The new Opel Zafira Life
The new Opel Zafira Life

Caroline drives the new Opel Zafira Life.

With summer 2020 looking like it will be the summer of the staycation, some car brands in Ireland are already reporting more interest in large people carriers, camper vans and van-based MPVs.

At the Opel camp, the brand’s offering in this sector is the Zafira Life. Opel’s new van-based MPV is blessed with up to 8 seats, a huge cabin and lots of versatility.

According to Opel, stylish highly equipped shuttles are in great demand in this market segment and that’s the philosophy behind this model. Priced from €51,195, Opel Ireland is aiming the Zafira Life at the executive travel side, though the appeal of this vehicle as a holiday van is undeniable right now.

At Changing Lanes, we had an extended test drive with the Zafira Life for over 2 months while Ireland was in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. My weekly shopping trips took place with the Opel Zafira Life and I became very familiar with its features including the electric sliding doors, full leather interior and automatic transmission. Somehow we made it memorable, despite no camping trips or relaxed Sunday drives to the coast. Instead we learnt to navigate near empty roads and supermarket car parks.

The Opel Zafira Life is available in two lengths - Medium and Long
The Opel Zafira Life is available in two lengths – Medium and Long

What’s so special about the Opel Zafira Life?

The Opel Zafira Life is hugely versatile and is available in two lengths – Medium or Long. At the moment, the Zafira Life is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine with a different power output depending on gearbox – 150 hp with the 6-speed manual gearbox or 180 hp with the 8-speed automatic. My test car was the Long model with 8-speed automatic gearbox and a recommended retail price of €55,695.

The other part of Opel’s strategy is to launch Zafira Life in just one high specification ‘Elite’ trim level. Things that you might consider options all come as standard including the twin electric, sliding doors, head-up display, full leather interior, electrically adjustable heated driver’s seat with massage function, roof mounted rear ventilation controls, seat back tables, rear view childminder mirror, integrated window blinds and panoramic glass roof. There’s also a 7” colour touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, cruise control, dual zone climate control, chrome effect front grille, 17” alloys, rear view camera, rain sensitive windscreen wipers, high beam assist, xenon headlights, dark tinted rear windows, side blind spot alert, front and rear parking sensors, keyless open and start, and a tailgate with separate opening window.

The Zafira Life is available with 7 or 8 seats in a number of configurations
The Zafira Life is available with 7 or 8 seats in a number of configurations

What’s it like inside?

In standard specification you get two rows of three seats all with child seat fixtures or as a no cost option you can select two individual swivel seats in row 2. As Opel notes, this means that VIP passengers can sit facing each other and enjoy the legroom! The advantage of the Long model is more boot space, especially if you are carrying 7 or 8 people regularly and their luggage.

The sliding electric doors are a real boon as standard and can be operated from the key alone, by just a simple tug on the door handles or released by the driver from a button on the dashboard. There’s also a button inside the door frame where passengers can release the doors themselves.

For the driver, there is lots of adjustment in the seat to get comfortable. Door mirrors are large and the rear parking camera and sensors are a great help when manouvering this vehicle in car parks or tight spaces. The image from the rear view camera is displayed on the 7.0-inch screen with 180-degree visibility from the bird’s eye view, which really helps when reversing into spaces.

The dashboard is a typical Opel affair, while on the automatic model, the gear selector is operated from a dial within close reach on the centre console. The infotainment system syncs easily with Apple and Android smartphones, while navigation is also included in the system itself. There’s dual zone air con to keep everyone cool on board. While the rear windows do not open, there are extra ventilation controls in the roof at the rear of the vehicle.

My test car also had the IntelliGrip Pack. This useful feature is for extra reassurance on grass or gravel off road for example, by increasing grip without adding the weight of a four wheel drive system. Settings include snow, mud and sand, which can be simply selected from a circular dial just behind the indicator stalk on the right hand side of the dashboard.

The interior of the Opel Zafira Life
The interior of the Opel Zafira Life

Driving the Zafira Life

Though there are van origins to the Zafira Life, it handles well within the confines of this platform. Obviously allowances need to be made in the handling and agility side, but it’s comfortable and you quickly get into the groove with it. The automatic transmission performs well and adds an ease to the driving experience. The diesel engine is relatively refined and only gets noisy under hard acceleration. Motor tax is €390 per year while my overall consumption was 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres. So considering the size and weight of the vehicle, this is not bad for touring around Ireland!

Opel is a brand now with the wind behind its sails again. We are seeing more of the fruits of the PSA merger in the brand’s line-up and there’s more on the way. At the moment, buyers will find a refreshed Astra range in dealers along with the flagship Insignia, Grandland X, and the all-new Corsa and Corsa-e. We can expect to see a new Mokka crossover and Crossland X in early 2021, which should really boost the brand’s fortunes.

The Opel Zafira Life fits well now into the brand’s lifestyle portfolio, offering a spacious people carrier with wide appeal among families, businesses and let’s not forget taxi drivers. There are competitors in this segment with a lower entry price for a more budget offering without the Opel’s bells and whistles. Opel has taken a different approach, choosing to launch one singular high spec model with all the options on it, adding greater convenience to customers in the process. Though it lacks the outright polish and agility of a seven seat car-based MPV, the Zafira Life makes up for it with a huge versatile interior and comfortable seating. If you are looking for your own personal tour bus, this could be it!

The Zafira Life on test for Changing Lanes
The Zafira Life on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Opel Zafira Life Elite L Automatic
€55,695 (from €51,195)
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
180 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
10.4 seconds
Top speed: 169 km/h
Fuel consumption: 
7.0 – 8.1 l/100km
CO2 emissions:
Motor Tax: €390 per year