Stress free family travel from versatile Volkswagen

Steve Sharpe drives VW's Touran MPV

Volkswagen’s all-new version of its Touran compact MPV was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March last year, 12 years after the first Touran went on sale, with the first customers taking possession of their vehicles at the end of last year.

More than 1.9 million models have been sold worldwide, with around 99,000 of those sold in the UK, and VW are confident that this new and improved version will add to that total.

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It’s not just a cosmetic facelift either – this model is all-new and based on the MQB platform of the Golf, which means this Touran is bigger but lighter than the previous version.

These increased dimensions in wheelbase, length, width and height translate into a bigger cabin with more legspace yet the Touran’s kerbweight has been reduced by 62 kg.

Some cars are bought with the heart and some decisions dictated by the head. There’s can be little doubt which camp the Touran parks in.

It’s a hugely practical family motor, with room to spare and lots more beside. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dull.

Firstly its family credentials.

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For a start the needs of larger families are immediately catered for by way of the two extra seats as standard.

The facelift has made accessing the rear two seats easier and in fact they’re suitable for not just kids but also adults, as long as they’re not in there for too long.

A new easy-to-use seating system allows these two rearmost seats to be folded flat into the floor to maximise bootspace while the middle row of seats also folds flat when not needed.

It means there’s enough space for a few bags of shopping with the rear seats in place, a load of luggage space available when they’re folded flat and acres when the middle seats are folded.

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There are also, according to VW, 47 storage compartments throughout the cabin for bits and pieces, too.

The cabin has been completely redesigned and, like the rest of the Touran, the emphasis is on functional rather than flair.

While many family motors have dabbled with a dash of funky flash the Touran is simple and straightforward.

All the knobs and switches are where you’d expect them to be, while the central media screen is typically VW in its clarity and ease of use.

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As important is the fact that it’s a hardwearing environment, well put together and with durable materials – vital if multiple kids and pets are going to be scrambling in and out on a daily basis.

The plastics are soft-touch and look good, too, with glossy black finishes adding a touch of class.

What the Touran’s cabin may lack in visual flair it makes up for in practicality, simplicity and durability.

One thing that is a great idea is the positioning of the CD player.

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More and more new cars are ditching the CD player completely in favour of streaming devices, iPods and the like, but VW have tucked theirs just above the glovebox, behind a push-button flap.

For those dinosaurs like me, who like the option of a CD player, it provides a perfect place to hide it away but make it accessible to the driver.

The Touran comes with a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines – all are Euro6 compliant and up to 19 per cent more efficient than the engines they replace

Petrol options are a 1.2-litre 110 PS TSI with a six-speed manual gearbox and a 1.4-litre 150 PS which is offered with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG gearbox

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Diesels are a 1.6-litre 110 PS with six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG, a 2.0-litre TDI 150 PS with six-speed manual or DSG, and the range-topping 2.0-litre TDI with 190 PS and standard six-speed DSG ’box.

The 1.2 petrol unit I drove didn’t look too appetising on paper, having to haul around what is a pretty large car, but it does the job well.

Taking more than 11 seconds to reach 60mph doesn’t make the Touran exactly speedy but it’s nippy enough, and is seldom caught floundering at lower speeds.

It responds well in low revs, accelerating steadily to motorway speeds, but you’ll have to work the engine to get the swiftest response and on inclines you’ll find yourself having to drop down a gear or two.

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The six-speed manual gearbox in the 1.2 version is slick and well matched with the engine, slipping in and out of gear easily and efficiently.

It’s a smooth and comfortable environment to travel in. The 1.2 petrol engine is extremely quiet, only rising in volume when you have to work the engine, and it’s smooth over bumps and potholes, while road noise and wind noise is well controlled.

The Touran delivers a well-rounded drive – the steering is well weighted, there’s not much lean when cornering and there’s reassuring amounts of grip on bends.

There’s a lot of glass so visibility’s good all around and various driver aids help in town driving, including optional rear cameras and sensors.

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As an all-round family car it’s at home in town, as a cruiser or out in the country.

If you’re in the market for a spacious seven-seater family car, with VW’s reputation for reliability, then the Touran’s a sensible choice.

There are many MPVs out there and it’s down to the little things that can swing a decision, be it brand loyalty, looks or the important factor of price

The Touran is, as Volkswagens tend to be, at the upper end of the price range, and even more for the top-spec versions.

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But choose your model carefully and there’s a pleasing amount of kit available.

The entry-level S model includes automatic post-collision braking and pre-crash systems, seven airbags, Composition Media system with DAB and Bluetooth, air conditioning and roof rails and seven seats.

Moving up to SE adds 16-inch alloys, Front Assist with city emergency braking function, front and rear parking sensors, iPod connectivity and rain sensor.

The new SE Family trim includes elements such as an extra-large panoramic sunroof with integrated lighting, three-zone Climatronic air conditioning, Discover Navigation with Car Net Guide and Inform and a cargo management system

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At the top of the range, SEL adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Driver Profile Select and App Connect among other items

There’s a load of optional extras as well, including Trailer Assist, Park Assist, Side Assist with Rear Traffic Alert, Keyless Entry and Easy Open.

The range starts at just over £22,000 for the entry-level 1.2 petrol version, rising to more than £30,000 for the top spec turbo diesel.

The Touran’s a roomy, practical, well-built family car, that handles well and is pretty economical to run at more than 50mpg.

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It’s also been hailed as the best compact MPV in the NCAP Euro crash testing programme.

The MPV passed the demanding series of Euro NCAP crash tests and gained the highest rating of five stars, thus making it one of the most crash-resistant vehicles tested last year.

What the versatile Touran misses out on in excitement it makes up for in being what a family car should be – roomy, easy to drive, reliable and extremely comfortable.

It won’t be turning many heads but it’s a family MPV that does exactly what the family would want it to.

FACT file

Volkswagen Touran

Engine: 1.2-litre turbo petrol

Transmission: Six-speed manual

0-60mph: 11.7 seconds

Top speed: 117mph

Economy: 52.3mpg avg

Price: £23,630 OTR