REVIEW DATE: 22 Aug 2008
The greenest version of Volkswagen's Sharan is the BlueMotion. Steve Walker reports.
Volkswagen's aging full-size MPV doesn't strike you as a prime candidate for conversion into environmentally-friendly BlueMotion form. It's big, it's no spring chicken in automotive industry terms and with capacity for seven adult passengers, it has the potential to be very heavy. These eco-special models are often centred around the idea of saving weight but the grams saved by removing noise insulation material or fitting a slightly thinner rear-view mirror will be instantly cancelled out if the chap in the back row happens to be a sumo wrestler rather than a jump jockey. Volkswagen sensibly chose to leave the weight problem alone with its Sharan BlueMotion, instead concentrating on mechanical and aerodynamic routes to greater economy.
BlueMotion models pervade across the Volkswagen line-up these days. You can get anything from a Polo to a Passat with the BlueMotion badge on its tailgate. The brand serves as an easy way for the marque's customers to identify the cleanest, greenest most cost-effective models in the line-up without recourse to ploughing through endless specification sheets and pricelists. For that, Volkswagen, we salute you.
The Sharan BlueMotion's engine and gearbox combination is vital to its green credentials. The engine is the 2.0-litre TDI unit with 138bhp from the standard Sharan range and it's an altogether more satisfying installation than the older 1.9-litre TDI unit that's used in many other Volkswagen BlueMotion models. It's mated to a revised gearbox with revised ratios designed to allow the engine to work less hard at a given speed than it would otherwise be forced to do. The engine itself also benefits from a higher boost pressure for its turbocharger and exhaust gas recirculation system to further clean up its operation.
"In BlueMotion guise, the Volkswagen Sharan gets more fuel efficient and chucks notably less taxable nastiness out of its tailpipe."
The Sharan's roadgoing behaviour was at the forefront of its class when it was launched and a series of suspension tweaks for the second generation models improved things still further. The German engineers concentrated particularly on improving the ride over poor surfaces - the kind of thing you notice around town - and they largely succeeded without compromising the higher speed handling that makes this car the surprisingly rewarding drive it is. The large MPV has moved on slightly but the Sharan is still a more rewarding vehicle to drive than many of its more modern rivals.
The standard Sharan's clean lines look reasonably aerodynamic to the untrained eye but the BlueMotion model features revised cooling ducts on the nose and a 25mm reduction in ride height to help it flow through the air more effectively. In case you were wondering, these changes lowered the drag coefficient from 0.31 to 0.29.
Seven seats are standard on all Sharan models and as far as their layout is concerned, things are pretty familiar - though early Sharan buyers should find that the removable chairs themselves will feel a lot more comfortable in this current model. Sadly, they're no lighter, so lugging them in and out remains a job not to be undertaken by the weak or faint-hearted. The two front seats can be swivelled round completely to face the rear - which is great for picnics and business meetings if you're stationary and there's only four in the car. It's annoying however, that you still can't do the same with the middle set so that occupants behind the driver can face each other and talk on longer journeys.
The Sharan suffers from the age-old MPV problem of luggage space and if the back row is occupied, you won't squeeze much into the boot. There's a good amount of space for all seven occupants however, and some tinkering with the seating can produce various usable combinations of people and luggage space.
Given its size and capacity, the Sharan looks well priced and comes with air-conditioning and the reassurance of a three-year warranty as standard across the range. As for other items of equipment, the BlueMotion model gets security remote central locking, an alarm, a trip computer, six airbags, ABS, an electronic engine immobiliser, electric front windows, power steering and a good quality stereo. Not bad.
There's no doubt that the Sharan is one of the old stagers of the large MPV market and it lacks the latest design features that appear routinely on more modern rivals. The package still has legs however, courtesy of its simplicity and general build quality. Volkswagen's own Touran MPV is a more modern and compact alternative and buyers seeking additional space may consider the van-based Caravelle.
The modifications made to the BlueMotion version of the Sharan have quite an effect on its economy and emissions. The standard models with the 2.0 TDI engine emit 177g/km of CO2 but the BlueMotion lowers that to 159g/km. It's not going to endow the seven-seat Sharan with supermini running costs but this and the 47.1mpg fuel economy, make it a very economical way to shift seven people from A to B. With the vehicle's 70-litre fuel tank, there's a theoretical range of 680 miles which is great for removing the temptation of the chocolate bar selection at you local filling station.
In BlueMotion guise, the Volkswagen Sharan gets more fuel efficient and chucks notably less taxable nastiness out of its tailpipe. You'll pay £600 extra to get it and it will take a good few thousand miles to recoup that in fuel savings but you'll be doing your bit for the planet and eventually, you'll be saving money as well.
Yes, there are newer large people carriers you could consider but don't ignore this one if you get offered the right deal. It's well sorted. It's well designed. And it's a Volkswagen - which has to count for something. You'll buy a Volkswagen Sharan if you're not easily impressed by the gimmicky design touches on the more modern alternatives and you like the Volkswagen's simple no-nonsense approach. The model's age should mean that discounts will be forthcoming but despite its advancing years, there are few rivals that drive better.
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|Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI CR BlueMotion Tech 150 SE Nav 5dr DSG diesel estate|
|Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI CR BlueMotion Tech 150 SE Nav 5dr diesel estate|
|Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI CR BlueMotion Tech 140 SE 5dr diesel estate|
|Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI CR BlueMotion Tech 140 SE 5dr DSG diesel estate|
|Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI CR BlueMotion Tech 140 S 5dr DSG diesel estate|
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|For SHARAN BLUEMOTION|
|OVERALL||7.1 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
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