The Vauxhall Zafira has long proved popular with families, thanks to its value for money and third row of seats that fold into the boot. It is this practicality and ease of use that has seen the Zafira become a regular on the UK’s top-ten bestselling cars, despite a shift in popularity of conventional people carriers such as this to 4×4-styled crossovers and compact SUVs.

The Zafira has been joined by the newer Zafira Tourer, which is itself an accomplished MPV, though commands a higher list price for its increased space and equipment list over the regular Zafira, which is still offered as value alternative. As is the case with the majority of new cars, there is a wide choice of trim and engine combinations, so picking the one that’s right for you can prove tricky. We’ve combed through the model range to find the most suitable model for your needs.

The smart choice for value

The entry point into the Zafira range is the 1.8i in ‘Exclusiv’ trim, which starts from £19,250 – £4,130 cheaper than the range topping model, despite being fitted with the same 118bhp petrol motor. Despite a trend towards diesels in the UK currently, this model will still return a combined 39.2mpg, which is not unreasonable for what is an older, reasonably heavy model. However, C02 emissions are on the high side at 168g/km, meaning vehicle tax of £205 per year after a first-year rate of £290.

Performance from this model won’t set your pulse racing, though is perfectly reasonable for a family car of this type. 60mph comes up in 11.5 seconds, while the car’s top speed if 116mph. And, although it is the bottom-of-the-rung model, Exclusiv trim sees the Zafira fitted with essentials such as an MP3 compatible CD player, air conditioning and heated electric door mirrors.

What’s more, the Zafira, being an older model, is likely to depreciate at a greater rate at some rivals. Opting for the cheapest model will likely prove a wise move when the time comes to sell.

The smart choice for low running costs

When it comes to family cars like this, which will undoubtedly spend countless hours trundling through traffic on the school run, or thrashed up the motorway on the commute, fuel economy matters. If not being fleeced at the pumps each week is top of your priorities, we’d recommend the 1.7CDTi 125PS ecoFlex. This model will return a combined 55.4mpg, while CO2 emissions drop to 134g/km for car tax bills of £130 per annum.

Performance is on a par with the petrol model above, too, so you won’t feel frustrated in your attempts to cut your fuel bills.

It’s worth choosing this model in entry-level trim, as the price premium for models further up the range doesn’t quite tally with the additional kit offer, with just larger alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, heated front seats and electric climate control the most desirable toys from the Excite and Design trim levels.

The smart choice for performance

The Zafira is a family oriented car with a limited range of engines, so don’t expect a new model with hot hatch levels of power. That said, the 1.8-litre petrol engine in the higher 138bhp state of tune is the quickest available, with a 0-60mph time of 10.8 seconds and a top speed of 122mph. CO2 emissions and fuel economy are unaltered from the less powerful version, so there should be no increase in costs for the extra 20bhp advantage.

Those looking for the ultimate performance hit from their Zafira will need to browse for the VXR model, which was discontinued in 2010. Boasting a scorching 240bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, it will romp to 60mph in just over seven seconds – enough to give hot hatch drivers a fright.

Bear in mind, though, that in converting the Zafira into a family rocket ship, the VXR loses the fuel economy and ride comfort that made it so popular in the first place. It does still retain the folding seats in the boot floor, however.

Search for a used Vauxhall Zafira here.