VW Touran: farewell

We began this VW Touran long-term blog asking whether an MPV is still relevant in 2017 when almost everyone is buying family crossovers like the Nissan Qashqai.

During our tenure, our opinion of the Touran went from handy 5+2 seater to benchmark family car. It really is that good.

Styling is still its biggest problem though - It’s easy to see why people are drawn to Nissan’s handsome and adventurous-looking SUV when you park one next to our pragmatic but van-like Touran.

Not a full-time seven seater

There’s also the issue of those third row seats - if you want to regularly transport seven adults then look elsewhere, as it’s tight on space in the back for anyone larger than a medium-sized teenager.

You also lose almost all of the bootspace with all seven seats up, prompting us to attach a large roof box to the top of the car to help cope with large family outings.

Another problem was the ride quality - although great on the motorway, around town it was never as good as I wanted it to be. Being based on Golf underpinnings means there’s a firmness to the ride unless you go for the optional adaptive dampers, which had a very positive effect on the Touran’s comfort levels.

Surprisingly good to drive

That Golf backbone also means the Touran drives really well though – on par and often better than the large number of high-riding SUVs that frequent the Parkers office.

It certainly resists body roll well, giving it unexpected poise on a vigorous drive and also helping those in the back remain nausea-free.

In this respect it impressed me greatly, and had a similar effect on life-long Golf drivers Sophie and her husband Steve, who enjoyed the Touran’s road manners on a trip to Devon.

In fact one of the most surprising things about the Touran was how often members of the Parkers team asked to borrow it.

‘Do you think this will fit in the Touran?’

Part of the joy of a large car like this is its ability to cope with life no matter what the requirement.

Need to transport three bikes, two adults and a toddler? No problem. Picking up an eight-foot Christmas tree? Fine. Moving house? Borrow CJ’s VW Crafter for the sofa, but everything else will go in.

As such it found itself in the service of almost all of the Parkers team at one stage or another, because they had to go to Ikea or the tip or simply to soak up the stress of a long motorway drive.

Driver input optional

Here is where the Touran really excelled – ploughing down the motorway with the adaptive cruise and active lane keep assist doing 80% of the work for you.

VW’s autonomous driving tech seems to be right at the cutting edge at the moment. It certainly feels among the most usable systems, helping you out rather than fighting against your inputs.

And when you’ve got a car full of toddlers singing along to Peppa Pig’s greatest hits and a massive birthday cake sloshing around in the boot, having some extra help from the car is invaluable.

So…is it better than a Qashqai?

Yes. Well, sort of. It’s not as exciting to look at and is quite expensive but in all other respects we’d recommend one over an SUV any day.

I didn’t think I’d miss it a huge amount – not because it was a bad car, but because it was a problem-solving tool rather than something I established an emotional bond with.

However, not a weekend goes by since its departure when I don’t think to myself, I wish the Touran was still around.

Still, it’s not all bad. After riding in our long-termer my best friend went out and bought a Touran (instead of a Qashqai) to coincide with the birth of his third child. So I can always borrow his.

By Adam Binnie


 

Eleventh update: which options?

While a high-spec VW Touran like ours comes well-equipped from the off, there are a few key additions you might want to consider adding to your car.

We’ve got options totalling £4,760 on our Touran, and some are more essential than others. Here’s the full run-down of which boxes are worth ticking, and which are not.

Safety kit

Side Scan and Lane Assist (£970):
Utilises radar to spot pesky cars hiding in your blind spot, issuing a visual warning via a light in the door mirror. Meanwhile a camera keeps an eye on whether you’re drifting out of your lane. Verdict: worth it, if you spend a lot of time on the motorway.

Side airbags for the second-row seats (£305):
Should be standard really, considering those seats will be full of passengers 99% of the time. Verdict: obviously worth it.

Tyre pressure monitoring system (£150):
In an ideal world you’d keep an eye on your tyre pressures, topping them up when necessary for safety and fuel economy reasons. In the same ideal world you’d own a spotless mansion and eat more avocados than a Clean Living blogger. Get real - tick this box and the Touran will do it all for you. Verdict: worth it.

Convenience

Keyless entry, Start/Stop button, electric hands-free tailgate (£635):
Trying to find your keys when you’ve got a toddler in one arm and a load of shopping in the other, in the pouring rain, is really boring. Pick this option and you can lock/unlock the car with a swipe of the door handle, and better yet, open the boot electronically by waving your foot under the rear bumper. Verdict: would still be worth it, even with a zero added to the price.

