REVIEW DATE: 22 Jan 2008
Volkswagen's Diesel Mini-MPV May Not Be The Most Exciting Around But It Might Just Be The Best. By Andy Enright
If you wanted to design the ultimate mini-MPV, where would you start? In a notoriously conservative market, you'd best go for low key styling, unimpeachable build quality and probably a torquey, fuel efficient diesel engine well up to the task of hauling the family about. Factor in a choice of either a five or seven seat configuration and a whole bunch of state of the art MPV-style packaging tricks and you've pretty much described Volkswagen's Touran TDI.
So why isn't everybody beating a path to their local Volkswagen dealer? Well, as in most Volkswagen products, the Touran TDI is priced in the premium range of the market. Families still a little cash-strapped as a result of constant demands for Beyblades, Disney DVDs, mobile phones and Nike Shox trainers will still probably defer to the usual Picasso/Zafira/Scenic choices, many still seeing a mini-MPV as what marketing analysts refer to as a 'distress purchase' rather than a personal treat. The Touran demonstrates that mini-MPV ownership needn't be a lowest common-denominator choice. With a quartet of punchy TDI engines to choose from, the Touran feels like a quality product.
The first two engines will seem familiar to those au fait with the Volkswagen line up. The more powerful one is based on the 1.9-litre 8-valve unit that has seen service in cars like the Golf and the Polo but has been subtly updated to comply with stringent Euro4 emissions regulations. Although the Touran probably won't be a tempting target for company car drivers, it will in fact be exempt from the three per cent diesel tax levy as a direct result of its cleanliness. The 105PS Touran TDI returns over 47mpg on the combined cycle and thanks to its generous 60-litre fuel tank, the theoretical range is in excess of 620 miles, making it a great car for long distance cruising.
The range starts with the S version followed by the SE . There's also the 90PS TDI which provides similar levels of cleanliness and fuel economy without some of the performance.
If you fancy a little extra power, the 140PS Touran 2.0 TDI may well be the solution, it comes with SE trim. Go that far however, and you might as well go the whole hog and get the superb 170PS version of this unit, offering outstanding mid-range punch.
"The Touran TDI range demonstrates that mini-MPV ownership needn't be a lowest common-denominator choice"
The 2.0-litre TDI engine has quickly spread across the Volkswagen line up, being a 2.0-litre 16-valve powerplant that still utilises the company's Pump-Duse architecture. Not only is it the most powerful turbodiesel in the sector, but it also marks the first time Volkswagen have combined their unit-injector fuel supply system with a multivalve cylinder head. With its maximum quota of torque - some 236lb/ft in the case of the 140PS unit - coming on stream at a very low 1,750rpm, even the TDI 140 engine feels as muscular as a decent 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine. You won't incur those sorts of running costs however, this powerplant returning an average of over 46mpg on the combined cycle. It also of course complies with Euro4 emissions standards. Plus the engine features an instant start system that does away with the old diesel car practice of waiting for glow plugs to pre-heat.
You can't really talk about the Touran without talking about seven seats. The designs for this car were, after all, dragged off the drawing board at the end of the Nineties when Vauxhall launched the seven seat Zafira. Why? Because at that stage, the Touran was only scheduled to have five seats and the market wanted more. Unfortunately, the lesson wasn't completely learnt. When the final version was at last introduced here in 2004, initial sales were slow because Volkswagen only offered seven seats as an option. The result was that the car became perceived as a five-seater. These days, all of that is sorted out. You can only have a seven-seat Touran and many more people know it. The latest Touran also benefits from a far racier look than the original. A facelift restyled the front and rear lowering the car visually and creating a more dynamic appearance. Inside, the trim materials have been refreshed with a stainless steel finish for the dials being particularly fetching.
The Touran was the second car in the Volkswagen Group, after Audi's A3, to adopt the chassis that features a sophisticated independent rear suspension system that is said to offer superior comfort and better handling, minimising the lurching body roll that can afflict some mini-MPVs. Slip inside and it has the same quiet feel good factor of all contemporary Volkswagen products. The build quality is superb and the ergonomics first rate. Both S and SE versions get a six-speed gearbox with the option of a six-speed automatic. Both 2.0 TDI models are also available with the revolutionary twin-clutch DSG gearbox, as debuted in the Audi TT 3.2 V6.
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. Quick release levers take care of seat removal and it's good to see seats that don't weigh a tonne. With 39 separate storage areas around the cabin, you may need to make a mental checklist of what you left where. Included in that number are under seat trays to keep valuables out of sight, three fold-down roof mounted cubbies, a rear under floor bin and more cup holders than the Real Madrid trophy room. Pockets in all four doors can accept a litre bottle and there are the usual MPV accoutrements such as seat backs that double as tables and aircraft -style fold down trays. Access to the rearmost set of seats is refreshingly easy due to the thoughtful way the middle row flips and slides forward.
The Touran TDI models are difficult to fault in any legitimate way. No, they're not particularly exciting to look at nor are they the most engaging driver's choice available but in aiming the car at what most mini-MPV drivers want, Volkswagen have chosen wisely. If you want the best mini-MPV around and don't mind paying for the privilege, here's where we'd shop.
The results below show the top TOURAN deals on buyacar
|Volkswagen Touran 1.6 TDI 105 BlueMotion Tech SE 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £19,196||Save £3,889|
|Volkswagen Touran 1.6 TDI 105 SE 5dr DSG diesel estate|
|Price £19,000||Save £5,035|
|Volkswagen Touran 1.9 TDI Match 5dr diesel estate|
|Volkswagen Touran 1.6 TDI 105 SE 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £19,014||Save £3,851|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT TOURAN DEALS|
|OVERALL||7.6 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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