In 1999, the Zafira monocab set the standard for fully integrated on-board flexibility with the launch of Opel’s unique Flex7 formula. The sophisticated seating concept began its path to success from the start of Zafira production, and was given detailed enhancements when the next generation model arrived in 2005. Success came quickly. The trendsetting Zafira was awarded the “Golden Steering Wheel” in its first year of sales. More than 2.2 million first and second generation Zafiras were sold before the Zafira Tourer, the “lounge on wheels”, was introduced in 2011, offering a perfect blend of functionality and comfort.
Zafira – the seven-seat compact van pioneer
The successful Flex7 formula is essentially the same today as it was back in 1999: maximum on-board flexibility without seat removal. Starting with the first-generation Zafira, the third row of seats could be folded down, individually or together, flush with the luggage compartment floor. To enable an impressive maximum load volume of 1,700 liters, the driver then just had to fold down the seat cushions and backs of the middle row before pushing them up against the first row seatbacks. In just 15 seconds, the Zafira could be transformed from a seven to a two-seater. “We wanted everything to be as easy and effortless as possible,” says Frank Leopold, Engineering Group Manager Innovation, Show Cars & Advanced Packaging, the ‘father’ of the Flex7 concept. “As a typical customer, we imagined a mother holding her child and then having to change the seating configuration. No competitor was able to offer comparable flexibility. Suddenly even major shopping trips could be a relaxed experience, because you didn’t have to worry about everything fitting in the car.” And thanks to the high seating position and generous seating space, driving the Zafira was just as relaxing.
With the arrival of Flex7, the era of having to remove and carry heavy seats around to provide more space was over at Opel – although even today, 15 years later, similar systems are not commonly provided by competitors.
Zafira Family and Zafira Tourer – the successful duo for all needs
For the second generation Zafira in 2005, Opel engineers optimized the handling of the second row seats so they could be folded down in a 40:20:40 split, enabling comfortable seating for adults in the individual outer seats. Then, in 2011, the introduction of Flex7 Plus made the new Zafira Tourer the ultimate master of versatility. While the third row seats could still be folded down flush with the floor of the luggage compartment, the second row was completely re-designed. No longer a bench layout, it now consisted of three individual seats which could all be folded down, thus creating an even larger, completely flat floor. The three seats were also designed to slide longitudinally by up to 210 mm independently of each other. With the second row seats folded down, the maximum load volume was now increased to 1,860 liters. “With this flexible interior, the Zafira Tourer is also ideal for business travel, making it much more than a family van,” says Leopold.
First-class traveling in the “lounge on wheels”
The highlight of the Zafira Tourer is still its optional Lounge Seating system, which gives second-row passengers generous seating space comparable to an upper-class sedan. A clever and easy-to-operate folding/rotating mechanism transforms the back of the middle seat into comfortable armrests for passengers in the outer seats, which can slide up to 280 mm backwards – giving a best-in-class value for lots of extra legroom. The seats can also slide 50 mm towards the center of the cabin, a true novelty in the segment enabling generous shoulder space.
Flex series: Recipe for success for other Opel models
Since Flex7’s arrival in 1999, a series of flexible interior concepts has also been integrated in other Opel models. The FlexSpace seating concept, FlexDoors and the FlexRail center console in the Opel Meriva, as well as the FlexFix bicycle carrier and the FlexFold rear seat backrest in the Astra Sports Tourer, all have their roots in the Flex7 system of the first Opel Zafira. “Our goal was to offer innovations that fit each model – be they back-friendly, family-friendly or an upgrade to the vehicle,” says Leopold.