It might not look radically different, but the Volkswagen Touran is all-new from the ground-up and it has been sharpened up extensively both inside and out. Along with the all-important practicalities, it comes with a more refined driving experience than before.
In the metal
It might not be the most radical of exterior designs, but that's because the Volkswagen Touran places a greater importance on its practicality and interior space. It does bear a lot of similarities to the smaller Volkswagen Golf SV, but whereas that is a five-seater, the new Touran will only be sold in Ireland in seven-seat guise.
As with the rest of the current Volkswagen range defined creases and sharp lines are the order of the day, and even in the more muted 'Comfortline' trim it has a modern image. The 16-inch alloy wheels that feature as standard in this trim look good and add some additional comfort to the ride over the larger wheels of the 'Highline' model.
The Touran might not have sliding doors like some larger seven-seaters, but the rear doors do hide very generous apertures that make it easy not only for adults getting into the rear but also for parents tending to smaller passengers. This is helped by a high roofline and lower floor level. All five rear seats are independent and are each fitted with Isofix points. The middle row seats can also slide fore and aft independent of each other adding increased levels of versatility.
Should you not need the two third-row seats they can be easily dropped down, enlarging boot space from 137- to 743 litres. Drop the middle row seats, a task that is just as easy, and you'll end up with 1,980 litres of space.
Up front, the high roofline and slender A-pillars afford the driver a commanding view of the road. Rear visibility is also good, although a smaller convex rear-view mirror would be a useful addition to help keep an eye on rear passengers. It's a familiar dashboard setup too, with clear easy-to-read instruments and a 6.5-inch 'Composition Media' touchscreen infotainment system. There is also an abundance of storage bins and places to store both larger and small items.
Volkswagen Ireland offers three engines in the Touran range including a 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine and the range-topping 150hp 2.0-litre TDI unit, though it is the 110hp 1.6-litre TDI engine tested here that is likely to be the most popular choice among Irish buyers. Combined with the six-speed manual gearbox it offers a good degree of drivability both around urban environs and out of town on more open roads.
With 250Nm of torque there is a good amount of performance that won't leave you having to downshift too often, although the gear shift feels positive and accurate in its action. Those who prefer an automatic transmission can upgrade to a seven-speed DSG option.
There is nothing extraordinary about the driving experience in the Touran but that is one of its best points, it simply gets the job done and, despite its huge space inside and ability to transport seven people, drives very much like a regular car. You do sit a little higher up too, which helps with visibility. Parking is helped with sensors, though if you want a reversing camera it is a €249 optional extra.
Despite its cavernous interior space there is less road noise inside the cabin than you would expect. Also well suppressed is the diesel engine, which only really intrudes when revved much higher than in regular driving situations.
What you get for your money
The 'Comfortline' trim is the mid-point in the range and with prices for this starting at €34,520 for the 1.6-litre TDI version it is likely to fit into a lot of budgets. Standard equipment at this level includes a three-spoke leather multifunction steering wheel, piano black inserts, cruise control, park distance control and the 6.5-inch Composition infotainment system. On the outside there are 16-inch 'Trondheim' alloy wheels and tinted rear windows. The Lasano black and grey cloth interior looks good and feels hard-wearing enough to cope with busy family life.
Volkswagen is also offering a number of package options to add more equipment. These include a Drive Comfort Pack, which costs €161 and adds a full-length panoramic sunroof with tilt and slide functions and Parallel Parking Assistant that enables the car to steer itself into a parking space - this also includes Park Distance Control. Auto dimming headlights feature in this pack too.
For those who like their technology, a €1,098 Technology Pack, adds satellite navigation with the 6.5-inch TFT touch screen and two USB ports with media-in functionality. Also included in this is three-zone climate control that includes separate controls in the rear.
This new Volkswagen Touran delivers much more than you might expect at first glance. Not only does it perform well on the road, it makes excellent use of its size and space for passengers too. Add to that a solid engine offering that delivers strong fuel economy and performance figures; all of which makes this a very worthwhile consideration.