Vienna leather upholstery including heated front seats (£1,725):
Ever had to scrub sick out of a cloth seat? Opt for wipe-clean leather and you even get back-pain minimising heated front seats thrown in too. They look better than the standard upholstery and your friends will say ‘oooh!’ when they sit in them. Not a cheap option but bear in mind there are seven individual chairs to cover. Verdict: worth it…just about.

Family pack – electronic child locks, roller blinds on side windows, voice amplification function (£195):
This pack allows you to activate the child locks via a button under the driver’s elbow, so the little scamps can’t open their doors on the move, and also amplifies the driver’s voice so you can holler ‘stop kicking my chair!!!’ at window-rattling volume. Rear roller blinds and a real boon at nap time, too. Verdict: unequivocally worth it.

Gadgets

Rear-view camera (£170):
A supremely useful bit of tech but not exactly critical, considering you get sensors anyway. Verdict: not essential.

High beam assist (£135):
Very handy but not as good as the adaptive LED set up. Verdict: not worth it.

Winter pack (£280):
This gets you headlight washers, heated windscreen washer jets and low washer fluid warning light. Proper winter is a fairly short season anyway, so we’re not sure we’d bother. Verdict: not worth it.

Park Assist (£195):
Parks the car for you – great for showing off to your friends, still quicker to just do it yourself. Verdict: possibly worth it, but only if you are inept at parking.

Things we’d like

Our Touran is well-equipped but it’d still benefit from the larger Discover Navigation Pro sat-nav (£1,475), Dynamic Chassis Control (£665) and LED headlights (£1,295).

Of those three the sat-nav is probably the most dispensable – the dynamic dampers dramatically improve the ride quality and the LED headlights are much brighter for easier night time driving.

By Adam Binnie

 


Ninth update: Touran de force

Words can only explain so much about this Touran's various clever and practical features - really it's best to see them in action properly.

The next best thing to a proper test drive is to watch our in-depth video review where we explore the car's best - and worst - attributes.

By Adam Binnie


Eighth update: Down in Devon

Last weekend I borrowed the Touran for a short trip to Devon. My own car, a Ford Fiesta, gets a bit high-pitched on motorways so I wanted a mile-muncher that would keep me comfortable for the whole journey. Being five months pregnant means comfort and ease of driving is a real priority at the moment.

My husband (Steve) and I are big fans of VW cars – him especially – so we knew the Touran would look after us on the long journey, and it didn’t disappoint. With a history of Golf ownership behind us, we felt immediately at home in the cabin, with reliable quality as expected.

Loads of room in the boot

Volkswagen Touran long-term review

First off was a trial of the fold-flat seats as we hefted some boxes around pre-journey; the seats were easy to operate, even given how clumsy I am during my pregnancy, and the space awarded was impressive. It’s like having a van, or perhaps a Transformer, turning from a car into a people carrier into a van, and back again.

With the roof box in place, we weren’t short of space at all. Although we did take the roof box off before our Devon trip, as it was only the two of us travelling, so we didn’t need too much space for luggage. Removing it was quick and simple, though.

Is this really a people carrier? 

Once driving, it’s easy to forget that the Touran is a people carrier at all. The engine, when in Sport mode, is quick and responsive, and certainly holds its own on the motorways.

‘I never thought I’d enjoy driving a people carrier,’ Steve commented, ‘but this performs really well. The suspension and ride is great, without there being any body roll, and you can step out after a long journey thinking it’s only been 10 miles.’

Once down in Devon, our family outing saw three adults – all over six foot – seated comfortably in the middle row, without arguments or moaning. Sadly we didn’t get the chance to squeeze anyone into the third row.

The narrow roads of Devonshire did test the safety warning systems of the Touran to the max, however. The ‘warning, there’s a blade of grass on your left’ beeping became quite tiresome down those tiny back roads, so if we were staying for a longer holiday, I’d turn off those systems. But it proved surprisingly easy to squeeze past other cars – the Touran, if a Transformer, is also a Tardis, fitting into gaps you might expect would be too tight.

