When snow brought most of the country to a freezing halt earlier this year, we couldn't help feeling a little smug. We had decided to practise what we preach and follow the advice regularly handed out on our product pages by fitting winter tyres to our long-term Sharan. So while the rest of the UK came to a wheel-spinning stop, our hard-working MPV carried on as though nothing had changed.
When snow brought most of the country to a freezing halt earlier this year, we couldn't help feeling a little smug. We had decided to practise what we preach and follow the advice regularly handed out on our product pages by fitting winter tyres to our long-term Sharan. So while the rest of the UK came to a wheel-spinning stop, our hard-working MPV carried on as though nothing had changed. Hills that proved impossible for other cars to negotiate were easy for the VW, which could stop and start with ease. The difference the Vredestein Wintracs made was astonishing - not only when climbing slippery slopes, but also when braking and cornering. The feeling of security was well worth the small cost premium over the standard rubber, and dry performance was as good as ever. Clocking up more than 22,000 miles, the Sharan has continued its high work rate without trouble. It fires up first time every time, although every now and again this is accompanied by a cloud of blue-black smoke. This became more infrequent after the 17,000-mile service, costing £225.31. Less satisfactory was our dealer trip to get a door scrape fixed. While the repair is fine, we were not happy to have to return a week later for the replacement of a scraped mirror cap. The dealer had estimated for the work, so why wasn't it done the first time? And for a near-£800 job, we expected the sill's stone chip protection to be replaced. Now it's black at the front and red at the rear... We've also fixed another self-inflicted wound - a hole in the boot trim. This was done for a feature on SMART (Small and Medium Repair Techniques) repairs (Issue 791) and was a lot easier on the wallet at £50. Generally the interior has stood up well to a year's hard motoring, with the Alcantara and leather trim remaining unmarked. However, the plastics could be a little tougher. The Sharan really deserves its multi-purpose vehicle title, and we've taken advantage of its versatility as often as possible. When it came to a two-family break in France, we simply installed the rear-most seats, fixed a Thule box to the roof bars and headed for the Channel Tunnel. And despite weekend luggage for seven, we still managed to squeeze in a decent supermarket haul. The engine took the trip in its stride, too. VW's 1.9-litre 130bhp turbodiesel delivers a surge of power from just under 2,000rpm, and cruises quietly at the legal limit. The wide powerband makes towing easy, as we proved when the Sharan was used for the Driving Our Own feature (issue 786). With the help of the slick six-speed box, it delivered my Caterham to the photoshoot with little extra effort. Perhaps the most impressive feature, though, is the economy, as the VW delivers close to 40mpg - a real bonus on my 100-mile commute. So it's with regret that we're saying goodbye to OU03 OZL. Despite a string of readers' complaints about the Sharan/Ford Galaxy/SEAT Alhambra MPV family, and their unimpressive showing in Driver Power 2004, our time with the Sharan has been entirely trouble-free. What's more, it's done everything we've asked of it - and you can't say better than that.