VOLKSWAGEN really should be good at MPVs. The German manufacturer’s output is almost always simple, sturdy and user-friendly, which is just what most of us want in a family car. If any model falling below those standards did slip out of a VW factory’s gates and into dealerships, you get the impression that heads would roll at Wolfsburg in short order.
Some 1.13 million European sales of the first-generation Touran compact MPV would appear to back up Volkswagen’s people-carrying competence, and the plan is for the second generation Touran to continue in that vein. Should its designers be patting themselves on the back or positioning their necks on the chopping block?
The Touran got off to a great start in life by borrowing its basic chassis and engineering from the Golf hatchback. The design prioritises space and light over sportiness and the cabin will be familiar to Volkswagen owners through its neat design and general quality. With seven seats fitted as standard, this improved Touran is equipped to compete with the top models in the compact MPV class.
It’s a compact MPV so sits below the full-sized Sharan MPV which is a step down from the enormous Caravelle, a vehicle designed for people who’ve qualified for their own private parking bay at the maternity ward. Unlike its predecessor, this Touran has seven seats in standard guise, with the two rearmost seats folding up out of the boot floor.
The available engine options follow a trend seen across the Volkswagen product range and the wider car market, with turbocharging used as a substitute for cubic capacity. Every engine has a turbo helping it along and only the range-topping diesel is larger than 1.6 litres. There’s a 1.2-litre TSI petrol with 103bhp and a 1.4-litre TSI petrol with 138bhp thanks to a turbo and supercharger working in tandem.
The diesel engines are sure to be popular and open with a 1.6 TDI that’s available in 89 or 103bhp form. Topping the line-up is Volkswagen’s 2.0 TDI diesel that’s offered with 138 or 168bhp. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on all models that don’t come with the DSG dual clutch automatic transmission.
This Touran takes on the clean lines of the latest Golf with its wide grille connecting shapely headlights. The promotional blurb speaks of a “clear network of horizontal lines” and you can see where they’re coming from. The car looks wide, solid and nicely planted on the road, if slightly top heavy. The large glass area is particularly noticeable, and the side windows are cut low to give smaller children a better view.
Attempts to inject some drama into the Touran’s looks with a belt line that curls up from the C-pillars to the rear of the car seem a little half-hearted, and calling it the “tornado line” isn’t going to fool anyone. The Touran is handsome but unexciting to look at, as expected.
Access to a cabin that gains plenty of light from the large windows is via four doors that open in the conventional way. In fact, the doors were the only bits of the old Touran’s body that weren’t redesigned for this car. The cabin will operate in five seat mode most of the time. The second row of seats slide to increase legroom and can be folded down or removed completely. They don’t drop into the floor. With five occupants, there’s a 695-litre boot and this luggage space can be incrementally increased up to 1,989 litres by folding down and removing the middle seats.
The dashboard design and switchgear is all familiar Volkswagen, but it continues to impress with its simplicity and quality. Depending on the trim level, there’s also the usual MPV array of convenience features from folding tables on the seat backs to under-floor storage bins and holders for more cups than could possibly be necessary.
The trim levels run from S through SE to Sport. Even the basic cars come with air-conditioning, a CD stereo, electric windows and daytime running lights. There are also some advanced technology features on the options list including a panoramic sunroof, satnav with touchscreen operation, and a rear-view camera. Volkswagen is particularly proud of its automatic lighting systems including Light Assist which automatically selects a full or dipped beam according to the car’s speed and whether there’s traffic approaching.
The Touran won’t be short of competition in its bid to exert a stranglehold on the UK’s compact MPV market. The alternatives include Ford’s C-MAX, Citroen’s C4 Picasso, Vauxhall’s Zafira and the Renault Scenic. Volkswagen products have traditionally been priced slightly higher than mainstream rivals, but the gap has been shrinking of late so it pays to do your sums.
The heavy use of turbocharging in the Touran engine range is born more out of the need for economy than performance and, sure enough, the car delivers very reasonable fuel consumption and emissions. The star performers are the 1.2 TSI petrol engine and the 103bhp 1.6-litre diesel as these units are offered in BlueMotion Technology guise with assistance from Volkswagen’s brake energy regeneration and stop-start technology. The result is 61.4mpg combined economy from the diesel model with emissions of 121g/km.
The German marque’s classy design and obsessive attention to detail are in evidence, while the all-turbocharged engine range produces the kind of performance/economy mix that’s sensible in a family vehicle. VW seems to churn out cars of the Touran’s calibre with an ease that must be depressing for rivals. Contrary to appearances, playing it safe in this kind of style is anything but easy.
CAR Volkswagen Touran range
CO2 EMISSIONS 121-159g/km
PERFORMANCE Max speed 108-132mph; 0-62mph 8.9-14.7secs
FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined) 41.5-61.4mpg