What are you driving?
This vibrantly coloured people mover is the Opel Zafira Life in its extended wheelbase seven-seat form. It is mechanically identical to the Opel Vivaro van, but in this instance is presented as a more passenger-friendly upmarket people carrier featuring greater comfort than the nine-seat passenger version sold by the commercial vehicle division. In Ireland, the Zafira Life is only sold in the one, high, 'Elite' specification that features a luxurious interior and more powerful engine options, along with the choice seven- or eight-seat configurations.
Name its best bits
Given the type of vehicle that the Zafira Life is, we think it's best to start with the passenger compartment. Despite the Zafira name, this latest model is very different from the smaller people carrier that previously carried the badge. The first major advantage for those transporting families or groups of people is the electrically operated sliding rear doors. Conveniently, these can be operated via the key fob or from the driver's seat via two separate buttons on the centre console. Versatility is one of the strongpoints of the Zafira Life. Those rear seats can tilt and slide in numerous ways with both rows available with 60/40 splits, while our test car featured the second row made up of two individual seats that can swivel. All of the seats in row two and three carry ISOFIX mounts making it easier to space out lots of child seats if needed.
The Zafira Life gets Opel's seven-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system as standard that features DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone interface via USB for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay operating systems. Most devices will fit in the storage recess below this, although a better designed and dedicated place to keep your phone would be more useful - something almost all car markers still struggle with fitting into their interiors.
A raised driving position puts the Zafira Life ahead of most SUVs and despite its overall size and length, thanks to good lines of sight and the benefit of a reversing and 360-degree camera system, it's easy enough to fit into tighter spaces. Once moving there's sufficient power available from the 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, driven here in 180hp guise. If you're frequently going to have a full accompaniment of passengers onboard, then this engine is the one to choose. The eight-speed automatic transmission is exclusive to this engine and is smooth in its gear changes and makes the start-stop nature of city driving that bit less tiring.
The large lift-up tailgate isn't always the most practical thing, but you can open just the rear window to drop in smaller items. The distinctive 'Tourmaline Orange' metallic paintwork on our test car costs €915 extra, but don't worry if that's not your thing, as Opel does offer more discreet colours.
Anything that bugs you?
For the breadth of versatility that the Zafira Life offers, there's not a great deal to complain about. Granted, this highly specced model costs €12,750 more than the entry-level passenger version of the Opel Vivaro, but there is quite a difference in what it's like inside. Aside from that, the central folding table is a €715 option that is best left off the list unless you're planning on having some boardroom meetings on the go or filming an episode of The Apprentice.
And why have you given it this rating?
Even taking into account its larger capacity engine and interior, this version remains quite a bit more expensive when compared to the passenger version of the Opel Vivaro van. While it makes plenty of sense for larger families or those with more active lifestyles requiring more load-lugging capacity, it doesn't command the same appeal as an SUV despite being more practical in many ways.