Opel Zafira Life is priced as a premium car, but can it deliver from the driver's seat?

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2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance
2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance
  • Opel is on the comeback trail with the launch of its all-new Zafira Life in South Africa.
  • Depending on version, Edition or Elegance, it can carry seven or eight people.
  • They say you can achieve close to 1200km per diesel tank in a combined cycle with it.
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24


Three years since it was first introduced in Europe, the all-new Opel Zafira Life has touched down in South Africa. It's not the Zafira we remember from yesteryear; it's grown up substantially and is now looking to take the fight to established van segment players such as the Volkswagen Kombi and newcomers such as the Hyundai Staria.

Built on a shared Stellantis commercial vehicle platform used by Citroen and Peugeot branded vehicles in some markets, Opel has packed the Zafira Life with everything except a kitchen sink. Seriously, there's nothing you'd want to add here, but there's one thing that they left out, which we'll get to later. For now, let's tuck into what the new Zafira Life offers.

2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance
2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance

Larger, for BIG family and small business needs

The previous generations of Zafira were built on a compact (C-segment) passenger car platform that Opel shared with the Astra and other General Motors products. The new Zafira Life is van-based, to put it in layman's, as it's built on the Vivaro light-commercial vehicle. For those of you asking, there's no Opel Performance Centre (OPC) product variant coming, so your dreams of a 220kW plus Zafira Life OPC will remain just that, unfortunately.

The new model talks to different needs, people who require space to move lots of family in one go, for instance, boutique hotels and shuttles services that are looking for something different as fresh-faced hero cars, that sort of thing. The Zafira Life, to this end, is available with seven or eight seats, and it can carry more than 1000 litres of luggage with all the chairs in their upright position. It's a great alternative to a double cab, or a small car-based MPV, as you get cavernous space to stretch out and relax as a passenger.

Read: 4 fuel-saving hybrids under R500 000 you could buy as fuel prices skyrocket

2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance
2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance

The Zafira Life is 5306mm long, 2204mm wide with its mirrors unfolded, and 1948mm tall. It offers a ground clearance of around 190mm and rides on 215/60R17 tyres and alloy wheels as standard. You'll have to get used to its impressive dimensions when it comes to tight parking spots and narrow driveways. Still, thanks to a light and accurate steering tune, and an excellent seating position, you won't feel uncomfortable even if it's your time driving a big bus.

Dual sliding doors also make it easy to get in and out, and you can open and close these doors automatically with the touch of a button on the centre console on the range-topping model. Overall, the ergonomics are sound here, and you won't feel like it's a commercial vehicle as Opel's done enough to jazz up its feel on the outside and the inside despite too much use of hard black plastic in some areas of the cabin.

2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance
2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance

Two models to choose from

We mentioned a pair of Zafira Life derivatives: the entry-level Edition model and the range-topping Elegance model. The most affordable one will set you back around R750 000.00, while the one you really want will cost you around RR870 000.00.

The Edition model is exemplary for standard equipment, as you get (on the safety side) anti-lock brakes, hills start assist, traction control, stability control, and four airbags. It also comes with a tyre pressure monitoring system, climate control, cruise control, electrically-operated windows and mirrors, and an easy-to-use IntelliLink infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also get a generous selection of charging ports, USB A and 12V, to keep devices charged throughout the cabin.

Read: Chery Tiggo 8 Pro vs Haval H6: Which luxury SUV would you drop R500k to own?

2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance
2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance

Stepping up to the Elegance model, you get all the Edition's features plus automatic electronically controlled climate control that regulates cabin temperature regardless of UV impact. This is important because the Elegance comes with a dual-pane panoramic fixed glass roof that lets oodles of light into the cabin, making it a charming place to sit. We also liked its leather seats, but you only get space for seven occupants here, as they replace the middle row bench with two captain's chairs for a more premium feel. The Elegance is also fitted with high-tech advanced driver assistance (ADAS) features such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot assist, a 180-degree rear camera system, and a 10-speaker audio package to pump out the tunes from Apple Music or Spotify when you're on the road.

