The fleet industry loves the heady brew of predictability mixed with quality, and on both fronts the Touran delivers.
Volkswagen expects to sell 11,000 Tourans in a full year, with about 60% of them finding a fleet home. While top sellers in the sector register 40,000-plus sales, VW does not expect to do huge numbers initially in volume-heavy areas such as Motability.
Starting with the exterior, it has the Volkswagen corporate nose which then blends into a tidy if unspectacular body sitting on the platform which will form the basis of the fifth generation Golf.
The new platform is the most versatile the firm has ever produced, Volkswagen claims, with McPherson struts at the front and an entirely new four link suspension at the back.
The Touran also has another first for Volkswagen: electro-mechanical steering that makes the steering lighter at slow speeds and heavier as velocity increases. It also accounts automatically for cambers and crosswinds to keep the car more stable at speed and heading in a straight line.
But inside is where the battles are mostly won in this sector and the Touran has all the weapons necessary for the job. The dashboard comes from the same finishing school as the Polo, with the same four-spoke steering wheel and light, easy-to-use controls and switches. Everything is exactly where you would expect and although there are some cheaper plastics, they are used in less frontline areas, such as the glovebox and door bins. It is handsome, sober and well-built though, just as a Volkswagen should be.
Now to the headline, class-leading stuff. I will start with the seats, which in the front are comfortable and multi-adjustable for the perfect position. In the second row, there are three individual seats, which although slightly thin for the broader human being, all come in and out with ease with the pull of a strap and the flick of two switches.
At 16kgs each they are not heavy and she didn't struggle. Some competitors have seats with the dead weight of a rhino, which impinges on practicality.
The middle seat can be used as a table, or can be taken out with the others sliding across to give more shoulder room - handy as this is one area of weakness. All seats can be adjusted for legroom as well and there's plenty of that. There is the option of a third row of seats that fold flat into the floor in the style of the Vauxhall Zafira. They should cost about £500 each as an option or may be included in a special seven-seat model.
Volkswagen claims class-leading luggage capacity as well, with a maximum storage capacity of 1,989 litres with all the seats out.
Where the Touran also excels is in its engines. The car comes initially with a choice of three: a 1.6-litre FSI petrol, 100bhp 1.9-litre TDI and 136bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel. The diesel units will make fleet drivers very happy as they are the first in the Volkswagen group to be Euro IV compliant, which means no 3% surcharge on benefit-in-kind company car tax. The units will add 178, 159 and 162 g/km of CO2 to the atmosphere respectively, while achieving combined fuel consumption figures of 38.2, 47.9 and 47mpg. All come with a six-speed manual gearbox.
There's a raft of safety measures to ensure the family sales proposition is strong, including ABS, three-point belts for all seats, electronic stabilisation programme with brake assist, full length curtain airbags and front seat side airbags.
There are, however, dark clouds on the horizon. Prices have not yet been announced but are mooted to start at about £14,500, with a top price of about £21,000. It will come in three specs: S, SE and Sport.
In a sector which is notoriously price sensitive, that would make the bottom spec S Touran £1,000 more than a similar Zafira and about £2,000 more than an equivalent Renault Scenic or Citroen Xsara Picasso. Its residual performance – something VW usually excels at – will have to be very strong to haul that back in wholelife costs.
Behind the wheel
AS mini-MPVs go the Touran is a good solid performer. The new platform hints at some good driving times to come for more sporty Volkswagens in the future, as here it has been put to good use to keep body roll to an absolute minimum, particularly at high speeds.
That lack of dive or wallow allied to the electro-mechanical steering, which does seem to give good feel (has VW solved a perennial gripe of its cars?) without being fidgety, means the Touran is a good solid motorway drive. The trade-off is that the ride is firm at low speed.
As for the engine, the star is the 2.0-litre 136bhp TDI, which punches away, even in a tall sixth gear. Floor it in sixth at motorway speeds and it will pick up and go.
The only problem with six gears is that after pulling away, second and third come charging up hot on the heels of first – a legacy of the TDI pumpe duse system that makes the car peaky in lower gears, and in particular the 1.9 TDI.
The 100bhp 1.9-litre TDI is likely to be the biggest fleet seller and does a very similar job to the larger unit, but without that extra kick. Both diesel units are quiet at speed and decent under acceleration, and 'boom' from the engine, sometimes a problem of cars with cavernous interiors, is kept to a minimum. Road and wind noise is subdued, although there is some turbulence around the A pillars.
IT IS always difficult to say when you have only driven left-hand drive cars and no prices have been announced, but I would wager that the mini-MPV sector is about to have a new leader. The Touran should prove to be the best-built, best thought out, most spacious and desirable mini-MPV on the market.
|VW Touran fact file|
|Model: Touran||1.6FSI||1.9 TDI PD||2.0 TDI PD|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||115/5,800||100/4,000||136/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||114/4,000||184/1,900||236/1,750|
|Top speed (mph):||116||110||122|
|Comb economy (Mpg):||38.2||47.9||47.0|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||178||159||162|
|Fuel tank capacity (l):||60|
|Transmission: 6-sp man,|
|Service intervals (miles): 20,000|
|On sale: summer|
|Prices (OTR):||Approx: £14,500 - £20,000|