Volkswagen Touran

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Volkswagen Touran Volkswagen Touran

Driven June 2003

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Considering the MkV Golf is virtually upon us, it seems pretty odd to just be launching a people carrier based partly on the MkIV Golf. But VW has done just that, and with a growing band of rivals, the company has had to pull out all the stops just to keep up.

Nobody has yet matched the neatness of Vauxhall's still-excellent Flex7 rear seating system, and although VW has been pretty clever with the Touran, it still can't beat the Zafira. Having said that, it's still a neat design, with the rearmost seats folding flat to create a level load bay. The headrests detach and slot into their own cubby hole within the boot floor - but it doesn't all fold flush into the floor, which is what makes the Zafira so impressive.

There are plenty of other nice touches, with cubby holes all over the place, drawers under the front seats and lots of flexibility with the middle row of seats. Not only can they adjust and slide backwards and forwards individually but they can also be removed one at a time. If you fancy a bit ox extra space for just a few passengers you can also remove the middle seat of the centre row and shift the outer seats inboard a bit. Everyone gets a three-point seatbelt and unless you're carrying seven lanky folks, there's enough leg room to go round.

The result of all this is a car which looks a bit like a shrunken Sharan - but not that shrunken. So out on the road it would be very easy for things to go horribly wrong with the dynamics of a bus. The reality is that it's not at all bad, although you can tell straight away that it's a VW platform. That means safe, predictable handling without much likelihood of much excitement - but who buys a mini-MPV for any of that?

Opt for the 1.6-litre FSi petrol engine and you definitely won't be getting excited, as it hasn't really got the torque to make the car relaxing to pilot. By far the best route to take is the 2.0TDi one, which VW reckons three-quarters of buyers will do. If the all-new 2.0 unit is a bit pricey for you, the 1.9-litre unit will still be an option - and although it's been around for ever, it's still well within its sell-by date.

Richard Dredge

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