Volkswagen Touran

Who said our long-term cars have it easy? The Volkswagen Touran is certainly being made to earn its living, particularly after it was pressed into service to ferry a scrapped Rover Metro to our recent fire extinguisher test. It's not the first time we've been glad that we specified it with a tow bar.

  • Punchy, flexible engine, driving position, cabin storage, clever seat options, sharp handling
  • Engine vibration at idle, low opening tailgate, no CD player when using sat-nav

Who said our long-term cars have it easy? The Volkswagen Touran is certainly being made to earn its living, particularly after it was pressed into service to ferry a scrapped Rover Metro to our recent fire extinguisher test. It's not the first time we've been glad that we specified it with a tow bar.

The Touran doesn't have the size or weight advantages of Auto Express's previous tow cars from VW - a Sharan and Caravelle - but the mini-MPV really packs a punch, thanks to its 2.0-litre TDI engine. With 134bhp, it boasts more power than either of its stablemates, but it's the way the power is delivered that sets the Touran apart.

Instead of a great surge as the turbo cuts in, power is on tap throughout the rev range - exactly what you want when towing. Hills are taken with ease, and cruise control needs to be engaged to ensure you keep to the 60mph towing limit.

But the VW is also the perfect commuting tool. It's flexible in traffic, yet refined on the motorway, and able to return more than 40mpg in all conditions (except when towing, of course). Our only gripe with the engine is the vibration through the clutch pedal at tickover - a small price to pay.

All this work has seen the Touran rack up nearly 10,000 miles in four months. The people carrier has been kept busy travelling to UK race tracks with our Uniroyal Team Challenge racers, and a trip across Belgium for the 25 Hour Beetle Fun Cup at Spa saw the MPV filled with race gear. I've even used the Touran to ferry people around - filling all seven seats on a night out without complaint - although the tow bar bottomed out on speed humps with the extra weight on board.

The Sport version is surefooted when pressing on, but the ride proves harsh on poorly maintained city streets. On the plus side, the versatility of the rear layout continues to impress with its variety of seat configurations. But less pleasing are the plastics in the boot, which seem to pick up marks too easily. We were gently taken to task by VW after we complained the tailgate didn't open high enough for my six-foot-three-inch frame. The firm pointed out that an extra push raises it a little further, but we think it should open to this height in the first place. The rear door also needs a firm shove to close it properly.

We'll get this checked when we take the Touran in for attention to its most irritating fault. The remote central locking works fine on the driver's door, while a second stab opens the rest - apart from the front passenger door. It can take five or six goes before it releases - very annoying with armfuls of shopping. The misting front foglight will also have to be looked at, too.

Not that the car is a stranger to my VW dealer, as the engine warning light came on after roughly 5,000 miles. Fearing the worst, we took the Touran in, asking the garage to also look at the brake lights, which stayed on long after the car was parked. It transpired these were triggering the warning, and they were fixed under warranty on the spot.

Niggles aside, the Touran is a pleasure to drive, and is coping admirably with the demands of my role as Consumer Editor. It's been used as a test bed for everything from polish to sat-nav.

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