2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance
2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance

The vehicle, however, is missing one critical feature for us that we think should become a standard-fit item on all premium cars: LED main beam headlights. Opel says that the Zafira Life's architecture does not support the use of LED headlamp technology, but it would have included this item as a standard feature if it could. LED lights make driving at night so much easier, and if you do find it challenging to see when driving in the dark, you might have to look elsewhere. Of course, the halogens fitted to this vehicle line-up will work as they should, but we'll let you know how we get on with it after the sun sets when we put the car through the Wheels24 test cycle in the coming month.

2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance
2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance

What it's like to drive

We expected more from the Zafira Life's ride quality than it delivered. However, we must mention that the launch drive took place along some of the worst potholed and broken roads we've seen in the Gauteng/North West region. The vehicle performed tremendously in terms of agility and manoeuvrability. We had to duck, dodge, dip, dive and dodge (shout out to my Dodgeball friends) to get out of the way of tarmac craters that would rival the Sea of Tranquility.

Nevertheless, we didn't experience any stand-out challenges with the ride. Its body rolls just enough to let you know when you're going in too hot, and its precise handling is on par with the VW busses of this world. It does, however, take a back seat to the ride quality of the new Hyundai Staria. We reckon you won't find the ride harsh or jarring at all, but don't expect it to carve the road like the Zafira (with Lotus-honed suspension, by the way) used to in the past.

In terms of NVH, there's very little challenging here, save for the roar from the road due to its van roots and large (wide) tyres. Opel should look into more underbody insulation and perhaps lined wheel wells to reduce noise intrusion. Overall, you can have a conversation, even with people in the back row of seats, without having to raise your voice to overcome roar. It's genuinely impressive for what it is, and if you have the radio pumping your favourite tunes, cabin grind won't be of concern.

Read: REVIEW | 'Star Trek' Hyundai Staria Multicab is the ideal alternative to a double-cab bakkie

2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance
2022 Opel Zafira Life Elegance

The drive then. It's powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 110kW at 4000 rpm and 370Nm from as low as 2000rpm. Paired with an eight-speed ZF-sourced torque converter automatic, it sends grunt to the front wheels to take the bus from a standstill to 100km/h in around 11 seconds. No top speed info is provided.

Opel says that the Zafira Life will sip a claimed 6.3 litres/100km in a combined cycle, which should see you achieve around 1 111km from its 70-litre tank. Our launch cars were brand new with less than 200km on them, so they were very tight and returned 9 litres/100km after our stint behind the steering wheel.

Interestingly, the vehicles we drove also offered spongy a brake pedal feel that only really got the brakes to clamp when you stood on them right at the bottom of the travel zone. We reckon this would improve as the tyres and the brakes needed to scrub more. If you buy one and find the brake pedal remains soft and without bite after a few thousand kilometres on the clock, please let us know here.

Is it worth the money?

Well, if you have three-quarters of a million Rand to spare and you need a big vehicle to do some heavy lifting, it's a great choice based on our brief experience with it. The Edition model priced at R750 000 makes sense for us as it has just the right amount of features at an attractive price. However, the more expensive Elegance remains a compelling choice if you're into technology and like to have gadgets in your vehicle. 

With a five-year or 100 000km mechanical warranty and a five-year or 100 000km Service Plan, you'll have peace of mind that your Opel Zafira Life will be kept in tip-top shape by Opel dealers. Incidentally, Stellantis South Africa's chief executive Leslie Ramsoomar said at the launch of the Zafira Life that there are now 35 Opel dealers around SA. He is confident that Opel will rise in South Africa, now that Stellantis back it.

We reckon the Zafira Life is on the right track here as more motorists move into multi-purpose vehicles. It drives well, uses little fuel, and will make you smile because it just feels great and easy to pilot from the driver's seat.

2022 OPEL ZAFIRA LIFE PRICING IN SOUTH AFRICA

  • Opel Zafira Life 2.0TD Edition (auto) - R749 900
  • Opel Zafira Life 2.0TD Elegance (auto) - R 869 900

All models are backed by Stellantis SA and come with an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) warranty and Service Plan.


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