Volkswagen Touran

07/08/2003 in Fleet Cars, Company Car Reviews, New Launch

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" VOLKSWAGEN is a late entrant to the small people carrier market but its new Touran blends clever design touches with solid build quality and an excellent range of engines. "
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The growing compact MPV sector has a new contender from this week. And although the Volkswagen Touran is late to the party its brand strength should ensure it is on the list of desirable MPVs where it will compete with the new Renault Scenic, Vauxhall Zafira, Citroen Xsara Picasso and upcoming Ford Focus C-MAX.

The Touran, available with five or seven seats, joins Volkswagen's existing MPV line-up that includes the Sharan and Caravelle.

In true Volkswagen form it is well built and solid and although its sober exterior will not turn heads it is certainly neat, sitting on the platform of the fifth-generation Golf, which is due to be shown at September's Frankfurt Motor Show.

The German manufacturer expects to sell 5,000 models this year in the UK, increasing to 11,000 units next year, its first full year of sales. Total compact MPV sales account for about 170,000 units in the UK annually and the market is certainly stealing sales away from the traditional five-door hatchback.

Children are one of the main reasons for this. In fact, almost three-quarters of Touran customers will have children and most will opt for the seven-seater version. Diesel sales will account for more than 75% of sales, with more than half of those the 1.9-litre 99bhp TDI. Fleets will order more than half of all Touran sales but Volkswagen say this is also a car people will use their own money to pay for.

All engines are Euro IV emissions compliant, meaning company car drivers escape the 3% penalty levied on diesels for company car tax.

Its excellent flexibility ensures that you can carry seven people or, when the back seats are not in use, enjoy plenty of boot space. Indeed, the seats and their many combinations are almost a work of art. The second row has three individual seats which can be removed easily. The middle seat can be used as a table and all seats can slide forwards or backwards and be folded down. The optional third row, which adds £500 to the cost of the vehicle, can be folded flat into the floor when not in use.

The Touran is available in three trim levels: S, SE and Sport. Externally, SE models and above get body-coloured side bump strips and door handles and a chrome-trimmed radiator grille surround. Sport models add alloy wheels, chrome roof rails and tinted glass from the B-pillar back.

Standard equipment across the range includes ABS brakes, electronic stabilisation programme, twin front and side airbags, a curtain airbag system, central locking with remote control, CD player and air-conditioning.

SE models upwards adds cruise control, leather-rimmed steering wheel, gearknob and handbrake and a multifunction computer among others. Sport variants get aluminium interior trim, front fog lights, front sports seats and sports suspension.

All models come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard but soon a double-clutch DSG (direct shift gearbox) transmission will be offered with the TDI models and FSI variants will get a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission option.

The Touran offers some neat touches that not only make the driving experience easier and more comfortable, but will also benefit fleet costs too.

Take the windscreen as a prime example. Once switched off, the wiper blades position themselves so they last longer. And when the vehicle is stopped in traffic the wiper speed is automatically reduced to the next lowest setting, returning to the original speed once the vehicle moves off. It may only appear to be a small thing but it's a touch of class and shows the clever thinking that has gone into the car.

The Touran is priced from £14,535 on-the-road and is initially available with a choice of four engines, from the entry-level 100bhp 1.6-litre and higher-power 113bhp FSI variants to 1.9 and 2.0-litre diesels.

The top-of-the-range seven-seat Sport 2.0-litre TDI automatic will cost £21,460. Automatic models will have a £1,000 premium over manual versions.

Price is key in this market and in comparison the Renault Scenic range is cheaper, starting at £13,500 for a 1.4-litre engine and increasing to £16,350 for the 1.9 dCi, while the Zafira costs between £14,470 for a 1.6-litre model and £20,470 for the top-of-the range GSi 2.0i 16v turbo. The 2.0-litre DTi Zafira costs £17,720.

Residual values have yet to be published for the Touran, but if they follow Volkswagen tradition they will be a couple of percentage points higher than its rivals, meaning the high front-end cost will be clawed back after three years and 60,000 miles.

Behind the wheel

ENTER the Touran and you immediately know you are in a Volkswagen.

Its interior is stylish and neat and the fact that it hasn't got a plethora of buttons is brilliant. It's very easy to distinguish the air conditioning button from the stereo on switch. It makes a refreshing change in today's technology-driven culture but that's not to say the Touran suffers from a lack of gadgetry.

Load space is impressive, particularly in the five-seat version. With all seven seats in place the Touran offers a tiny 121 litres of luggage space but there are storage compartments for smaller items in the rear side panels and the floor. Load space in five-seat format increases to 695 litres and with the second row of seats removed and with the third folded away, it further increases to 1,913 litres.

With four engines to choose from at launch as well, the Touran is a practical addition to any fleet and should be a reliable and solid vehicle for a company car driver if it behaves like other Volkswagens.

I was offered the chance to test three of the new engines, all with six-speed manual gearboxes. First up was the 1.6-litre FSI petrol engine that promises 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds and maximum torque of 114lb-ft at 4,000rpm, but it is very slow in the mid-range.

The most popular choice for fleets, the 1.9 TDI, was next up in SE form and with seven seats. It certainly feels quicker than its 1.6-litre brother but nowhere near matches the impressive standard of the 2.0-litre TDI model. More of that later. The 1.9 TDI boasts a decent amount of torque, 185lb-ft at 1,900rpm.

Each Touran boasts electro-mechanical steering, a first in its class. It is able to vary the weight of the steering depending on the speed it is travelling, offering more resistance at higher speeds and a lighter touch for parking.

The star performer among the bunch was the aforementioned 2.0 TDI Sport. There was very little noise and with maximum torque of 236lb-ft at 1,750rpm its acceleration was superb. Even sixth gear will pull you away effortlessly at high speeds.

The sports suspension ensured a smooth and comfortable ride and has a small amount of body roll even while cornering at high speeds. It feels like you are driving a much smaller car.

Driving verdict

The Touran's quality credentials will ensure it a high place in a growing market. Volkswagen may be late to the mini-MPV party but the Touran is certain to head to the top of the class.

VW Touran fact file
Model 1.6 FSI 1.9 TDI 2.0 TDI
Engine (cc): 1,598 1,896 1,968
Max power (bhp/rpm): 113/5,800 99/4,000 134/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 114/4,000 185/1,900 236/1,750
Max speed (mph): 116 110 122
0-62mph (secs): 11.9 13.5 10.6
Fuel consumption (mpg): 37.2 47.1 46.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 182 162 165
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 60/13.2
Transmission: 6-sp man,
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR): £14,535 - £20,960

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