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
Volkswagen's improved third generation 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.
Volkswagen really should be good at MPVs. It has, after all, been making the things for well over sixty years. Today's volume Volkswagen people carrier is this one, the much-improved Touran.
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 greater quality have the five-seat Golf SV. If you need something really big, there's 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. Launched in 2003 and updated in 2007 and 2010, it was re-fettled in terms of both engine and elegance in mid-2015 - and that's the version we're looking at here.
As the demand for MPVs has grown, so has the demand that they drive more like 'normal' cars. The Touran has always been relatively good dynamically but more will be expected of this model, which is longer, wider, lighter than its predecessors and comes equipped with a range of petrol and diesel engines that are more powerful.
Buyers get a choice of five Euro6 engine variants - two petrol and three diesel. All are four-cylinder direct injection units with turbocharging. The 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol TSI powerplants develop 110PS and 150PS respectively. The diesel engine range starts with a 1.6-litre 115PS unit, plus there's a 2.0-litre powerplant with 150PS and 190PS options. The fastest diesel comes only with a DSG auto gearbox and this auto transmission is optional with other engines beyond the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol unit.
Volkswagen hopes these refined units will make this Touran one of the most agile MPVs on the market. In the driver's seat, the steering column has been pitched at a slightly flatter angle to the dash and the steering wheel is more upright for a sportier feel. The dash panel has also been redesigned with a more driver-oriented layout.
Design and Build
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.
Market and Model
Price-wise, the Touran sits in the usual £22,000 to £30,000 bracket common to compact seven-seat MPVs of this kind. There are four main trim levels - 'S', '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.
Cost of Ownership
Volkswagen reckons that the improved engine range is up to 19% more economical than before. The most fuel-efficient diesel, the 115PS 1.6 TDI with 7-speed DSG auto transmission, returns 64.2mpg on the combined cycle and 116g/km of CO2. The most economical petrol-driven model is the 1.4 TSI, which delivers 150PS while achieving a combined cycle consumption figure of 52.3mpg when combined with the optional seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.
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.
The 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 third generation 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 option but it's a stylishly safe one - and there's a lot to be said for that.
The Touran packs all of Volkswagen's values into a mini-MPV for the customer who appreciates quality. June Neary reports
Will It Suit Me?
There seems nothing to stop the inexorable rise in popularity of the mini-MPV. These rather ungainly little cars appear to have knocked sales of small estates on the head and are now going about putting a big dent in the popularity of conventional family hatchbacks. It's easy to see why when confronted with a car as practical as Volkswagen's third generation Touran. It betters something like a Golf in a number of key criteria and doesn't actually cost that much more. Even if you haven't got a huge family to cart around with you, the sheer space and versatility of the Touran make it a very handy companion.
The Touran campaigns in the upper sector of the mini-MPV market, unsurprising given its evidently superior fit and finish. Rivals include cars like Renault's Grand Scenic and Citroen's Grand C4 Picasso. Available only in seven seat guise, the Touran's seating system is certainly flexible. The rearmost pair of seats, whilst only really suitable for kiddies, can fold flat into the floor which means that for most of the time you'll have an easily accessible and spacious luggage bay. You can even fold the middle seat of the middle row, making a four seater that can transport long items like skis with supreme ease. All three of the middle seats slide backwards and forwards on separate runners.
Out back, there's inevitably not much luggage space with all seven seats in place - just 137-litres, enough for a couple of carefully positioned small overnight bags. Still, that's the case with any car in this class. Much of the time of course, you're not going to need the two third row chairs. Fold these and you'll raise your boot space up to 917-litres. Or 743-litres up the windowline, which, impressively, is more than you get in a much longer Ford S-MAX. Need more room? Well if the item in question is merely long and thin, like a set of skis, it may suffice merely to flatten the middle second row backrest. If though, you really need to super-size your space, then folding all three rear chairs creates a completely flat cargo area, 1,857-litres in size. That's enough for me.
There are plenty of clever touches too. Most owners will want what Volkswagen calls its 'Family Pack' items - namely side window blinds, electrically-activated rear door child locks and a neat Electronic voice amplification system so that front seat folk can more easily talk to passengers behind. I particularly liked the optional Car-Net 'Cam-Connect' app that can connect into a GoPro camera and transmit images from the back of the vehicle onto the centre dash infotainment screen, so that I could keep an eye on what was happening in the rear two rows without needing to turn round.
Behind the Wheel
Where previous Tourans felt like more spacious versions of the Golf hatch they were based upon, this MK3 version feels closer to being a slightly smaller version of Volkswagen's bigger Sharan MPV. That's thanks not only to its extra interior space but also to the more sophisticated ride enabled by the compliant four-link suspension that Volkswagen has designed to sit upon this third generation model's lighter, more sophisticated MQB platform.
Beneath the bonnet, buyers get a choice of two petrol TSI engines, 1.2 and 1.4-litres in size, plus at the top of the line-up, a couple of 2.0-litre TDI diesels developing either 150 or 190PS. Most Touran buyers though, will continue to choose the mid-range 110PS 1.6-litre TDI diesel unit I tried, primarily for its frugality. Mate this to the optional DSG automatic gearbox and you can return up to 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and 111g/km of CO2, the kinds of figures you could expect from a 1.2-litre Fat 500 citycar.
Value For Money
If you want the Volkswagen badge and the feel-good factor of all that heavyweight quality you'll need to pay for it. The Touran weighs in towards the upper reaches of the mini-MPV scale with even the entry-level version costing nearly £22,000. Get a little more ambitious with engine and trim choices and you can easily spend as much as you would on a bigger Volkswagen Sharan.
It's decently equipped though. Even entry-level 'S' trim gets you the 'Composition Media' system with its 6.5-inch touchscreen. Via this, you'll access an eight-speaker DAB stereo system with Bluetooth 'phone connectivity, an SD card reader and a USB connection. You get an old fashioned CD player too, which isn't always included as standard on cars these days. Volkswagen also throws in roof rails and an XDS electronic differential lock for improved traction and handling. We'd have liked to see a spare wheel of some kind too but unfortunately, as is depressingly common these days, you're stuck, as standard, with one of those fiddly tyre repair kits. Otherwise, included equipment really just covers the basics you'd expect for this kind of money - things like air conditioning, driver's seat height adjustment, all round electric windows and mirrors and a multi-function trip computer.
Could I Live With One?
The Volkswagen Touran is one of the easiest cars to live with imaginable. If anything, it's almost too blandly competent for my personal tastes. I prefer something a little edgier and despite its multitude of good ideas and obvious depth of engineering, the Touran comes off as a little unadventurous compared to cars like the Ford C-MAX, the Renault Grand Scenic and the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. It's got that Volkswagen quality feel and aura of dependability though, that will tempt many sensibly-minded families. If that appeals, you'll find plenty else to like here.