Volkswagen Touran review
Subtle improvements across the board make the new Volkswagen Touran more impressive than ever
The Volkswagen Touran is never going to set any hearts alight, but while it fails to appeal to the heart, customers who buy with their heads will be impressed with the car's sheer functionality. It sits underneath the larger Sharan in Volkswagen's range, and while it misses out on that car's sliding doors, it matches up pretty well for size and space.
Crucially, for a relatively small car, it's a genuine seven-seater, and the whole interior has been designed to work better than it did on the previous car. That also means increased safety and more gadgets to play with.
However, base S models are just that – pretty basic in terms of toys. But moving higher up the Touran tree sees plenty of creature comforts loaded in, albeit at a cost that pushes the MPV closer to £30,000.
With a typically intelligent selection of Volkswagen’s excellent turbocharged engines, smooth gearboxes and a comfortable ride, the Touran feels like the classy upmarket sort of product you’d expect from the German company. So while its occasional rear seats mean it might not be perfect for the largest families (the Sharan has that eventuality covered), for most buyers it will be more than practical enough for their everyday needs.
Launched in 2003, the original generation Volkswagen Touran lasted 12 years before it was replaced with this model in 2015. Originally conceived as a smaller people carrier than the full-sized, seven-seat Sharan, the Touran - the word created as a portmanteau of ‘Tour’ and ‘Sharan’ – was based on the platform of the Mk5 Golf hatchback. In some markets the car was actually sold as the Golf Touran owing to its similarities in design and mechanicals.
The Mk1 Touran had the distinction of having not one, but two facelifts (in 2006 and 2010), the second hiding the switch to the more modern platform of the Golf Mk6, and it was also the first car to use the 2.0-litre TDI engine that is now widespread across the Volkswagen Group. It was a successful formula, as 1.9 million Tourans were sold globally between 2003 and 2015, with nearly 100,000 finding homes here in the UK.
So the second-generation car has a tough act to follow. Volkswagen has switched it onto the MQB platform, shared again with the current Golf (among other cars) and has designed it to fit in between the Golf SV five-seat MPV and the Sharan, which continues as the company’s full-size seven-seat offering. The Touran can also carry seven, but the rear seats are best reserved for children and very occasional use.
Volkswagen offers three diesel and two petrol engines in the Touran, with all TDI units wearing the appellation ‘BlueMotion Technology’ to signify their efficiency; however, as yet, there is no dedicated BlueMotion model – with low-rolling resistance tyres, aerodynamic tweaks and longer gearing – as there is in other Volkswagen model ranges.
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All Tourans are front-wheel drive and there’s a choice of either a standard six-speed manual gearbox, or six- and seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatics, depending on engine. Prices for the Touran start from around £22,000 and rise to over £30,000.
Trim lines for the Touran run S and then SE (+£1,390 on S), before the range splits into SE Family (+£1,485 on the SE) and SEL. On the only engine that’s offered on both trims (the 2.0 TDI 150), the SEL is exactly the same price as the equivalent SE Family.
S models are fairly sparsely equipped, as they come on 16-inch steel wheels, although Volkswagen’s Composition Media system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, air conditioning, the XDS electronic differential lock, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and various safety assist functions are standard equipment.
The SE will likely be the most popular specification and adds to S with 16-inch alloys, a multifunction trip computer with 3.5-inch TFT display, parking sensors all round, auto lights and wipers. Perhaps most importantly, you also get a lot of extra storage compartments and fold-down tables for the rear-seat passengers.
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SE Family and SEL bundle in various comfort functions, with some shared specification and some bespoke items. Both variants come with the Discover Navigation system, adaptive cruise control and drive profile select system. The SE Family offers a panoramic sunroof, rear window sunblinds, electrically controlled rear-door child locks and electronic voice amplification for the driver. Meanwhile, the SEL upgrades to 17-inch alloys, three-zone climate control, electrically controlled and folding door mirrors and a driver fatigue alert system.
Rivals to the Touran include the Ford Grand C-Max, Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, Renault Grand Scenic, Toyota Verso and the Citroën Grand C4 Picasso, although affordable, spacious seven-seat SUVs – such as the Hyundai Santa Fe – should also be considered.
