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Opel Sets Flexibility Standards: 15 Years of the Flex7 Seating System

Jan 23, 2014

  • Road to success: Flex7 launched with first Zafira in January 1999
  • Market success: Zafira evolves from trendsetter to “lounge on wheels”
  • Recipe for success: More Flex concepts inspired by Flex7 in other Opel models
Opel News - Technology that inspires: The Opel Zafira Tourer offers ultra-modern engine technology and maximum versatility with the Flex7 Plus seating system

Rüsselsheim.  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

Opel News - Flexibility pioneer: Frank Leopold is Engineering Group Manager Innovation, Show-Cars & Advanced Packaging at Opel and the ‘father’ of the Flex7 concept

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

Opel News - Flat floor: With the second row seats folded down, the maximum load volume of the Opel Zafira Tourer increases up to 1,860 liters

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”

Opel News - Maximum on-board flexibility without seat removal: Thanks to its clever Flex7 system, the Opel Zafira can be transformed quickly and easily to meet all seating and load space needs

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.

Overview: Opel Flex Innovations

Year
Innovation
2014
An improved FlexRail center console is premiered in the new Meriva. With the same versatility and practicality, it now enables more legroom in the rear.
1999
Production and market launch of first Zafira. The new Flex7 seating system sets the standard for the first generation of fully-integrated onboard flexibility.
2003
With its world-first FlexSpace, the Opel Signum offers more room and comfort than ever before. The rear bench seat consists of two individually adjustable single seats giving exceptionally generous legroom. The center element of the rear bench can also be transformed into an armrest or storage console.
2003
The Meriva establishes the small monocab segment. Thanks to the FlexSpace concept, the Meriva can be quickly transformed between five, four, three or two-seater layouts, without removing any seats.
2005
Enhancement of Flex7 system with the second generation Zafira. The second row seats can be folded down in a 40:20:40 split.
2006
Opel is the first and only automaker to offer the bicycle carrier FlexFix in the new Corsa. It is fully integrated in the rear bumper and can be pulled out like a drawer to transport two bicycles.
2009
A creative idea from Opel engineers and designers, FlexFloor is introduced in the compact class. It allows easy-to-use stowage for a wide variety of cargo, increasing the new Astra’s loading flexibility. The trunk floor is moveable and can be positioned at three levels. When fixed at the lowest level, up to 370 liters of space is available.
2010
The second generation Meriva’s FlexDoors is an innovative rear-hinged rear door system that makes it easier to enter and exit the vehicle. The highly flexible FlexSpace rear seating system and Opel’s patented, integrated FlexFix bicycle carrier combine to make the Meriva a real flexibility champion. It is the only vehicle to have received a seal of approval from the Campaign for Healthy Backs (AGR) in recognition of its overall ergonomic concept system features. The Meriva also includes the FlexRail console system.
2010
The Astra Sports Tourer is the first compact wagon outside the premium segment to offer a remote seat-folding function with FlexFold – a system which folds the rear seatbacks at the touch of a button. It is complemented by other smart, upscale features. Space-efficient trunk design enables a load volume from 500 to 1,550 liters
2011
The new “Master of Versatility” is the Zafira Tourer. Interior highlights include the Flex7 Plus seating system and the optional “Lounge Seating System”.
2013
Opel offers the patented FlexFix bicycle carrier for almost all models from A to Z: Antara, Astra, Corsa, Meriva and Zafira Tourer. The newest members in the FlexFix club are the sub-compact SUV Mokka and the lifestyle ADAM. With the second generation of the FlexFix carrier, the Astra Sports Tourer and Zafira Tourer can carry up to four, and the Mokka up to three bicycles.