Volkswagen Touran

Although VW won't admit it, the launch of the new Golf hasn't gone entirely to plan. Sales have been slower than expected and the car has been criticised for its conservative looks and high prices.

We love the simplicity of the new DSG gearbox, which is the first sequential-style transmission to offer an improvement over standard manual boxes. At a stroke it consigns most conventional autos to the rubbish bin, too - but we do have reservations. Although the Touran is an impressive car, rivals offer more to the family car buyer.

Although VW won't admit it, the launch of the new Golf hasn't gone entirely to plan. Sales have been slower than expected and the car has been criticised for its conservative looks and high prices.

However, it's not all bad news - the MkV Golf has also introduced new technology to the market. Take the versatile Touran, for example - it's now equipped with the 2.0-litre TDI engine and DSG direct shift gearbox. Priced at £18,140, it's aimed at mini-MPVs such as the Vauxhall Zafira. But does the new transmission give the Touran an advantage?

The hi-tech engine and gearbox have already impressed in the Golf, giving a genuinely sporty feel. And the Touran benefits in a similar way, offering brisk acceleration and quick gearchanges. Even if driven hard, fuel consumption doesn't seem to fall below VW's claimed combined figure of 46mpg.

The clutchless gearbox is very easy to use, with a simple selector that gives the driver the option of a fully automatic mode, or a sequential shift. Sadly, the Touran doesn't come with the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters that are standard-fit on the DSG-equipped Audi TT. And at the moment, Volkswagen has no plans to change this.

On the road, the VW handles well. The ride is firm, but not uncomfortable, while the steering is weighty without being heavy. Although the diesel motor is refined, the Touran suffers from wind noise on motorways. However, the versatile leather-trimmed interior is easy to use, and we were impressed by the SE's generous standard equipment.

Surprisingly, our test car suffered from some niggling build quality faults. Despite being brand new, some of the dashboard trim looked very grubby, and we found the electric window switches on the passenger door were loose.

The anti-theft alarm was extremely sensitive, and triggered without reason - a fault we've found on other Tourans. In addition, you need to slam the tailgate to close it properly. It's not what we have come to expect from VW, and something that needs addressing if the brand wants to keep its reputation for quality.

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