Engines, performance and drive
We’d recommend the 1.6-litre TDI engine with the manual gearbox, because it offers a great balance of performance versus economy. It has just enough get up and go to keep you comfortably shifting the Touran’s rather hefty body about, with only a few occasions where it struggles for power.
This lack of performance is only really noticeable if you try to overtake slower moving traffic, but on the motorway it’s smooth enough. The steering is reasonably precise, gear changes are slick and the suspension is soft enough to make the ride comfortable.
Road and wind noise does become quite loud at high speeds and, compared to BMW’s 2 Series Gran Tourer, it feels a little unrefined.
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Around town, the Touran feels wide but Volkswagen has kitted the MPV out with plenty of driver aids to make urban manoeuvring easier. Other safety features such as wide orange blind spot indicators are a nice touch compared to the usually subtle icons found in the Ford C-Max, for example.
Three TDI diesel units and a pair of petrol options make up the engine offerings for the Touran range, all of them four-cylinder turbocharged powerplants. The 1.2 TSI starts things off, delivering 108bhp from 4,600- to 5,600rpm and 175Nm from 1,400- to 4,000rpm. This is an absolutely fine, rev-happy unit, but it’s much better suited to smaller Volkswagen Group product than this 1,436kg MPV. The 1.2 is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox and on S, SE and SE Family trims, not SEL.
Conversely, the other petrol engine – a 1.4-litre TSI – can be had in SEL specification alone. It turns out 148bhp from 5,000- to 6,000rpm and 250Nm from 1,500- to 3,500rpm. This comes with a six-speed manual as standard, with a seven-speed DSG an option for £1,170; on all other Tourans with a choice of transmissions, DSG costs £1,300.
Diesels cover much more of the range and the entry point is our pick, the 1.6-litre TDI with 108bhp from 3,200- to 4,000rpm and the same 250Nm as the 1.4 TSI delivered from 1,500- to 3,000rpm. Again, it’s a six-speed manual or an optional seven-speed DSG, and it’s available on all trims bar range-topping SEL.
Then there’s a 2.0-litre TDI in two power guises, although the higher-spec variant is a one-model drivetrain only. The more common unit is the 148bhp, 340Nm ‘150’ (named for its output in PS), with the power coming on stream from 3,500- to 4,000rpm and the torque doled out across a decent 1,750- to 3,000rpm plateau. It is paired to a six-speed manual gearbox as usual but the DSG option here is a six-speed unit, rather than a seven-speed, and the 150 is available from SE trim level upwards.
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Finally, the top Touran is the ‘190’ 2.0 TDI, with 187bhp from 3,600- to 4,000rpm and a huge 400Nm of torque from 1,900- to 3,300rpm. It’s a six-speed DSG with no manual option, it is finished in SEL grade alone and it’s the only Touran that costs more than thirty grand as standard.
With more brake horsepower and torque than any other Touran, the 190 will be the quickest model by some distance – but Volkswagen doesn’t as yet have performance figures finalised for it. Expect 0-62mph in around eight seconds and a top speed of somewhere near 135mph.
It’s the 1.4 TSI that proves to be next most rapid, with an 8.9-second 0-62mph time and a 130mph top speed. The 2.0 TDI 150 comes next, ticking off 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds and running on to 129mph.
There’s a bit of a drop from there to the 1.2 TSI, which is two seconds slower from 0-62mph at 11.3 seconds and which has a maximum velocity of 117mph. Finally, the 1.6 TDI takes 11.9 seconds to go from rest to 62mph, while its top speed is 116mph – but the extra mid-range torque it has over the 1.2 TSI makes it the preferable engine, in our opinion.
In all instances, fitting DSG does not alter the acceleration data compared to a manual and it is only on the 2.0 TDI where DSG marginally reduces the maximum speed, to 128mph.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Almost every Touran is in either VED Band C or Band D – there’s just one exception. The 1.4 TSI SEL manual emits 133g/km and is the only Touran not to be exempt from ‘showroom tax’, instead costing the flat annual rate of £130 road duty in Band E. In this guise it returns 49.6mpg combined economy.
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On the three engines – 1.4 TSI, 1.6 TDI and 2.0 TDI 150 – where DSG is an alternative to the manual transmission, the automatic makes two of them (the 1.4 and 1.6) cleaner, while on the 2.0 TDI the economy and emissions take a minor hit. So the 1.4, compared to its manual counterpart, emits 127g/km and can achieve 51.4mpg.
