flat.
As in the Astra, upholstery, trim materials and switchgear have a higher quality feel which approaches premium car standards and, depending on specification, the interior provides up to 30 stowage areas for small items.
Five engines will be available when the car goes on sale in July – three 16-valve petrol units in 1.6, 2.0 and 2.2-litre guises delivering 104bhp, 197bhp and 148bhp respectively, and two Euro IV turbodiesels offering 118bhp and 148bhp.
In anticipation of a swing away from diesel power in the wake of changes in company car tax at the end of the year, a new higher-efficiency 1.8-litre petrol engine with 138bhp will be offered from September to coincide with the launch of a 2.0-litre, 237bhp turbo VXR sporting flagship version.
Around 17,000 examples of the new Zafira are expected to be available this year.
Despite being generally better equipped than the current car, it has a long list of options including adaptive headlamps, keyless entry and start and a panoramic roof which provides still more stowage space in the form of five aircraft-style overhead lockers.
As before, trim levels begin with the Expression and rise through Life, Club and Design to SRi to offer a total of 23 variants.
Basic equipment on the Expression and Life includes anti-lock brakes, power steering, electric front windows, front side airbags, driver’s seat height adjustment, remote central deadlocking and rake and reach adjustable steering wheel.
Vauxhall claims it has improved the value of the Zafira by retaining the £12,995 starting price of the Expression. Life versions, which feature around £500-worth of extra equipment, cost only £50 more than the outgoing model at £14,495.
In Euro IV form, the 118bhp turbodiesel Zafira will cost £17,395 in Life trim and the 148bhp version ties with the 2.0i Turbo as the most expensive at £20,445 in Design trim.
Howkins added: ‘We have had tremendous success with the Zafira. Since 1999, total sales have topped 200,000 and we set a new record last year with 36,000 fleet registrations.
‘In spite of extra competition, we still sold almost 10,000 units into fleet during the first quarter of this year and we’re continuing to do well. Interest has never waned in the current version, so we feel we will hit the ground running with the new car.’
Behind the wheel
A DRAG co-efficient of just 0.31 makes the new Zafira the most aerodynamic people carrier on the market. Lowering height at the rear of the car contributes to the slippery profile – but clever packaging still allows more room for passengers in a newcomer which clearly raises the bar in the sector.
In its latest guise, the Zafira trades blandness for a dynamic front end and a curvaceous shape which is dramatically more attractive.
It’s better to drive, too, thanks to a lower, more saloon-like seating position for the driver and a gearchange which falls more readily to hand.
Attention to detail speaks volumes in the Design version we drove, which has high grade upholstery, polished wood door inserts and precise switchgear to go with the quiet and refined performance delivered by its 150bhp turbodiesel engine mated to a slick six-speed manual gearbox.
A novel U-shaped handbrake frees up space for even more stowage room in a car featuring a higher information display as an aid to safer driving. Like its predecessor, the new model has predictable handling but the raised top gear ratio allows more relaxed cruising at motorway speeds.
BETTER to look at and drive – the new Zafira has success stamped all over it. The car has edged upmarket and seems set to build on the 20% segment share it achieved last year – making it the best-selling MPV in the UK.
|Engine (cc):||1,596||1,998 turbo||2,176||1,905 CDTi||1,905 CDTi|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||104/6,000||197/5,400||148/5,600||118/3,500||148/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||110/3,900||193/4,200||159/4,000||206/2,000||236/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||109||140||124||116||126|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||38.7||29.7||34.4||46.3||45.6|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||175||228||197||165||167|