The Opel Zafira OPC was the greatest sporty people-carrier there was, and ever will be.
There was not anything terribly exhilarating about MPVs in the 2000s, which was why Opel – in its heyday – decided to change that with the second-generation Zafira OPC in 2006.
It was a one-of-a-kind people-mover that is unlikely to be reproduced, as it came from a time before turbocharging was common and SUVs were popular.
Practical, affordable, unique
What made the Opel Zafira OPC unique compared with the fast SUVs of today – like the BMW X4M, Audi RSQ3, and Mercedes AMG GLC 45 – was its practicality and affordability.
Fast SUVs nowadays are outside of the realm of the average citizen, and few of them can seat seven people in comfort.
The Zafira matched the tried-and-tested MPV recipe – which made it one of the most popular MPVs on sale at the time – with a bit of spice to engage both the driver and their passenger.
The car was based on the Opel Astra platform, with which it shared many of its parts.
In MPV fashion, it had a high roofline, loads of storage space, and provided the owner with a choice of a huge boot or two extra jump-seats that folded out from the floor.
The engineering team then decided to make it go fast to appeal to those who wanted the speed of a hot hatch but the practicality of a minivan.
Depending on your standpoint on MPVs or the purity of manufacturer “tuning-arms” like the Opel Performance Center (OPC), the team that approved the idea of and OPC MPV either needed to be clinically committed or applauded.
I lean towards the latter, because it gave the buyers hot sauce when all that was previously available was lemon and herb.
The Zafira OPC retained its practicality and gained a powerful 177kW and 320Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged engine from the Astra OPC 2-door hatch, amongst other things.
0-100km/h was done in just over 7 seconds – while a top speed of 230km/h took the seven-seater to a pace it should never be allowed to do.
Nothing like it
I’ll never quite get over a family van blasting past me on an uphill with kids waving at drivers through the back window.
Its sporting credentials were also evident at a standstill, thanks to the Recaro buckets seats with body-hugging bolsters, a thick sporty steering wheel, and OPC-blue accents throughout.
It rode on – massive for the time – 18-inch alloys, performance-tuned suspension, and large brakes borrowed from the OPC parts bin.
Standard with six-airbags and a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating meant that it would still keep you safe, despite the performance focus.
Sadly, General Motors offloaded Opel at a later date and the MPV lunatic project was put to rest.
As time passes, Zafira OPCs are getting harder to find. Could it be a niche collectable car in the future? I think so.
There will never be a replacement for the lunacy that was the Zafira OPC, and I’m glad that Opel dared to build it.