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VW Touran

New VW Touran uses turbo and supercharger to push a 1.4-litre engine to the limit

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4.0 out of 5

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If you’ve been waiting for a Touran GTI flagship, this isn’t it. But while VW has held back on building a truly hot compact MPV, the TSI is a great all-rounder, and its engine will pleasantly surprise everyone who drives the car. Its 1.4-litre petrol unit is efficient, economical and delivers the power of a 2.0. Fitting a turbo and a supercharger has proved to be a master stroke for VW.

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Can you really build a rapid people carrier with a 1.4-litre engine? If you look to Vauxhall, the answer is a resounding ‘No!’. With a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and bold bodykit, the high-performance Zafira VXR proves that sometimes there is no substitute for cubic capacity.

But Volkswagen is taking a very dif­ferent app­roach... its new ‘hot’ com­pact MPV, the Touran TSI, looks like a stan­dard car, and has a 1.4-litre unit. Under the bonnet, however, there’s a secret: its tiny four-cylinder engine is fitted with a turbocharger and a supercharger.

In terms of engineering, it’s one of the most complicated motors currently available. At low revs, the supercharger forces air into the engine to help increase power. As the revs rise, both systems of forced induction operate, then the turbo alone feeds the unit at high speeds. The complex hardware results in 138bhp and 220Nm of torque from 1,750-4,000rpm. These figures mean the engine offers good performance in the Golf – but can it still work well in the heavier people carrier? We grabbed the keys to find out.

Starting it up, we were impressed by the refinement. Tickover is inaudible and the powerplant is utterly smooth; the result of extensive engineering that included replacing the FSI’s aluminium head with a cast-iron one.

When you’re pulling away, everything seems normal. Put your foot on the accelerator, however, and the Touran surges forward, the supercharger whin­ing distinctively in the background. It feels like a diesel at low revs, but at 4,000rpm, the acceleration doesn’t tail off. Instead, a turbo whistle replaces the whine, and the VW charges towards the red line at around 7,000rpm.

And, unlike the average diesel, the TSI suffers no lag after you change gear. The supercharger re-engages instantly, so thrust is there right away. For the record, this Touran out-accelerates a 2.0-litre VW Eos, covering 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds. It’s easy to spin the front wheels as they struggle for grip in first gear, but it’s the powerful mid-range pull that really appeals on the open road.

Fuel economy – the reason for VW’s investment in this engine – is excellent, too. Returns of 37.7mpg make it the most economical petrol Touran you can buy, while CO2 emissions are comparatively low at 180g/km.

The 2.0-litre TDI oil-burner achieves 46mpg, but it costs nearly £1,000 more than the TSI. Not that the Touran TSI is cheap, at £17,995, but the technology is effective enough to justify the price.

Buyers can choose between SE and Sport trims, both with six-speed manual gearboxes. Yet this engine is so outstanding, it’s a pity VW hasn’t gone all the way with a GTI variant to tempt buyers from the Zafira VXR.

Without any stiffened suspension, the Touran rides extremely well, but feels a bit softly sprung around corners. The upright driving position is far from sporty, yet there’s no denying the VW is superbly practical. Despite its compact dimensions, there’s room for seven adults, while build quality is excellent. On the outside, the only clue that this is a ‘performance’ version is the TSI badge on the boot. It’s certainly understated, but the fresh addition to the Touran line-up also delivers genuinely impressive performance.

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