The original Volkswagen Sharan
was co-developed with Ford, although after 15 years on sale, its replacement was long overdue. The new model has a clean and modern look, with solid proportions, yet there’s little to get excited about. A unique grille and bold badge distinguish the Sharan from the Alhambra at the front, but the conservative design has a familiar VW face.
Large MPVs are all about the interior, however, and this is where the latest addition to the VW line-up comes into its own. The Sharan name is derived from the Persian phrase ‘carrier of kings’, and while the cabin doesn’t really offer regal opulence, we can’t fault its build quality.
The curved dashboard has an attractive and straightforward layout, you get a decent driving position and typically smart instruments and switchgear. Unfortunately, thick A-pillars combine with tiny quarter-light windows to create nasty blind spots at junctions and roundabouts.
The Sharan does better for passengers. Sliding rear doors mean getting in and out is simple in tight spaces, while the seats in the middle row all slide and fold independently. The outer pair have a clever easy-access function to get to the third row, too. You simply tug a lever and the chairs glide forwards and tip, providing plenty of space to get in.
The rearmost seats fold out of the boot with ease, and because the VW uses run-flat tyres, there’s an empty space under the false floor. This gives the Sharan a deeper load area than the Galaxy when all seven seats are occupied.
Overall, our trio offer comparable interior space. Boot volumes are closely matched and the seats fold and slide in similar ways. But for those who regularly plan to carry a full complement
of passengers, the VW doesn’t provide as much third row legroom as the Ford. On the plus side, its seats take less physical effort to move than the Galaxy’s, and with all the chairs folded
flat, there’s a load length of more than two metres.
The latest Sharan is bigger and better quality than before, but the greatest improvement is with the driving experience. Body control, grip and refinement have all taken a big step forwards. At motorway speeds, wind and road noise is isolated from the cabin, and in corners the car is reassuring.
It just lacks the sparkle of the Galaxy from behind the wheel.
The steering is slower and the VW doesn’t feel as agile, while the ride is a fraction firmer. It’s hard to fault the punchy and refined 2.0 TDI diesel, but the Ford’s unit has a smoother power delivery and sharper throttle response.
The new Sharan is a worthy successor to the long-serving original, but is it good enough to beat its rivals here?
Chart position: 3WHY: New seven-seater is cheaper than VW sister model, yet has the same quality, space and mechanicals. Can the cut-price contender cause an upset?