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Used Car focus: Vauxhall Zafira

Not even a series of Griff Rhys Jones 'mad scientist' adverts could put buyers off the talented and flexible Zafira. It's still considered to be one of the few innovative models to wear the Vauxhall badge and brightens an otherwise dull model line-up.

And the company has created a real star with Zafira GSi, the only 'hot' medium MPV. The 2.0-litre engine produces 197bhp, 0-60mph in 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 137mph to make any boy racer's mouth water – but GSi is aimed at the petrol-head family man who doesn't want to ditch the wife and children.

Tempting retail prices make Zafira a smart choice for the larger family: 99T examples are roughly half the new price, meaning a base 1.6 Club can be picked up for £5,500, while that year's range-topper – 1.8 Elegance – is on forecourts for just over £7,100.

Zafira is largely based on the Astra – and it shows on the road. Its taller, chunkier body means it's not as supple, but it still handles more like a conventional car than a bulky MPV. It's easy to manoeuvre and good all-round visibility makes it easy to drive around town. Wind and road noise mean it's less refined on the motorway, but it is otherwise competent.

Cramming seven seats into such a small space impacts interior comfort, and the rear two seats are only really for kids due to limited legroom. In five-seat mode, Zafira makes a case as an estate rival. Fold all the seats flat using Vauxhall's clever 'Flex-7' technology, and it's ready for big load jobs

The heavy body means the 1.6 isn't quite up to the job; the 1.8 is a better all-rounder and will suit most needs; 2.2 is a brisk performer without being 'hot', which is left to the athletic 2.0 turbo in the GSi. Zafira is without an impressive diesel engine. The early 2.0 Di is slow, low on power and unrefined. The turbocharged 2.0 DTi from mid-2000 is an improvement, with more power and performance. However, neither is a truly modern choice and is only suitable for the long-distance motorway driver.

Zafira lags behind Citroen Picasso and Renault Scenic with just a three-star Euro NCAP rating. There are driver and passenger airbags with optional side bags, plus ABS on top cars. The Thatcham New Car Security Ratings (NSCR) give Zafira four stars for drive-away theft protection and two stars for break-in security.

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