Volkswagen Touran MPV (2015 - ) review
The Touran is one of the best mid-sized MPVs, thanks to a cabin that’s roomy, versatile and high in quality. It’s also good fun to drive and, despite being expensive, makes plenty of financial sense
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Volkswagen’s designers are famed for their conservatism, and where styling is concerned, MPVs are about the most conservative cars there are. No surprise, then, that there’s nothing particularly outlandish in the way the Touran looks. That’s not to say the Touran isn’t a smart-looking thing, though, because while the proportions are fairly conventional, there are some nice details on show. The angular headlamps, equipped with LED daytime running lights, are joined up by a three-slat grille that’s an identical width. There are some sharp creases in the bonnet and down the sides, while the tailgate features a deep, angular recess for the number plate. The entry-level car has steel wheels, but from second-rung SE trim upwards, you get smart-looking alloys. SEL models get some extra chrome pieces, while R-Line models come with a sporty body kit.
As with the exterior styling, you know exactly what you’re going to get with a Volkswagen cabin, and so it proves with the Touran. The interior design is just as conservative as that of the outside, but in here, that means that everything sits where you expect it to sit, and works how you expect it to work. As a result, using all the car's various functions is about as difficult as blinking. Quality is also predictably strong, with dense, posh-feeling materials and very sturdy assembly. What’s more, you get a clear view out in all directions, and there’s bags of adjustment for your driving position. Full marks.
This is the most important area for any MPV, and the Touran does the job better than pretty much any of its mid-size MPV rivals. It’s among the most generous for cabin space, allowing seven adults to travel in genuine comfort, and the three chairs in the middle row all slide and recline individually. The five behind the driver all fold flush into the floor, too, leaving you with a perfectly flat load area. It’s huge, too, and the boot is still pretty massive when the car is in five-seat mode. There’s even decent space for bags when you’re travelling seven-up. Folding the seats is easy and takes next-to-no strength, and there are handy touches - like cubbies and takeaway hooks - dotted around all over the cabin.
Ride and handling
A comfortable ride is the most important thing about how any family-focused car drives, and Volkswagen is renowned for producing cars that are smooth and cosseting. It’s perhaps a bit surprising, then, that the Touran’s ride isn’t a little slicker. You can feel the effects of patched-up surfaces a little too much, and sharp bumps can give you a bit of a jolt. That said, the Touran does handle well. Body control is very well contained for a tall, high-sided car; and, with lots of grip and sharp, responsive steering, there’s a surprising amount of satisfaction to be had from flinging the car around.
So far, we’ve only tried the Touran with diesel engines. The 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel doesn’t make the Touran a fast car – not by a long shot – but it does have enough muscle low down in the rev range to keep your progress easy and relaxed. In fact, you’ll find very little benefit to revving the engine hard, because the car ultimately doesn’t go a lot faster, so you’re better off adopting a lazy driving style. The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel adds a fair bit more go, and is more comfortable when you’re carrying a hefty load of people and luggage. There are plenty of other engine options available, too, namely 1.2 and 1.4 turbo petrols with 108- and 148bhp, respectively, and another 2.0-litre diesel with 187bhp. A slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox is standard on most models, but twin-clutch transmissions with either six or seven speeds are also available.
The Touran looks very expensive if you go by the list prices, costing thousands more than some of its rivals, but the car’s strong resale values will help to minimise your losses in the long term. Things look much rosier if you plan to buy on finance, because the monthly payment rates are far more competitive than the list prices suggest. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions aren’t at class-leading levels, but they’re still very competitive, so your running costs won’t exactly be ruinous. That also means that monthly tax bills will be a shade higher than on some rivals for company car drivers, but again, the difference won’t be big enough to be a deal-breaker.
Volkswagen has carved itself a reputation for reliability over the years, but it’s not a reputation that’s necessarily backed up by the evidence of reliability surveys. The Warranty Direct Reliability Index, for instance, rates VW in the bottom half of the manufacturer standings, and the Touran has a pretty disappointing score as an individual model. The story isn’t quite so bleak in other studies we’ve seen, but it’s not exactly dazzling, either. A three-year/60,000-mile warranty is provided, which is normal, if not overly generous.
Front-seat occupants are protected by front, side and curtain airbags, and there’s also another to help shield the driver’s knees in a smash. The curtain airbags also afford protection to those in the middle row of seats, but the ‘bags don’t extend to the third row. Standard safety kit also includes a variety of stability and traction aids across the range, and while the entry-level car misses out on autonomous city braking, all the other trims get this important feature as standard. The Touran has achieved the full five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP. Of particular note to buyers with especially large families will be the fact that the Touran has no less than five Isofix child seat mounting points, more than most rivals.
The entry-level Touran is pretty sparsely equipped, especially when you consider how much it costs to buy. Four electric windows, air-conditioning and a touch-screen infotainment system that includes Bluetooth and a DAB radio are provided as standard on the S, but you have to upgrade to SE for alloys, a leather steering wheel, automatic lights and wipers and all-round parking sensors. SE Family gives you sat-nav, a panoramic roof and Adaptive cruise control, while SEL trim provides climate control. R-Line models don’t really add anything other than the styling upgrades inside and out.
Because you want a people carrier that’s as good as it can be at the important business of carrying people. In that respect, the Touran is one of the best cars of its type, with its generous space and its flexible, simple-to-use cabin. To cap it all, it’s also nice to sit in, it has a strong image, and you’ll enjoy driving it.