Volkswagen is playing it unsurprisingly safe with the second generation Touran. It looks smartly inoffensive, provides few thrills, but equally few worries and is massive and massively practical. While it's not going to leave a trail of excitement in its wake families will appreciate it.
In the Metal:
Well, this is hardly a surprise now is it? We've seen and driven the five-seat Volkswagen Golf SV MPV already and if you take that, stretch it a little (add 130mm to the overall length and 110mm to the wheelbase) and, boom, you've got a Touran. It's actually quite a smart looking car, in MPV terms - for a box on wheels it has nicely sharp lines and the front actually looks pleasantly chiselled. It's not what you'd call memorable, but it's fine and certainly isn't going to offend anyone.
The Touran's whole raison d'être is of course its interior and while it's, again, not exactly dripping with style or little fillips of delight and surprise, it's as good and useful a car cabin as you will find. Buttons, steering wheel, screens and dials are all lifted directly from the Volkswagen Golf and that means that they're smart, functional and classy. The whole cabin drips with quality, perhaps not surprising given we were driving a top-spec Highline model with almost every option added. Lesser Tourans will look and feel a bit more utilitarian, if still smart enough overall.
Still though - functionality is everything and this is where the Touran scores. The boot, is utterly cavernous - it holds 743 litres with the rear seats folded and just a few litres shy of 2,000 litres with all the back seats down. Those seats drop and lift with a simple, easy one-handed action and the passenger seat folds flat too if you need to carry long loads. Or if you just like driving alone.
Rear legroom and headroom in the middle row are exceptionally good, as is visibility out (always a critical factor with young 'uns on board) and there are three individual seats across the middle row, all with Isofix anchors. The folding seats in the boot also both get Isofix, so growing families are well catered for here.
You'd be hard pressed to describe the Touran as memorable or dynamic in any sense, but equally it doesn't put a foot wrong. The 2.0-litre 150hp diesel engine of our test car will not be the most popular engine in the Touran range with Irish customers (that'll be the 120hp 1.6), but those regularly using all seven seats, or the Touran's massive load capacity, will appreciate its extra torque and certainly its refinement. Yes, the 1.6 is actually a touch sweeter on the ear, but as diesels go, this 2.0 is very hushed and it should at least get close to hitting its official fuel consumption marks.
For the keen driver, there's nothing much to do here. The Touran steers with pleasant, well-weighted ease and rides with decent, well-damped comfort, but really it's all about maximising comfort and minimising tiredness on a long journey. The Touran does what it's supposed to do and does so very nicely.
What you get for your Money:
At €29k, the cheapest Touran looks a little expensive, but then it does come as standard in Ireland with seven seats. Most of its major competitors kick off at a lower price level, but do so with just five seats. The basic Trendline gets a few goodies including air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connection and an emergency city braking system.
Upgrade to Comfortline and you'll get cruise control with fatigue detection, parking sensors and a leather steering wheel. Volkswagen Ireland reckons that the €31,500 1.6 TDI Trendline will be the best seller, but it's just possible that more buyers could yet choose a Comfortline.
There is a bewildering array of high-tech options too, for those families that like their gadgets. The electric tailgate can be opened by waggling your foot under the back bumper (although as with all such systems looking like an utter pratt also comes as standard), while there are all manner of automatic parking assistants, rear view cameras, Trailer Assist (which handles the confusing wrong-way-right-way steering movements of backing up with a caravan or trailer) and an infotainment package that allows rear seat passengers to take control of the stereo and satnav via a tablet or phone. Don't let your kids get hold of that one.
So the Volkswagen Touran's an excitement-free zone then? Yes, but that's the playground it's aimed at. This is not a car to thrill or excite, so it doesn't bother. Instead it gets on with being practical, useful (48 cubby spaces or storage compartments!), pleasant and easy to drive and (most likely) painless to own. Which is exactly what most families are looking for.