Surprising in so many ways, Opel’s big bus is a family bargain

I was a little surprised to walk out to the driveway and find this full-sized Opel bus being delivered. Zafira was a far smaller people mover in its original form. I fondly recall rushing around Sicily and the Targa Florio route in a powerful OPC version, in what now seems another life. So, excuse the error. To be precise, this is the new to SA Opel Zafira Life.

Practical, Muscular & Broad

Aimed at families seeking extra luxury or businesses keen to transport folk more comfortably, rather than outright seating practicality, this one is the lush Elegance flagship. Over the initial shock, we were soon convinced by the looks. Which Opel calls muscular and broad.

A contemporary Opel wing grill motif splits distinctive halogen daylight running headlights with Auto High Beam each side. They float atop front lamps and ahead of a high bonnet. Body-coloured contact points and chrome accents offset our jaded bronze tester’s full length dark-tinted side windows. They allow plenty daylight in. And Sunshade Curtains block it if that sun gets too hot.

Boasting Keyless Entry and Start, access to the rear cabin is via remotely activated electric handsfree sliding doors. They yield full-leather treatment in there, in a two-two-three configuration. The heated attack seats get front and side airbags, while Driver Attention Alert complains if it thinks you’re not focussed enough.

Luxury Zafira Midfield Pews

Stepping into the midfield, two individual second row pews feature armrests and a VIP sliding and folding table in the centre of a totally reconfigurable lounge. A large two-part glass panoramic roof extends from atop the forwards back over the second-row pews. And the three-man defence perches on a full width bench. Luxury, we tell you!

There’s a significant boot behind all that too. It’s accessed by a heated tint glazed rear tailgate. Dare we say that is one of this Zafira Life Elegance’s few downsides. It’s too tall, thus too long, and cumbersome to open. Especially in a tight fit. We’d have preferred an offset double door solution.

Zafira Life boasts an ergonomic functional and elegant cockpit. With loads of storage spaces, a lit, cooled glove box, there’s even a storage tray for intelligent devices. Talking of which, the Zafira Life Elegance gets 7-inch intellilink touchscreen infotainment. CarPlay and Auto compatible it has USBs, Bluetooth, and Connected Navigation too. Ours even had optional rear park sensors with a 180° reverse camera. It zooms in on the remaining space around an obstacle to accurately display the remaining distance. Neat.

Clever Zafira Climate & Control

The cabin is generally most comfortable and sensible. Controls are manageable and generally understandable too. Once you understand what they all do. Some of it runs this Elegance’s Dual-zone Electronic Climate Control air-conditioning with a separate rear system. It’s all managed by multi-zone sun sensors and aided by particle air recirculation to prevent the windows from fogging up.

We spent a reasonable amount of time trotting about in the Zafira Life Elegance, including a full team effort to go watch Top Gun, appropriately enough. Besides overcoming a little front passenger confusion to find the obvious rear cab climate control, everyone was comfortable and happy. As we get in a full family bus. Later, we used that cavernous room to great effect to tote racing crap all around town. Versatile it is. And far easier than it looks to park, with a surprisingly effective turning circle. Never mind all those parking gizmos.

It goes well too. Old school but cool, Zafira Life ‘s 110 kW 370 Nm may not be the 2-litre turbodiesel acme, but it does the job better than well. Creamy and full, it propels the big Opel as quickly as anyone will need. Best of all, it’s very frugal. Opel claims 6.3 l/100 km at 165 g/km CO2 thanks in part to its always busy eight-speed automatic transmission and stop/start technology. We managed mid sevens fully laden, at a canter.

Zafira Out-punches All its Rivals

Bit this Opel’s biggest advantage comes in its price. Mercedes Benz’ V Class, for instance starts at fifty percent more for a stripped out base model. To compete with this Opel’s luxury, you must add a million. A worker spec Volksie Kombi Crew Bus is more expensive, and to get a Caravelle, or even the glitzy flagship Hyundai Staria is a quarter to half more expensive. Perhaps as you’d expect, this bargain Opel bus’s only real rival, albeit perhaps a touch downmarket and shorter, is Ford’s top Tourneo Custom.

To be honest however, this Opel is no ways a quarter, half or even more less a bus. It’s a damn good package all-round. So, if you’re looking for a great family or business bus with all the bells and whistles, better you include the Opel one in your dealership tour. And don’t blame us if you miss out. – Michele Lupini

Images & testing: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Opel Zafira Life 2.0 Elegance
Engine: 110 kW 370 Nm 2-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 8-speed automatic FWD
Seats:            7
Load volume:      1,060 litres
0-60 km/h         4.63 sec
0-100 km/h:       10.86 sec
0-120 km/h        17.09 sec
400m:             18.2 sec @ 124 km/h
80-120km/h:       8.51 sec
Vmax:             185 km/h
Fuel:             6.3 l/100km
CO2:              164 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 100/5y 100K km
PRICE:            R870K
RATED:            9
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