The 1.2 TSI isn’t as bad on fuel as you might imagine a small capacity, low output petrol engine in a big car to be, quoted figures of 52.3mpg and 126g/km being admirable considering the Touran’s bulk.
Nevertheless, the diesels all do parsimony much better. The 1.6 TDI returns 64.2mpg and 116g/km on the combined cycle as a manual, or 65.7mpg and 111g/km with the DSG transmission.
For the 2.0 TDI 150, the manual’s data of 64.2mpg and 116g/km (S, SE and SE Family trim) compares favourably to the DSG’s 60.1mpg and 125g/km. Moving the 2.0 TDI up to SEL specification, with its bigger 17-inch wheels, drops the manual to 62.8mpg and 117g/km, while the DSG’s numbers shift to 58.9mpg and 126g/km.
Of the DSG-equipped 2.0 TDI Tourans, it’s the ‘190’ that is the greenest, matching the 150’s best economy of 60.1mpg and yet emitting slightly less CO2, at 123g/km – albeit this isn’t enough to alter its road tax banding and save you any money per annum.
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It’s worth noting, however, that in the wake of the emissions turmoil Volkswagen endured in 2015, the company currently says all its economy and emissions figures are provisional, pending a review. So all of these numbers could change in the near future.
Starting with the 1.6 TDI in SE trim, the Touran in this spec sits in group 9. Moving the same engine to SE Family sees that rise to 10, while the base S is in group 12 – as it makes do with fewer driver assist and safety systems than the two plusher models.
It’s the same story for the 1.2 TSI, which as an SE or SE Family is in group 11, while the S equivalent is in 13. Every other Touran bar the 2.0 TDI 190 is in group 17, with the most powerful version of the MPV’s insurance group yet to be confirmed.
It’s a Volkswagen and despite the ‘dieselgate’ scandal that rocked the motor industry, the Touran’s residual values should be stronger than pretty much anything else in this class – going some way to offsetting the higher purchase prices and spare equipment levels of some models.
Interior, design and technology
The Touran was never going to win any beauty contests. It’s always been about substance over style, but at least it has smartened up in its latest incarnation.
On the outside, the Touran has adopted more angular lines and an overall more sleek and sharp look than previous models, with more than a hint of ‘big Golf SV’ about it. New LED lights have also added to this modern image.
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The colour palette for the Touran is muted, although we’re not about to advocate bright yellow for an MPV. There are some glitzier colours in the mix, such as the two metallic blues, Caribbean (the lighter of the two shades) and Atlantic. Brave, also, of Volkswagen to offer Nutshell Brown metallic and Titanium Beige metallic; yes, beige.
Pure White and Urano Grey are the solids, the white costing £260 and Urano being in effect the ‘standard’, solitary no-cost Touran colour. Another silver and another grey, both metallic finishes, join the solitary pearlescent (Deep Black) to give buyers nine options. The seven metallic and pearl finishes cost £595 each.
Although 16-inch ‘Trondheim’ and 17-inch ‘Stockholm’ alloy wheels are the regular fitment on the SE, SE Family and SEL models accordingly, there’s another optional design of 17-inch wheel called ‘Vallelunga’, while 18-inch ‘Marseille’ alloys can be fitted for a fee on the SE, SE Family and SEL. The S model Tourans cannot be fitted with any wheel size larger than 16 inches.
Inside, the Touran has received the same modernising treatment. The most noticeable styling update is the new dashboard. Everything is extremely accessible and laid out logically. The seats are plush and comfy, and lumbar support has been added to the Touran for the first time, which even has a massage function on some models.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
While we might bemoan the lack of equipment elsewhere on the S, the Composition Media system – with its 6.5-inch colour touchscreen in the centre console – has the audio game covered. For a basic set-up, it’s pretty powerful. It features eight speakers in total and has an 80-watt total output, as well as being capable of playing MP3, WMA and AAC files. That it also throws in Bluetooth, DAB, an SD card reader, a CD player and USB connectivity is all the more impressive.
