Volkswagen's Touran 7-seater compact MPV has sharpened up its act. Jonathan Crouch checks out the 2.0 TDI 150PS diesel version.
Volkswagen's much improved MK3 model Touran is designed to compete with the best that the compact 7-seater MPV class can offer. Underpinnings from a Golf hatch bring with them highly efficient engines that complement neat design and general quality that can't be bettered in the Scenic and C-MAX sector. Here we look at the popular 2.0 TDI 150 diesel version.
The Touran is the vehicle to which your Volkswagen dealer is most likely to direct you if you've a growing family and need an MPV to suit - though these days, the German brand does offer quite a choice of 7-seater options. Buyers needing something more utilitarian have the Caddy Life MPV, while those in search of more space have the Sharan, a step down from the enormous Caravelle which really is designed for people who've qualified for their own private parking bay at the maternity ward.
For most of us most of the time though, this Touran should be about right, positioned directly against rivals like Vauxhall's Zafira Tourer and Renault's Grand Scenic at the larger end of the compact-MPV sector. His much improved third generation version is smarter, cleverer and more efficient than before and it's the version we're looking at here in 2.0 TDI 150PS guise.
Though not quite SUV-like, the driving position is slightly higher than you'd find in an ordinary hatchback, offering a better view both of the road ahead and around the glassy cabin - which certainly makes parking easier. Otherwise, the driving experience is much as this car has always served up, solid, reassuring, if not especially rewarding.
As are the engines on offer, a selection of the very best of the current VAG Group crop. Most Touran buyers will be wanting a diesel - and will probably look first at the 110PS 1.6-litre TDI unit. We opted though, for the pokier 2.0-litre TDI diesel option in 150PS guise for this test, though there's also a 190PS variant with the clever 7-speed DSG semi-automatic gearbox that's optional on other models for urban-bound motorists wanting an alternative to the slick-shifting 6-speed manual 'box. The 2.0 TDI 150PS variant makes 62mph from rest in 9.3s en route to 129mph.
This car isn't really aimed at driving enthusiasts, but for the few buyers that are, there's the option of ACC adaptive chassis control, one of those systems that individually adjust the dampers at each wheel to give better body control, improve ride comfort or try and achieve a workable combination between the two should the driver over-ride the normal setting and select either 'Sport' or 'Comfort' modes.
From the outside, this model is still unmistakeably a Touran but, due to its longer wheelbase, it now looks sleeker and sharper. This Touran is 130mm longer than the model it replaces. Much of this is in the wheelbase, which, at 2,791mm, is 113mm longer than the previous model - further increasing usable interior space. At the front, the slim lower breather opening accentuates this MPV's width and low centre of gravity. Below the side windows is a contoured shoulder line starting above the front wheel arch which also emphasises its length. Long side windows add to what Volkswagen hopes is a light, sporty appearance.
This MK3 model Touran is the first MPV the brand has based upon its Modular Transverse Matrix chassis, which allows a larger wheelbase and extra room inside. You notice this in the 743-litre luggage bay - which can be increased to 1,980-litres with the seats folded: it's the biggest in its class, making this an ideal family MPV. All models are equipped with a seven-seat layout that features a new fold-flat system. The seats in the second and third rows, plus the front passenger seat backrest (from SE trim up) can be folded in a matter of seconds, creating a level continuous floor for easy loading. With the second and third row seats folded, the Touran has a cargo capacity of 1,857-litres and has the largest luggage compartment in its class. 47 storage compartments also ensure that life's essentials gadgets can be carried safety and securely.
Touran prices start from around £19,000, but for this 2.0 TDI 150PS diesel version, you'll need a budget in the £27,000 to £30,000 bracket, so this isn't an inexpensive option in this segment. There are three main trim levels with this engine - 'SE', 'SE Family' and 'SEL' - and all models feature air conditioning, fold-flat seating, a touchscreen radio system, an easy-open and roll-up luggage compartment cover and an electric parking brake. Safety stuff runs to ISOFIX child seat fixtures on all rear seats, seatbelt detection in the second and third rows as well as the front, plus Automatic Post-Collision Braking and up to nine airbags.
Ingenious touches include a large removable container in the 'Jumbo Box' under the front centre armrest and a luggage compartment light which can easily be snapped out for use as a torch. Further up the range, buyers will enjoy niceties like larger 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome-framed windows, ambient lighting and a three-zone automatic air-conditioning system. For those after something sportier looking still, there are R Line exterior and interior packages available, plus optional LED headlights.
Volkswagen reckons that the improved engine range is up to 19% more economical than before. The most fuel-efficient diesel, the 110PS 1.6 TDI with 7-speed DSG auto transmission, returns 68.9mpg on the combined cycle and 111g/km of CO2. Compared to that, the 2.0 TDI 150PS mdel isn't as frugal of course, but most potential buyers will probably be happy with the figures it does offer - 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and 117g/km of CO2. If you choose the DSG automatic version, the figures are 58.9mpg and 126g/km.
All models feature Stop/Start and battery regeneration systems as standard. And, despite being longer, this MK3 model Touran is 62kg lighter, which also aids fuel economy, as does the new model's improved aerodynamics.
With well over a million examples sold worldwide, this Touran has already established a strong following amongst growing families. All it really needed was a little more of a spark, both in way it looked and performed. This improved version is about as far as Volkswagen is prepared to go in that direction, with sharper looks, even higher quality and a range of more efficient engines.
Will it be enough? Maybe not to shift this car's appeal too far from those who would have bought one anyway but it remains the quality choice at the upper end of the compact 7-seater MPV sector - and a surprisingly affordable one. It's not an avant garde choice but it's a stylishly safe one - and there's a lot to be said for that.
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