When you think of a large and comfortable seven-seater, the same few models come to mind. But is there an electric alternative? Well, Opel seems to have an answer.
Now, in no terms am I putting down the other seven-seaters that we have reviewed this year, be it regular MPVs or more premium models. I even wrote about one (the eight-seat variant of what usually is a seven-seater) for our secondhand buyer's guide series.
The key difference is that all but one of the seven-seaters presently on sale are either hybrids or powered by fossil fuels.
As the first fully electric European seven-seater locally, the Opel Zafira-e Life is here to change all that. Talk about having your eco-friendly cake and eating it too.
Now that is a glow up
The design of previous generations of the Zafira could be described as a tad generic or uninspiring. Its silhouette was similar to the other seven-seaters crowding the marketplace, and I daresay much of the difference came mainly from the badge and front fascia.
Now, if you're thinking "this looks like a van", you're right. The Zafira-e Life shares a platform with the Vivaro-e. Nw, before anyone accuses Opel of taking shortcuts, hold your horses. This chassis was already built with space in mind, so reconfiguring it to fit seven adults in comfort actually makes sense.
No longer resembling every other MPV on the road, you'll arrive in style and with zero emissions too. And with its size, it has an added benefit with lane hoggers, as other drivers will more often than not change lanes when they see this approaching. Come to think of it, there's even a track from Ludacris that fits this car to a T.
Unfortunately, given its imposing looks, it lacks the illumination befitting its substantial nature. While it does have two LED strips for its daytime running lights, its headlights are halogen, and are unable to fully accentuate the looks and imposing nature of the Zafira-e Life.
Free arms day, but it's worth it
Typically, large MPVs come with heavily boosted and very light steering, which makes turning the steering wheel easier and less strenuous. Not the Zafira-e Life, however. The steering is weighty at low speeds, and is most evident when navigating carparks or during parking.
Measuring almost five metres with a turning circle of 12.4 metres, it takes some effort to muscle it around tighter spaces. Thankfully, the steering lightens up when at speed, making it easier to drive with just one hand on the wheel.
Fitted with Michelin Primacy 4 tyres from the factory, and paired with a compliant dampening setup, the Zafira-e Life has excellent ride quality with low levels of road noise. We even deliberately seeked out bumpier roads and expansion joints, and each time we were impressed with just how well it soaked it all up.
Big, brisk and thirsty
Packaging the battery flat in the floor, the centre of gravity is kept low with no intrusion into cabin space. Drawing power from a 50 kWh pack, a single electric motor produces 134 bhp and 260 Nm of torque, powering the front wheels via a single-speed transmission to propel all 2,109 kilograms of the Zafira-e Life forwards.
With an extremely responsive throttle, power is instantaneous, allowing the Zafira-e Life to accelerate rather briskly. 100 km/h arrives in 9.2 seconds, all the way to a limited top speed of 150 km/h.
Range is estimated at 238 kilometres, and I did my utmost best to drive it economically. Still, it still consumed a lot more charge than anticipated, averaging 28.7 kWh/100km, quite some way off the factory's claim of 23.3 kWh/100km.
While I did struggle to achieve 200 kilometres on a single charge, a good portion of my time with the car did involve having seven people in the car with the air-conditioning turned up, together with a boot full of camera equipment, which could explain my less than stellar range.
Thankfully, it only takes an hour to recharge a near-empty battery with a DC50 charger, but expect it to take at least 4.5 hours with an AC11 charger.
It's all about the passenger
Tailored for comfort, passengers can choose between two captain's chairs in the second row and a three-seater bench in the last row, with the captain's chairs having individually adjustment for recline too, bestowing a "towkay-like" feel for whoever sits in them.
And let's not forget the cavernous legroom, which even in the last row is more generous than the rear legroom in most smaller cars.
All three rows have independent air-conditioning controls, with the second row having access to tray tables which are pulled out from the centre console like those on an aircraft, or lifted up from the back of the driver and front passengers seats.
A very welcome touch are the two non-opening sunroofs, one for each passenger in the second row. And don't fret, there are retractable blinds for these two sunroofs for when the sun is harsh. These retractable blinds are also present on the second row's windows, and are much welcome on hot and sunny afternoons.
Interestingly, the driver and front passenger seats both have a massage function, They aren't exactly effective in relieving your back, and feel more like some air bladders just lightly pushing on various spots of your torso. Still, it's commendable that a vehicle within this price bracket even has such features.
The infotainment system, a familiar system seen in other Stellantis products, is simple to operate and comes with wired Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
And while a digital gauge cluster may have been more fitting with the car's theme, sometimes the old adage of "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" does hold true, which could explain the simple yet easy to understand analogue gauges.
Is it e-verything it claims to be?
At $217,500 (as of press time), the Zafira-e Life is not the cheapest large MPV on the market. If you desire a cheaper electric seven-seat MPV, there's an alternative from a Chinese brand, but it's also very much lacking in features compared to the Zafira-e Life.
For the price, you get a fair amount of standard equipment, massive interior space, good build quality, a very comfortable ride and immense road presence. But with a small battery capacity, lack of range and frequent recharging, is the Zafira-e Life actually feasible to drive on the daily?
To think of the Zafira-e Life as an everyday car is possible, as long as you take into account the downtime needed for charging. Where this would most likely excel is as a VIP shuttle service, taking small groups of executives between their aircraft, the terminal, and perhaps towards the city. After all, it has the space, the comfort, and the capability to excel in this role.
As we move towards an electric future, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Zafira-e Life transitioning to a limousine-like role, similar to what the Toyota Alphard and Vellfire are doing on the regular today. Quite a way to have your eco-friendly cake and enjoy it, if I do say so myself.
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