What is it?
An all-new version of Volkswagen’s ultra-grown-up, medium-sized MPV, the Touran. The last Touran carved out a niche as the MPV for the sensible family man, and this new one develops the same theme. So it isn’t ‘quirky’, ‘funky’ or ‘sporty’; it’s just an MPV. But, as it happens, a particularly smart, solid and upmarket one.
The headline changes to the car for this third full model generation can be summarised pretty simply: it’s slightly bigger, lighter and pricier.
The adoption of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform makes the first two possible, adding the flexibility needed to stretch the wheelbase, shorten the front overhang and still take 62kg out of the car's kerb weight – despite simultaneously adding a not-inconsiderable 130mm to the overall length.
The subtle price repositioning is nothing unusual at the introduction of a new-generation car and justified by a more generous standard equipment level. Entry-level cars get a crash mitigation system, touchscreen multimedia system, DAB, Bluetooth media streaming, air conditioning, roof rails and seven seats all as standard.
The engine range for the UK market will consist of two turbocharged petrols and three turbodiesels. The former is made up of VW’s 1.2 and 1.4 TSI engines producing 108 and 148bhp respectively, the 1.4 being available with a manual or a DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The latter are the familiar 1.6 and 2.0 TDIs, with peak power outputs ranging from 108 to 187bhp. Both of the lesser-powered diesels are offered in manual or DSG forms, while the 187bhp oil-burner is DSG-only.
What's it like?
The mid-spec 1.6-litre TDI SE should be the most popular version of the Touran in the UK. It’s a pragmatic, practical and classy car that’s comfy, quite refined and very easy to drive – albeit no doubt a bit bland for some tastes.
The interior is the VW’s strongest selling point. Even on a mid-range SE-spec car, the fascia looks and feels tactile and plush. On perceived quality, it's a cut above that which you’ll find in a Citroën Grand Picasso or a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer and on a level footing with a BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer.
Soft-touch plastics cover the whole of the dashboard and the tops of the doors and feel as expensive to the touch as VW’s smooth leather facings for the primary controls. It's perhaps more important that every fitting is substantial, robust and ready for the rigours of everyday family life.
Occupant space is good by the strictest like-for-like standards, although there are still more accommodating seven-seaters. The Touran and its ilk are narrower and shorter than full-sized rivals such as the Seat Alhambra, So in the second row the Touran offers good leg and headroom but its seats are a touch small for grown adults. The car’s third-row seats are usable and easier to access thanks to some bigger back door apertures – but you still wouldn’t call them adult-sized. But all five back seats have ISOFIX childseat anchorages, and while the middle three slide and fold independently, the rearmost two collapse into the boot floor easily enough. The Touran’s boot in five-seat mode, meanwhile, measures a class-leading 743 litres up to the window line, and that's big enough to beat a new Ford S-Max.
To drive, the Touran is comfy, slick and consistent. It's also somewhat middle of the road and a bit forgettable, but that’s mostly the price of its supreme ease-of-use nature. The car rides with supple calm, steers with a directness and weight perfectly matched to its moderate grip and body control and isolates both wind and road noise well.
VW’s 1.6-litre diesel powertrain continues to feel humdrum and undernourished; it’s less refined than the 2.0 TDI and falls short of the standards of the best low-emission diesels on responsiveness and flexibility. But its outright performance levels are more than acceptable and its real-world economy easily surpassed 50mpg on our mostly urban test route.
Should I buy one?
We can see why you would. The Touran is probably all the family MPV you really need, executed with such clear-eyed focus as to make arguments seem churlish. It’s smart, assured, relaxing, robust, full of practical features and has been turned with the kind of distinguishing attention to detail you expect of a VW.
It’s lighter, more CO2-efficient and more economical than much of its opposition, too, and has many of the premium-brand lures that BMW’s new 2 Series Gran Tourer offers but for a lower list price.
The only question is whether you’re comfortable enough about your own need for an MPV to actually become a Touran owner, because Volkswagen evidently doesn’t see the need to add much in the way of spice to an otherwise very complete recipe.
Price £24,000 (est); Engine 4cyls, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power 108bhp at 3200-4000rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1539kg; 0-62mph 11.9sec; Top speed 116mph; Economy 64.2mpg (combined); CO2 116g/km