What is it?
It’s a seven-seat Golf, in essence, and that’s no bad thing for the new Volkswagen Touran. After all, we know that the Mk7 Golf platform on which it’s based is particularly excellent, and the Golf principles of a quality interior, unflappable dynamics and smooth ride and refinement should bring just as much appeal to the MPV sector as it does to family hatchbacks.
The question is, can the Touran compete with strong competition from the Ford S-Max, Citroën Grand C4 Picasso and even the bigger MPVs such as the Ford Galaxy and Seat Alhambra that it’ll certainly compete with on price in its higher-end versions?
This isn’t a particularly cheap prospect, you see, and that could be a problem in this value-conscious class. Even the base 108bhp 1.6 diesel engine in mid-spec SE trim, as tested here, has a list price that comes in at some £3k more than that of a Grand C4 Picasso, and is not much cheaper than the more powerful 2.0 TDCi 150 Ford S-Max.
What’s it like?
As slick and well-sorted as you’d expect. It swings through corners with easy and precise composure, not resorting to understeer unless you push it rather harder than any MPV is ever likely to be pushed, and it does so with plenty of warning of much grip there is left.
Body control is kept quite tightly in check, so you don’t get the unpleasant, car sickness-inducing wallow and pitch of some softly sprung big people-carriers, while ride comfort is more than pliant enough even on the standard steel springs of our test cars.
Certainly you needn’t add the £770 adaptive dampers, since the standard set-up remains soft-edged over most potholes and stays settled enough over high-frequency intrusions.
This 1.6 diesel engine is a bit of a disappointment, though. It feels pretty sluggish, so you feel inclined to work it quite hard through the six-speed gearbox, and it’s not the quietest or most willing to rev of the diesels in this class. Still, it does the job adequately, and what power there is arrives in a predictable fashion.
On which note, it will come as no surprise to most that the Touran – despite being an extremely well-mannered car – doesn’t offer a particularly fun or feelsome driving experience. It drives in exactly the way it should do: composed, precise and nothing more.
For most buyers, it’ll be the interior that really sells this car. The dash is logical and easy to use and has a classy aura that’s lacking from any rival except the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer, while space and practicality are among the best you’ll find.
Despite fairly compact exterior dimensions (the Touran is shorter and narrower than a Citroën Grand C4 Picasso or Ford S-Max), it offers really excellent middle-row space, so two tall adults or three children will be fine, and the rearmost seats are also better than you’d expect.
Access to the third row is reasonable, although it’s still best left to the more dexterous to clamber through the fairly broad gap left by the tilt, lift and slide mechanism of the middle-row seat. Once there, there’s actually as much room as you’d enjoy in an S-Max and more than in a Grand C4, so kids will be absolutely fine even on longer journeys.
It’s also a really easy job to lift, fold or generally shuffle the car’s seat layout, and you get five sets of Isofix fittings, which – together with the three individually adjustable, sliding and reclining middle-row seats – will make life easy for those with multiple child or booster seats.
The boot is a good size and shape, is flat even with the second row folded and has a slot for storing the load bay cover under the floor. You’ll get a few shopping bags in with the third row in use, too.
Keeping the driver happy is standard adjustable lumbar support, fairly decent bolster support and plenty of adjustment provided you’re okay with sitting fairly high up. All in, pretty much any shape of driver, plus their extensive family, should be able to get comfortable in the Touran.
Should I buy one?
If you don’t want a full-size, van-like MPV but you do want the best interior space and versatility of the mid-size seven-seat clan, then yes.
It is worth pointing out that the Touran is remarkably deadpan; this is a car that has sacrificed every last scrap of charm and character in favour of its impressive objective merits, and for most buyers in this class that won’t matter a jot – especially since very keen finance deals generally make the Touran just as affordable as those rivals that have lower list prices if you’re buying on PCP.
If you are one of those buyers, the Touran is about as good as it gets in this class. If you value a more engaging driving experience, look to the Ford S-Max.
Volkswagen Touran 1.6 TDI 110 SE
Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £25,230 Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, diesel Power 109bhp at 3200-4000rpm; Torque 185lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1539kg; Top speed 116mph; 0-62mph 11.9sec; Fuel Economy 65.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 116g/km, 21%
What is it?