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TOUR LEADER

The Touran compact MPV has the usual Volkswagen attributes - but will that be enough for class leadership? Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the latest version.

Ten Second Review

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 current Touran is equipped to compete with the top models in the compact MPV class.

Background

The Touran is part of the all-conquering Volkswagen Golf family of vehicles which clusters around the middle of Volkswagen's sprawling product range. It's a compact MPV so it 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 (so you don't have to pay extra to upgrade from 5 to 7-seat models) with the two rearmost seats folding up out of the boot floor.

Driving Experience

The available engine options in the Touran follow a trend that can be witnessed throughout the Volkswagen product range and the wider car market, the one for using turbocharging as a substitute for cubic capacity. Every engine has a turbo helping it along and only the range-topping diesel is large 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 certain to be popular and open with a 1.6 TDI that's available 103bhp form. Topping the line-up is Volkswagen's 2.0 TDI diesel that's offered with 138 or 177bhp.

Design and Build

Stylistic surprises are rarely forthcoming when Volkswagen unveils an MPV. Unless, of course, you weren't expecting a classy but conservative evolution of the marque's existing design themes. 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 more chance of a view out. Attempts to inject some drama into the Touran's looks with a belt line that curls sheepishly upwards 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 - no sliding or reverse hinge arrangements. In fact, the doors were the only part of the old Touran's body that wasn't redesigned for this car. The cabin will operate in five seat mode most of the time but there are two more chairs in the rear that fold up out of the floor. 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. In total, Volkswagen claims 39 different storage options around the Touran's interior and we'll take its word for it.

Market and Model

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, satellite navigation 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. Customers choosing the xenon headlights get Dynamic Light Assist which combines this function with integrated cornering lights.

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.

Cost of Ownership

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.

Summary

There haven't been too many clangers dropped at Volkswagen in recent years, not on the product development side anyway. The latest Touran was never going to change that and this compact MPV plays it predictably safe in the design and engineering departments to good effect.

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. The all-important cabin area is large and light with a good level of adaptability and plenty of boot capacity. 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.


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