The new-look Touran is more stylish than its predecessor, as well as cleaner, greener and better equipped. In reality the visual alterations are pretty mild, but compare and contrast it with the previous model and the front wings, bonnet, bumpers, lights, mirrors and tailgate have all been changed. It makes for a er, more modern feel than before.
Parked alongside the Renault the VW does seem boxy, though, and its tall roofline, angular proportions and large glass area give it a top-heavy look on the road. Things improve inside, where VW’s famed cabin quality comes to the fore.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the VW Touran
The refreshed dash borrows its climate controls and multimedia display screen from the MkVI Golf, and there’s an updated multifunction display between the two main instruments, complete with slick graphics. Only the cheaper plastics used on the lower parts of the door and around the gearlever let things down slightly.
The driving position is better than in the Renault, and our car’s sports seats gave plenty of support and comfort. However, the middle row isn’t so clever. To tilt them you must pull two levers, where the Scenic’s can be adjusted in a single movement.
The Touran’s don’t offer such a wide range of movement, either, and there’s less rear legroom in the VW. Still, the chairs themselves are well trimmed in Alcantara and cloth, and everything feels solidly built.
With all seven seats in place there’s less luggage space than in the Grand Scenic, and even when the third row is folded flat it can’t match its rival for load capacity. Yet the sill height is lower than in the French car and the roofline is taller, so it offers plenty of space.
The Touran also trails under the bonnet. With the firm’s tried-and-tested 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel, the VW is never going to match the more powerful Renault for pace. The 60Nm torque shortfall between the two is noticeable both against the clock and on the road, where the Renault responds with more enthusiasm.
The Touran trailed the Scenic by eight-tenths of a second in the sprint from 0-60mph. And in the sixth-gear drag from 50-70mph, the gap was even greater.
Despite this, the VW easily keeps pace with surrounding traffic, and the performance deficit is turned on its head at the pumps, where the Touran returns superior economy.
In our hands it recorded 43.3mpg – in line with the official combined figures. Put the lack of outright pace to one side and the Touran is composed and capable, with plenty of grip and body control. The suspension is firm, though, so it doesn’t match the comfort provided by the Renault. There’s more roll in the Grand Scenic, yet it feels more agile and nimble than its rival.
Rounding off the German machine’s dynamic package is the light steering, which has linear responses and is far more natural than the artificial set-up of its competitor. Look at the sums and the VW makes even more sense.
Not only does it promise much better economy than the Renault, but its CO2 emissions of 140g/km are 33g/km lower than the Grand Scenic’s. That makes the Touran a more attractive company car choice, despite its higher list price. It’s also cheaper to tax, and has a 570-mile-plus range between refills – nearly 100 more than its rival.
The VW has always been a safe and sensible choice, and thanks to the latest revisions it continues to be a genuine contender. But will its economy and low running costs be enough to counter the stronger performance and price advantage of the evergreen Grand Scenic?
Chart position: 1WHY: Touran aims to give buyers a slice of the Golf’s desirability and performance combined with the practicality of an MPV.