FIRST DRIVE | 2022 Opel Zafira Life is spacious and aggressively priced
There is no shortage of large multi-purpose vehicles available to SA buyers eyeing family and commercial applications.
Last year Hyundai introduced the futuristic Staria. Volkswagen has always had its Transporter series, in Kombi and more upmarket Caravelle guises. There is the familiar Toyota Quantum and the Tourneo from Ford. Buyers wanting the appeal of a three-pointed star emblem are served by the Mercedes-Benz Vito and V-Class.
Opel has joined the mix with the new Zafira Life people-mover. It has nothing to do with the first and second generation Zafira versions launched to our market. The genesis model had a five-door configuration – and was even available as a hot OPC variant. Opel did not sell the third generation product here.
This Zafira Life shares an identity with the Citroën Space Tourer and Peugeot Expert Traveller. A reminder that these brands, including Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Chrysler and Jeep, are all part of the same company named Stellantis. A commercial vehicle version of the Zafira Life is available, dubbed Vivaro.
Visually, evidence of the Zafira Life being a badge engineered product is clear. Then again, that could be said of the entire Opel product portfolio. The Corsa, Combo Crossland X and Grandland X are directly related to counterparts from Peugeot and Citroën.
It might lack the charisma of a certain South Korean contender, or the iconic status of a long-standing German minibus, but the Zafira Life is by no means offensive where this genre of vehicles is concerned. It would look t at home in the average suburban driveway, or parked outside a respected hotel, ready to tackle corporate transfers.
Stellantis SA has been particularly aggressive with the pricing of the model, which ought to help it at least attract prospective buyers into showrooms. While equivalent, high-grade rivals in this category caress or penetrate the R1m line by some margin, the range-topping, seven-seater Zafira Life Elegance comes in at a very competitive R869,900. The entry-level Life Edition is priced at R749,900.
Our day started with the Elegance, which impressed from the get-go with its richness of features. The automatic sliding doors revealed quality leatherette upholstery. Looking up revealed a very nifty panoramic roof, which is bound to thrill rear occupants. The middle row of seats benefits from retractable tables. They were certainly large enough to accommodate a regular-sized laptop for mobile business activities. An independent rear climate control system adjusts automatically based on sunlight intensity.
Front occupants benefit from heated seats which incorporate a massage function. This was an amenity fondly remembered from our Peugeot 308 GT-Line long-term test vehicle several years back.
As we trekked through the North West (past endless rows of sunflowers on the N14), Bay FM motoring man and connoisseur of soul music, Wezile Bonani, commented on what an ideal holiday chariot this would be.
It was easy to agree with my co-driver. The Zafira Life is a comfortable touring vehicle and its commercial vehicle roots appeared to have been relatively well tamed. For starters, it does not rattle as persistently as some rivals do. The ride is appropriately supple and assuredly damped over poorer road surfaces.
Both grades are powered by a 2.0-litre engine, turbocharged-diesel with four cylinders. Drive is to the front wheels and an eight-speed automatic sourced from ZF is responsible for transmission. The gear selector is a rotary dial. On two occasions we confused Reverse with Park, but perhaps owners will quickly acclimatise, avoiding potential for mishaps. Output is 110kW and 370Nm.
Other treats in the Elegance include a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision alert and speed sign recognition. The seven-inch central infotainment system incorporates navigation, but the unit on our vehicle seemed to have no clue where we were, displaying a blank map. Pity it does not have LED or xenon headlamps, with both vehicles relying on halogen units.
While the cheaper Zafira Life gains an extra seat (it does not have the luxurious second row armchairs); it omits many other features. The exterior looks the same, but the interior employs cloth material, does with fewer speakers and there is no keyless entry.
Opel has been quiet since the launch of the current Corsa a year ago. There remains a great deal of support for the brand – from a nostalgic perspective anyway – and fans of the marque will undoubtedly be happy to see more activity. Its handlers say there is plenty to come, promising Opel will be the one to watch from the Stellantis portfolio in SA this year.
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