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Moving up to SE trim only adds a Multi-Device Interface (MDI) via the USB slot, so the next big change is the introduction of Discover Navigation on the SE Family and SEL models. The latter of these also benefits from Car-Net App-Connect, which combines the functionality of Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto and MirrorLink to allow smartphone display ‘mirroring’ on the touchscreen.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Practicality was clearly high on the agenda when creating the Touran and no opportunity to add storage space has been neglected. In fact, Volkswagen has managed to cram an impressive 47 cubbies and pockets inside this car.
It’s probably best to be aware that it’s on the SE where a lot of the most useful additions to the Touran’s interior are made, including a large storage compartment in the roof console; a multifunction centre console with storage box; under-seat drawers for the driver and front passenger chairs; folding tables on the back of the front seats; and storage pockets on the rear of the same seats as well. The SE also benefits from a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel, allowing the driver to keep their hands on the wheel more often.
Despite being larger than its predecessor, the Touran is not gargantuan by MPV terms, with a length just a little in excess of 4.5 metres (4,527mm, to be exact). Parking sensors all round are standard fit from the SE upwards, while Park Assist – which can automatically steer the vehicle into a parallel parking position – is offered as an option on SE, SE Family and SEL cars. A rear-view camera is a £170 option on all Tourans.
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Leg room, head room and passenger space
Even lofty passengers will find plenty of space to stretch their legs. Every seat in the middle row is large enough for a full sized adult and six footers will have no problem fitting in comfortably.
Fortunately, this also means children will struggle to kick the backs of seats – a boon for parents on longer motorway journeys. People in the third row get the rough end of the stick, but the middle seats slide forward to leave all passengers with adequate legroom. Headroom, elbow room and knee room are all excellent in the front and second rows of seats.
The Touran will only come to the UK as a seven-seater, but the third row of seats fold flat into the floor giving the option of five seats with a large boot. With all of the seven seats in position, bear in mind there’s just 137 litres of stowage space at the back of the vehicle. Volkswagen quotes a more impressive 927 litres with the third row folded away.
The second row of seats will also fold completely flat to give 1,857 litres of load space in total, loaded up to the ceiling. Each seat folds individually and new to the Touran is the folding front passenger seat, which gives further flexibility. Owners can now carry items up to 2.7 metres long.
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Reliability and Safety
Volkswagen is known for its ability to build sturdy cars and the Touran is no different. Whether you’re driving or a passenger in this car, it certainly feels like a safe pair of hands. However, Volkswagen’s score in our latest Driver Power survey resulted in it dropping from 19th to 22nd position.
While the new car was not included in the 2015 survey, the old Touran came 168th, making it the lowest-placed Volkswagen of all – just behind the Mk5 Polo (167th) and Mk7 Passat (166th). Apart from practicality, where it came in an admirable 32nd place, there were some real areas of concern. It placed 188th for road handling, 194th for seat comfort and 196th for in-car tech, in a 200-vehicle poll. Volkswagen will certainly be hoping for better from the new Touran.
Safety kit on the Touran has been comprehensively updated, an important factor for families in the market for a people carrier. It gets nine airbags as well as a raft of safety systems for the first time. These include Automatic Post-Collision Braking and Pre-Crash proactive occupant protection system as standard, plus adaptive cruise control, emergency braking and traffic alerts, as well as Trailer Assist for the first time on an MPV. Also, all the five rear chairs have Isofix child seat preparation.
All this was instrumental in the new Touran picking up a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating, with highly impressive individual safety scores of 88 per cent for adult occupants, 89 per cent for child occupants, 71 per cent for pedestrians and 76 per cent for safety assist.
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Volkswagen’s warranty is three years and 60,000 miles, but for a fee this can be extended on the Touran to four years and 75,000 miles (£580, years one and two unlimited mileage, years three and four subject to 75,000-mile cap), or five years and 90,000 miles (£1,275, again unlimited mileage to begin with and then introducing the 90,000-mile cap from years three to five). Both those sums are more money than the extended warranties for some other Volkswagen models.
Fixed-price servicing is offered by Volkswagen on all models, which covers the car for three years and 30,000 miles. This includes an oil change at 12 months or 10,000 miles (whichever is soonest), an interval service including oil change at 24 months/20,000 miles and a full inspection service with oil and brake fluid changes at 36 months/30,000 miles. All the parts and labour are guaranteed for two years and the plan is transferrable to another owner if the car is sold during the period.