Volkswagen Sharan review
The seven-seat VW Sharan is a great all-round family car, with a flexible interior and grown-up driving experience
The Volkswagen Sharan is a capable and efficient seven-seat MPV ideally suited for large families. The styling is a little on the plain side – it’s not as eye-catching as the sporty Ford S-MAX, for example – but its simple design is not unattractive. It also drives well for such a large car – the handling is sharp, the visibility is good and there’s little body roll in corners. The engine line-up is strong – particularly the diesel units – offering enough punch to cope with the Sharan’s considerable dimensions while still being economical. In fact, some of the diesel versions will return more than 56mpg. But the Volkswagen’s biggest strength is its practicality. Its flexible seating layout allows for all seats bar the driver’s to be folded flat, creating an enormous amount of space. The sliding doors give superb access to the rear seats, too. The Sharan’s only real flaw is the fact that it can’t quite match its slightly more talented sister car, the SEAT Alhambra. The two are almost identical, but we think the SEAT’s exterior design is a little more attractive. It offers better value for money, too, and marginally lower depreciation. But that doesn’t stop the Sharan from being a very talented machine in its own right.
A facelifted version arrived in June 2015 with new rear light clusters, extra kit and engines offering more MPG, emitting less CO2 and tweaked to Euro-6 emissions levels. However, the changes were small and the five-year old Sharan is starting to appear a little old compared to more modern rivals like the new Ford Galaxy.
Our choice: Sharan 2.0 TDI 150 SE Nav 6spd manual
MPVs are not known for their attractive exterior design, and for good reason – these cars have to put function before form. But Volkswagen has done a good job of fitting the Sharan’s large proportions into a stylish shape. It’s not particularly exciting to look at – and arguably less attractive than the Ford S-MAX or the SEAT Alhambra – but it is a smart looking car. The same goes for the interior – it’s not eye-catching but has a simple and elegant design that benefits from decent materials and excellent build quality. The Sharan is a car that’s been designed to appeal to the head rather than the heart.
The diesel engines best suit the Sharan, because their pulling power copes better with the car's weight. They're also surprisingly frugal and quiet on the move. Most powerful of the bunch is a 2.0-litre petrol turbo with 182bhp, but be prepared to pay the price at the pumps for its performance. For such a large car, all-round visibility is pretty good and parking sensors are standard on all but entry-level models. Handling is sharp for such a tall car, and you'll notice an ability to travel around corners at high speeds with little fuss. The suspension is comfortable, and engine noise is low.
Occupants should be kept safe during an accident thanks to the standard fitting of seven airbags. That includes curtain, passenger, driver and even driver’s knee airbags. Euro NCAP awarded the Sharan five stars for safety and it achieved an incredible 96 per cent for adult occupant protection. Elsewhere it scored 80 per cent for child occupant protection, 71 per cent in the safety assist category and 46 per cent for pedestrian protection. Much of the running gear of the Sharan has been proven elsewhere in the Volkswagen line-up, so owners shouldn’t suffer too many problems, if any. We didn’t receive enough responses from Sharan owners for it to figure in the results of our 2015 Driver Power Top 100 satisfaction survey, but Volkswagen as a brand finished 22nd out of 32 in the manufacturer chart – three down on the brand's 2014 ranking.
The VW Sharan can be driven as a five-seater with a large boot. A pair of chairs fold out of the boot floor for a seven-seater, but space or luggage and passengers becomes minimal. The plus side is a highly flexible seat arrangement, with child booster seats available, and the ability to fold all but the driver’s seat to create a van-like load area. The cabin is sturdy and well insulated from external noise, and controls are easy to navigate. SE is the best value trim level and includes Bluetooth, a multi-function steering wheel, tinted rear glass, chrome roof rails, three-zone air-conditioning and front and rear parking sensors.
Diesel options are limited to a 2.0-litre TDI with 113bhp, 148bhp and 182bhp – the 113bhp and 148bhp versions each achieve a combined figure of 56.5mpg and between 130- and 137g/km of CO2, meaning they're the most fuel efficient. The more powerful 182bhp 2.0's fuel economy is only a little less – around 2mpg. There's also a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol - it returns between 42.2 and 43.5mpg and emits 150-156g/km. The diesels make the most sense financially but the petrol is quieter on the move.