Vauxhall Zafira, 08-reg to 61-reg
Why it's a great used buy
There are thousands of Zafiras on the used market, which means prices are low, particularly if you go for the sort of high-mileage example that's served as a taxi or some other fleet car in a past life. Its seating isn't as versatile as more modern MPVs, however, and even Vauxhall has acknowledged this with the launch in 2011 of the more user-friendly Zafira Tourer. None the less, if you just want seven bums on seats (or five and a big boot) as cheaply as possible, the Zafira makes a sound choice.
What it's like to drive and use
The Zafira's steering feels accurate and direct, and the car stays upright on corners rather than leaning over like some tall-bodied cars, though the pay-off is a rather firm ride which could prove annoying if most of your driving is on pitted urban streets peppered with speed bumps. The controls are all easy to use, and the only real issue is that all the engines are rather noisy – even the petrols.
The Zafira isn't as clever as most modern MPVs, however, as it has only a once-piece bench for the middle-row, rather than individual seats. Also, to put the rearmost seats up or down, or provide access to them, you have to slide the whole of the middle-row bench forward, forcing everyone to get out of their seats first. The rearmost seats are rather awkward to put up and down, too, and there isn't enough legroom to fit adults in them as well as in the middle row – you can, however, slide the middle-row bench forward and backwards to adjust the bias of space.
With seven on board, you'll just about squeeze a slim-folding pram into the remaining boot space; fortunately there's tons more room with the rearmost seats folded flat, and you can expand the loadbay further by folding up the middle bench seat base, cinema-style, and sliding the whole bench forward to create a large, flat loadbay.
1.9 CDTi Design 120
Typical price £9228 for '10/60 with 36,000 miles
This 119bhp version of the 1.9 diesel is strong and frugal (particularly following improvements in early 2009 which took it to 47.1mpg), and will be a little cheaper than the 147bhp version of the same engine. The 1.7 diesel is more efficient but it costs a bit more to buy and isn't quite as strong. Design trim, which was introduced to the Zafira range when it was facelifted in 2008, adds rear electric windows and automatics to the rosta of its predecessor, Club AC, which included alloy wheels, head airbags for the middle row and, as the name implies, air-conditioning.
1.6 Design 115
Typical price £8162 for '10/60 with 36,000 miles
The 1.6-litre petrol will suit most people most of the time, though it can feel underpowered, particularly when the car is fully laden with passengers and their luggage. After mid-2009 it was made a bit more peppy and its economy increased to 42.2mpg.
Safety info on these models
Euro NCAP rating Tested only under pre-2009 system: five stars for adults and four for children
Rear airbags? For the middle-row seats only; lower-spec Zafiras do not have any rear airbags
Isofix? Yes, on the outer middle-row seats
Front passenger airbag deactivation? No – not available on any Zafira
Problems to watch out for
The Zafira has enjoyed a fairly good reliability record, but there have been reports of the tailgate opening mechanism breaking in cold weather, failed air-con units and gremlins with the stereo, so be sure to check these all work on any prospective purchase. Diesel Zafiras are more prone than petrols to engine problems, and these usually involve the timing belt, water pump and turbo, so seek assurance from the seller that these are all in good working order.