REVIEW DATE: 20 Apr 2007
The Entry-Level S-Specification Volkswagen Sharan Models Enable the Brand To Compete Against Bargain Basement-Priced Large People Carriers. Jonathan Crouch Reports
With all the current fuss surrounding various manufacturers' mini-MPV models, it's easy to forget that for about the same money as a decently specified example of the breed, you could get the real thing. That of course, is a large People Carrier. Something with proper room for seven rather than a squashed-up extra bench seat option. Something perhaps like a Volkswagen Sharan in entry-level S guise.
The Sharan S is Volkswagen's effort to gain a foothold in the bargain basement part of the large MPV sector, an area of the market dominated in recent years by cars like Kia's Sedona and Hyundai's Trajet. SEAT's Alhambra has also done pretty well here too, offered in entry-level 2.0 Reference form for just over £16,000, an asking figure that, were it not for the Sharan S-specification models we look at here, would make the Volkswagen look something of an expensive indulgence. The Sharan and the Alhambra do, after all, share the same design, the same engine and the same Iberian production line.
True, the Sharan still is more expensive - but it's also better equipped and holds its value better, making it still worth considering even if you don't care about the badge on the bonnet. Sharan S prices start at £18,140 (though dealers have a range of special offers which could well reduce that figure further). Standard features include remote control central locking, air conditioning which extends to the glovebox (for keeping drinks and snacks cool), ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, front and side airbags with a curtain airbag system and three-point seatbelts for all passengers
"This is Volkswagen's effort to gain a foothold in the bargain basement part of the large MPV sector."
Of course, people buying on a budget often prefer the option of diesel power, even if there's an initial price premium up front to do so. Hence the availability of S specification with both diesel Sharan engines, the 1.9-litre 115PS unit and the superb 140PS 2.0-litre TDI. These retail at £19,695 and £20,445 respectively, though curiously, only the 115PS unit can be ordered with automatic transmission, this Volkswagen's 5-speed tiptronic 'box. Both of these diesels are suitably parsimonious. Even the 140bhp unit returns 41.5mpg on the combined cycle, giving it a theoretical range of 670miles; that's Penzance to Penrith - and halfway back again.
Neither of the Volkswagen's diesel engines have common rail technology and one of the bi-products of this is that the 115PS option isn't the quietest unit of its kind. The more advanced 2.0-litre is significantly better but still not quite as hushed as the best common-rail offerings. The figures say that sixty shows up from rest in 12.2s in the 140bhp unit, but it feels quicker than that, a legacy of the impressive reserves of mid-range torque on offer. In practice, this means ready pulling power in almost any gear, something which is a real boon, both on the open road (where you often don't have to drop a gear to overtake) and around town (which you don't have to row the thing along with the gearstick).
Seven seats are standard on all models and as far as their layout is concerned, things are pretty familiar - though early Sharan buyers should find that the removable chairs themselves should 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's roadgoing behaviour was already unsurpassed in its class and a series of suspension tweaks for the second generation models have 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've largely succeeded without compromising the higher speed handling that makes this car the rewarding drive it is.
Although there are newer designs and cheaper rivals, the appeal of the Sharan remains undiminished, especially in these entry-level S models. If you're looking for a top quality MPV with the right badge and a decent level of standard equipment, the Sharan answers the call. The fact that it now costs not much more than a South Korean cheapie is just an extra bonus.
The results below show the top SHARAN deals on buyacar
|Volkswagen Sharan 1.9 TDI SE 115 5dr diesel estate|
|Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI CR BlueMotion Tech 140 SE 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £16,995||Save £6,643|
|Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI CR BlueMotion Tech 140 SEL 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £24,511||Save £7,339|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT SHARAN DEALS|
|OVERALL||7.1 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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