What is it?
Volkswagen doesn’t make interesting, quirky MPVs in the same way the French do, but that’s like saying jeans aren’t interesting in the same way leather chaps are – which would you rather take the kids to school in?
The Sharan is a big version of the Touran, which is a big version of the Golf Plus, which is… you get the idea. Nothing about VW’s grandest seven-seat MPV is surprising, really – it’s beautifully made, refined and reassuringly/frighteningly expensive.
There’s no ‘shrinking around you’ behind the wheel of this thing – it always feels huge – but it’s all just so right that it’s effortless. A combination of great visibility, a driving position with armchair comfort, light steering, a flowing manual gearbox and a small turning circle make the Sharan only marginally more daunting than driving a Golf (if you’re really worried about parking it, you can buy one that parks itself anyway).
Even VW can’t defy physics though, so cornering isn’t the Sharan’s forte – and for that reason we’d avoid the optional adaptive chassis control – but it does have the ride quality and refinement of a luxury limo. There’s a dearth of wind noise, unless you’re breaking the national limit, and at town speeds the still in the cabin borders on spooky. All engines are strong, but the torque of the 138 and 168bhp diesels makes them best for carrying stuff, and we’d probably specify DSG, too, as it’s more suited to the relaxed driving the Sharan encourages.
On the inside
Sliding doors mean you don’t have to worry about grandma battering someone else’s car with one in a car park, which is nice. The first two rows get limo-like space, yet the rearmost seats aren’t quite as adult friendly as you’d hope for. All the seats fold flat in a two-stage operation that’s easy enough but bettered slightly by other MPVs, like the Ford Galaxy.
And what begins as a reasonable 375-litre boot becomes a 2,297-litre removal van. The layout and material use is clinical in its user-friendliness.
There’s a cheaper way of getting into the Sharan – it’s called the Seat Alhambra. The starting point here is the 148bhp 1.4 TSI petrol, which isn’t as unsuited to MPV work as some petrol motors, but isn’t the one to go for. The entry-level £25,470 2.0 TDI 115 is on the weak side too. No, the 2.0 TDI 140 is the one you want, and that’s £26,220 sans options. Add DSG in SE spec with metallic paint and that jumps to nearly £30k. Damn. It’s justifiable by way of its innate class, though reliability, safety, residuals and fuel economy are all top drawer as well.