After 15 years, Volkswagen has finally replaced the Sharan! With so much time to mull over how to change the seven-seater MPV, the company should have figured out exactly what buyers want. So, has it delivered?
The newcomer – which will also become the next Seat Alhambra – is longer and wider than the previous car, but no heavier, and now manages to fold six of its seven individual seats flat to create a load space that’s 2.1 metres long.
Lift the seats up again, and the outer pair of middle row chairs feature an ingenious tip and slide function. This works in tandem with the wide-opening sliding rear doors to make access to the rearmost seats easy. And these chairs are roomy enough for even reasonably tall adults.
The middle three seats serve up generous legroom and overall space. Big rear windows create an airy feel, plus occupants here benefit from more headroom than the driver, who gets a car-like seat position.
Sensibly, VW has focused more on providing a comfortable ride than handling fun, and the result is relaxed progress. Refinement is impressive, with minimal wind noise at speed. We drove the 2.0-litre TDI diesel, although we also tried a 1.4-litre TSI model – and the former is much preferable.
The petrol variant proves that there’s a limit to turbocharging small-capacity engines. Although it delivers 148bhp, it doesn’t provide sufficient punch for such a large car. Over our mixed route, it returned only 25mpg, while it’s expected to cost more than the oil-burner.
The torquey 138bhp diesel is far better. It can be mated to six-ratio manual or twin-clutch DSG boxes and is offered with stop-start. It’s reasonably quiet, and promises 52mpg economy and 143g/km emissions – similar to the equivalent Ford Galaxy.
Standard kit is decent, too, even in the S trim that’s set to kick off the range at £21,500 at launch in November. It gets a digital radio, eight speakers, curtain airbags and air-con, while extras include the latest Park Assist system – which now finds and guides you into supermarket-style bays, as well as parallel street spaces.
There’s also the option of a full-leather six-seater. It all adds up to one of the finest family carriers around.
Rival: Ford Galaxy
the old Galaxy was the same car as the previous Sharan, but latest model is a standalone project. It’s a fine-driving seven-seater with a large, flat-fold load area, yet trails the VW on refinement.
* Price: £21,500 (est)
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel
* Power/torque: 138bhp/320Nm
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
* 0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
* Top speed: 119mph
* Econ/CO2: 52.3mpg/143g/km
* Standard equipment: Front and rear air-con, eight-speaker stereo with digital radio and iPod link, curtain airbags on all three rows of seats, tyre pressure monitor
* On sale: November