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Hidden Heroes: Vauxhall Zafira GSi

Published 27 September 2019

Boney M have a lot to thank Vauxhall for. Back at the end of 2001, the Luton-based company decided to introduce a car that would turn the perception of the traditional people carrier on its head.

With 197bhp, the Zafira GSi came with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, with all that power channelled through the front wheels. Enough for a 0-60 time of 7.0 seconds and a top speed of around 150mph - hardly the standard stats for a seven-seater MPV.

Vauxhall Zafira GSi (2)

Where the Seventies glam band came in, though, was in Vauxhall’s advertising. The company revived the Boney M hit ‘Daddy Cool’ for a series of TV adverts, which included children admiring their dad’s choice in people carrier. 

It was an overtly sexist but incredibly effective piece of marketing, reinventing the Zafira as a vehicle that was about more than just sensibility and practicality. Indeed, they even offered a styling pack on lesser Zafira models, so that if Dad bought a 1.8 SRi, he could make it look like the one off the advert, other than the Arden Blue paint, which was reserved for GSi spec only. 

Vauxhall Zafira GSi (3)

Vauxhall pulled it off, too. The Zafira was based on the Lotus-tuned chassis of the Astra G, and in the GSi model it got the same chassis and performance enhancements as the hot Astra, which meant that it was really quite effective through the twisty bits. Yes, it suffered from torque steer and its upright bodywork meant a bit of extra lean through the bends, but it was riotous fun to drive.

It was always a niche. Vauxhall sold just 2800 of them over a four-year production run, and of those around half still survive, some in enthusiast ownership, but the others still floating around in the lower reaches of the classifieds. These days, £1500 will buy you a good one. If you want to be Daddy Cool yourself, now’s the time to buy. 


Johmon    on 28 September 2019

Was the fastest 7 seater MPV since 2001.

   on 28 September 2019

Yes but oil stem seals, pistons rings, turbo charger problems (oil restricter banjo bolt) required as oil over pressurises the turbo!
A engine rebuild is often needed on these vehicles costing around £1500. While the engine is stripped down it makes sense to change other parts that wear to amounting to the £1500-£1800
I should know as I rebuilt my one, cost me less than £1000 as I did it myself. Rear electric windows and rear central locking faults due to wiring loom faults, wiring being crushed between the door pillar and door it’s self costing around £100 including parts and labour. Doing your research will prove my points I’ve written above

These cars are lovely and fun to drive,I love mine, it’s a beautiful car to drive once you get it running good, my new oil stem seals are the flying saucer type so they are held in by the valve spring and won’t come off and they are the performance type! but these vehicles will empty your bank account very quickly if you don’t inspect it Totally before purchasing one!!

Johmon    on 4 November 2019

Yeah I have heard about the stem seal issues and the door looms being cut which stops the central locking working on whichever door but something about this MPV I find interesting.

andi sadler    on 10 May 2020

Door Loom wiring is a simple fix. Just lift up the door sill and you will find the split wire(s). You can buy kits ready wired in fleabay and there definatly not 100! more like 18. Opening and closing the back doors stretches the wires over time thats all. Ive had a few cars that did the same. The GSI is a sweet engine if you use regular fresh oil. Original turbos last well over 100k if looked after. Mines done 93k now and ive had no stem seal problems nor smoking of any kind. These cars hold their money well and are becoming classics now. Easy to find parts for them, even a boot spoiler in the colour you require. The GSI goes through front tyres quick though as theres 200bhp going through the front wheels, but i always buy part worns with 6mm+ on them, for 10 quid etc so i have plenty of tyres. Brake pipes will perish over time, had mine done on cars last MOT. Also coil packs as its a VAUXHALL and they love to kill coil packs but again easy to find and cheap. I paid 1450 for my car in December 2017, its now May 2020 and today the car is worth 2512 with FSH. Not bad eh? A simple Stage 1 remap will see this car push 238bhp for 200 pounds on a standard engine and performance exhaust, panel filter etc. One last thing always buy Iridium spark plugs!.

Edited by andi sadler on 10/05/2020 at 00:22

Matt Dale    on 1 April 2021

As above. Currently re-wiring the rear passenger loom as rear electric windows no longer work. Loom repair kit with instructions and phone number for help all included for 23 quid on fleabay. Bargain to resolve a common fault. My Zaf Gsi is now at 110k.
2k ago the Headgasket went. So on strip down I replaced the stem seals along with new head bolts and cambelt and waterpump. I used the same oe kit they use for the vxr. The beauty of upgrades on the z20let engine is that you can use the majority of better quality parts from the uprated vxr engine inc spark plugs, injectors, cam belt and waterpump etc. Even the turbo. One thing I did struggle with was locating oil cooler pipes. When mine failed and dumped 4-5litres of oil on floor, I found them extremely hard to get hold of. However a wonderful company called RnD Motorsport made there own for 90 quid and say that they are far superior to the oe pipes. I'm currently running 260bhp now with a map that sees the turbo kick in at 3k rpm. So I can drive like it like a normal family man and be "Daddy cool"
And them drop a gear and fly when I'm on my own.
Ps.Great for family trips/holidays.

andi sadler    on 11 June 2021

God Bless you My Son lol. Yeh there great for trips and touring. Pop the boot, use the 12v socket and laughing. Mines black and done 103k no turbo changes yet, just oil changes. Spark plugs and 2 coil packs since owning. They love to kill Coil Packs and engine gets hot killing rocker cover gaskets. Use sealant as the rocker covers warp as their made from plastic. Basically anyone whos reading this GSI forum. Excellent engine,needs fresh oil so regular changes. Very Reliable.

Edited by andi sadler on 11/06/2021 at 22:01

   on 26 November 2023

They weren’t originally offered in Arden Blue, the original blue was I believe Kings Blue before Arden was offered to fit in with the rest of the GSi lineup.

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