The Volkswagen Sharan is a Multi-Person Vehicle, or MPV, which can carry up to seven people.

The 2010 car has been rebuilt from the ground up to create a more modern-looking, bigger car more easily accessed through sliding rear side doors.

Web Editor Adrian Higgins tested the all-new Volkswagen Sharan at its international launch in Munich, Germany.

Despite having grown in size, the all-new VW Sharan sees the classic 15-year-old MPV grow older gracefully with a sleeker look, to rival the new Seat Alhambra and Ford Galaxy.

Integral to this is the switch from hinged to sliding doors, which make sense for families trying to herd younger members into the car in tight spaces.

The useful, manually-operated sliding doors are a standard feature on the new Sharan but can also be specified as an electrically-powered option.
Step inside and the car features the robust, quality interior expected of Volkswagen but with more space than the outgoing model.

The tough plastics give the impression the Sharan will stand up well to the attentions of inquisitive little fingers while looking smart to boot.

Simpler seating

In some seven-seaters the limit of the third row of seats’ capability is to transport little ones over short distances.

But, thanks in part to the additional 220mm length of the new Sharan, VW claims its rearmost two seats are fit for adult use, and having had the opportunity to put that to the test it’s hard to disagree.

Another useful development for those intending to exploit the car for load-lugging is that both the rear row and the middle row of three seats can now be folded flat to the floor. And while it is primarily aimed at families there is a six-seater option offering greater space in the middle row for business users.

Volkswagen Sharan gallery:

Simple parking

The increase in size means parking could be more of a challenge, but not for those specifying the newly-introduced Park Assist programme.

This guides the vehicle into both parking spaces that are at right angles to the direction of other cars, as well as parallel spaces, while offering great visibility thanks to the camera display.

The all-new VW Sharan will be available in a choice of four TSI petrol and TDI diesel engines, all previously tried and tested in the Volkswagen Golf range. These are:

•    1.4-litre TSI 150bhp
o    38.1mpg
o    172g/km CO2
•    2.0-litre TSI 200bhp
o    32.8mpg
o    201g/km CO2
•    2.0-litre TDI 140bhp
o    52.3mpg
o    143g/km CO2
•    2.0-litre TDI 170bhp
o    49.5mpg
o    152g/km CO2

Buyers are able to choose between a six-speed manual (not available on the 2.0-litre TDI 170bhp) or automatic DSG gearboxes, while the diesels and 1.4-litre petrol version both feature stop and start technology which cuts the engine power at rest to conserve fuel.

Neither gearbox choice is a bad one but given the likely role of the Sharan as a sensible family-shifter, the excellent DSG automatic gearbox would be our preferred option.

We had the opportunity to drive both diesels and the smaller of the two petrol engines.

Petrol Vs diesel

While we are becoming accustomed to the huge leaps in engine development which have enabled small engines to do a big job, it was still impressive to find the 1.4 more than capable of coping with high speed motorway cruising.

The 30kg reduction in the Sharan’s weight compared to the old car probably helped. However, it is worth pointing out that while testing this version I was the sole occupant.

Potential buyers should strongly consider testing the car in their own real world conditions complete with the appropriate number of passengers.

Needless to say the two diesels have a lot more pulling power on tap, but we’d advise driving the petrol as well to determine whether you really need what is likely to be the more expensive car.

Adaptive Chassis Control is an option which enables the driver to select from three settings – normal, comfort and sport. Many Sharan buyers simply won’t need the admittedly more engaging sport setting which increases the impact of driver inputs (acceleration and braking) at the touch of a button. But the comfort setting does give an even smoother ride for passengers.

The Sharan will be available in three trim levels which are, in ascending order, S, SE and SEL.

Sunroof makes sense

The SE is expected to be the big-seller and for this mid-range option buyers will get alloy wheels, multi-functional steering wheel and chrome trim.

Standard safety equipment includes Anti-Lock Brakes, Electronic Stability Programme and seven airbags.

The top-of-the-range SEL includes panoramic sunroof. The fact it brightens the interior considerably as well as having the potential to alleviate the “are we there yet?” factor make it well worth considering.

The first Volkswagen  Sharans are due to go on sale in the UK in November with more engine configurations becoming available in 2011. Until then, there are more than 300 used Volkswagen Sharans for sale on Auto Trader, priced from £700.

Key facts:

Model tested: VW Sharan
On the road price: £TBC
Price range: £21,500 – £31,500 TBC
Date tested: July 2010
Road tester: Adrian Higgins