Vauxhall are targeting prestige hatchback and saloon customers with a new version of its people carrier. Edward Stephens reports.

Vauxhall has won a lot of friends with its popular Zafira MPV – but now there’s a larger, more upmarket version about to hit the streets.

The all-new Zafira Tourer will be in showrooms in March and will sell alongside its smaller brother.

You still get the same seven-seat flexibility with the new model but Vauxhall says the newcomer is aimed at customers who would traditionally buy an expensive prestige saloon or hatchback.

Certainly the face of the new car is particularly dramatic, thanks to its large bold boomerang lighting units which sweep down from the headlights to the fog lamps and incorporate unique wing-shaped daytime running lamps.

And inside a new world awaits the MPV enthusiast with high quality fabrics and more soft touch surfaces marking the Zafira Tourer out as a luxury limousine.

Because the Tourer is longer than the current Zafira passengers in both the middle and third row of seats now get extra legroom and there is far more flexibility with seat movement.

The third row seats can still be folded down flush with the floor of the luggage compartment like the existing Zafira but the operation has now been made much easier.

A lot of thought has gone into the seating arrangements in this car and passengers in the third row can get in and out easier than in most MPVs as the middle row seats move both forwards and upwards to allow better access to the car.

Unlike the bench seat in the Zafira the middle row of the Tourer now consists of three individual seats and these can be moved backwards or forwards independently and the backrests recline.

Buyers who opt for either the SE or Elite versions get the “lounge seating” system, which allows the backrest of the centre seat in the middle row to be folded flat on to the squab and the sides of the backrest to be cleverly folded upwards to form comfortable armrests for the passengers in the two outer seats.

The result is that in this configuration middle row travellers get the kind of seat and space normally found in a large executive saloon car. Vauxhall/Opel has filed for a patent for this system, which is unique in the industry.

Families will find they are spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodating their numerous items in the Tourer, which has more than 30 storage compartments. And with five of the seven seats in use the Tourer has 710 litres of luggage space, some 65 litres more than the current Zafira.

The car comes with a choice of five trim levels and three diesel and two petrol engines at launch. The Zafira Tourer’s 2.0 CDTI turbodiesel engine is available with 110bhp, 130bhp and 165bhp while the two petrol engines are a 140bhp 1.4-litre turbo and a naturally aspirated 1.8-litre 140bhp.

On the road the new Tourer drives and handles more like an executive saloon than an MPV and from the driver’s seat you soon forget the length of vehicle you have behind you.

And while I expected the diesels to pull well I was particularly surprised with just how well the 1.4-litre petrol engine performed. It boasts a 0-60mph time of 9.9 seconds and a top speed of 126mph.

With its large panoramic windscreen the Tourer gives superb forward vision and narrow pillars mean side vision is good too so manoeuvring and parking presents no problem.

Prices for the new Zafira Tourer start from £21,000.