Smart move for stylish VW Touran

Volkswagen has made its new Touran more stylish without sacrifing its endearing qualities, says Andy Russell.

Decisions, decisions, decisions… when it comes to seven-seat people-carriers the choice has become mind-boggling.

Large, small, long, tall, it's now more complicated with a new breed of crossovers with sport utility vehicle styling, hatchback practicality and a couple of extra seats in the boot competing alongside traditional multi-purpose vehicles.

There's so much out there that some models drop off your radar and it's not until you drive them again you realise what you're missing for compact people-carriers are more about personality and practicality than out-and-out looks.

Take Volkswagen's Touran – not the most stylish offering alongside more fashionable, trendy rivals, but one of the best to drive and own and, being a VW, built to last.

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VW rises to the new challenge with the launch of the second-generation Touran. It's stylishly robust-looking, featuring the latest family DNA seen on the latest Polo and bigger Sharan people-carrier, the latter being launched alongside it, making it look lower and wider. Such has been the transformation that every body part has been restyled except the four doors.

A friend once told me a VW interior was a thing of beauty – he was an engineer and appreciated the way everything worked. From a design point of view it cannot be faulted with its user-friendly controls and instruments – everything in its place and a place for everything, all the adjustment you need to get comfortable behind the steering wheel and lots of cabin storage space, but it's more functional than fancy with lots of dark trim albeit good quality and well built.

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The Touran can carry seven adults on short journeys – those in the rearmost seats may complain about legroom due to the lack of a footwell – but there will be no complaints from those in the middle row with three individual, shapely, sliding seats that you can really stretch out in when they're fully back.

With all seven seats in use, boot space is limited to 121 litres – enough for a couple of soft holdalls or a small supermarket shop - but fold the rearmost seats into the floor and you open up a vast 695-litre load space that's deep, square and goes back a long way. Unfortunately the middle-row seats fold and tumble upright, rather than fold into the floor, to increase load space further but if you want to get the maximum 1,913 litres they have to be removed altogether and, each weighing around 17kg, are heavy and cumbersome.

With six engines to choose from there's something to meet all needs with two petrol units – new 105PS 1.2 turbo and 140PS 1.4 with supercharger and turbo – and 90 and 105PS 1.6 and 140 and 170PS 2.0 turbo diesels.

The diesels make more sense, especially the 105PS 1.6 which hauls the Touran around willingly and easily. It's quiet and smooth pulling from low revs but you have to stir it into life with the slick six-speed manual gearbox for hard acceleration and overtaking when it becomes boomy, but full credit to it still returning 50-60mpg.

The more powerful 1.6 TDI, along with the 1.2 TSI and 140PS 2.0 TDI, is available with BlueMotion Technology which in S trim adds low rolling resistance tyres, a multi-function computer with gear-change indicator, automatic stop-start to save wasting fuel when stationary and battery-regeneration to reduce the load on the engine by using energy normally lost during braking and slowing down. It cuts emissions and gives an extra 6mpg overall but unfortunately in the case of the 1.6 TDI S it adds �1,070 to the price which buys a lot of diesel.

The tried-and-tested suspension set-up, also used on the Golf, has been enhanced for the new Touran which makes it good to drive.

The ride is firm but supple enough to soak up bumps and lumps in its stride and the trade-off is good body control for something van-shaped so the Touran flows through bends with good poise and balance and a well-weighted feel from the steering.

Available in three trim levels – S, SE and Sport – the entry-level model includes ABS, traction and stability control, front and side airbags for driver and passenger and curtain airbags but not for the rearmost seats, climate control, remote locking, four electric windows and heated door mirrors, hill-hold function, cruise control and roof rails.

The Touran has always been a good-quality family workhorse and, being a VW, holds its value as a used buy. The new model builds on that but is much more of a style statement… on the outside.


Price: �20,000 (range �18,170 to �26,295)

Engine: 1,598cc, 105PS, four-cylinder, turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 12.8 seconds; top speed 116mph

MPG: Urban 51.4; extra urban 68.9; combined 61.4

CO2 emissions: 121g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax: 18pc

Insurance group: 14E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,397mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,081mm; height (with roof bars) 1,674mm

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