The perfect car for a motorway nap

Volkswagen Touran long-term review

The only negative we found was the piano black dashboard trim, which, on a sunny day, proved very reflective and off-putting. As a passenger in the front, I was distracted by my constant reflection, as sharp as a mirror - for a certain amount of time I resorted to opening the CD flap to stop seeing myself. If I was going to buy this car, I would un-tick this box or find another option.

The Touran’s comfort was its strongest point over our 520-mile round trip. The seats were supportive, and having napped most of the way home, I woke up without the tell-tale crick in my neck that I usually get when dozing in a car. It breezed through those motorways, eating up the miles without us realising how far we’d driven.

By Sophie Knight


Seventh update: Making waves

My surfboard has been in storage since we moved house - such is the infrequency that I get into the water these days.

However -  a small beacon of hope - one of my oldest friends is fulfilling a lifetime's dream by upping sticks to Cornwall. 

A relocation for them, a lifetime of free surfing holidays for me. Jackpot.

In the past I'd have strapped a soft-rack to my old car and put up with hours of whistling and webbing straps flapping around. And it let rain water in.

Not so with the Touran's roofbars, which provide a sturdy anchouring point for my board. They're a bit noisy with nothing strapped to them but curiously quiet with the board attached.

Just need to procure a wetsuit that minimises my belly now.

Mileage: 2,821

Fuel economy: 41.8mpg

By Adam Binnie 

 


Sixth update: Accessorise

Confession: I’m developing a worrying obsession with roof boxes.

It started with the Audi A4 Avant I ran previously, and was largely borne out of curiosity – was the genuine branded box worth hundreds of pounds more than an aftermarket one from Halfords? I decided it probably was, because it was so easy to use and featured two extra enormous four rings badges for peak campsite swagger.

This time around my interest in additional storage is more to do with necessity. When you have seven seats people invariably want to sit in them, usually because this means taking only the one car on day trips with friends or family.

While it is way more convenient to travel together, popping up the third row has a pretty dramatic effect on the Touran’s bootspace - largely because it’s suddenly filled with people.

Volkswagen sells a set of roof bars for £220 and a 340-litre box for £225 so we’re testing them out while we’ve got the Touran on our fleet. Those figures are much more reasonable than Audi’s and only about £50 more than what you’d pay on the high street.

It’s harder to fit than the one on the A4 – the Audi bars fitted in only one place on the A4’s roof rails, and the box clamped on to them using slideable claws that were tightened by twisting a plastic knob.

On the Touran you have to measure the rails to ensure the bars clamp down at the right point, and the box is held on with some fiddly nuts and bolts that you have to thread through a recessed slot. It’s not a massive drama, but means I’m much more reluctant to take it all off the roof when not in use.

While I was leafing through the VW Accessories catalogue a few other items caught my eye – namely a flexible boot liner (£60) to protect the carpet in the back, and a heat/cool box (£150) powered by a 12v socket.

The former replaces the tarpaulin I had to pack every time we went off to do something muddy (with a two-year-old in tow this is most weekend activities, even something innocuous like getting a haircut) and folds away handily when not needed.

Finally the picnic box is very useful for, well, picnics. My son views eating outdoors on a rug as a major event, and looks forward to it in the same way you or I would anticipate the Six Nations grand slam decider or European city break. Being able to eat hot rotisserie chicken miles away from the house is something like a lottery win for him.

I haven’t tried out the cold setting yet because frankly, it’s still March, and if you want to keep something cold you just need to leave it in the boot.

Mileage: 2,748

Fuel economy: 41.8mpg

By Adam Binnie 



Fifth update: tip of the iceberg

After the last War-and-Peace-scale update you'll be pleased to hear that this week's dispatch is a bit more compact.

Partly this is because I haven't had much time behind the wheel of the Touran - everyone keeps borrowing it for runs to the tip (or Household Recycling Centre as it's now known) - the latest in the queue being James Taylor from CAR magazine.

He said: "You can fit a huge amount of stuff in there - two dustbins full of garden waste, two big storage boxes, a Christmas tree, several plastic liners…really useful.

"It's also very comfortable with loads of seat adjustment, even though the steering wheel sits in a van-like, canted-back position, which is a bit annoying.

"That said it handles really well for a big, tall bus, feeling more like a hatchback to drive."

An item of mutual annoyance are the gaps between the seats in the second and third row, which allow bits and bobs to fall through. Make sure you line the boot before filling otherwise you'll still be finding fragments of festive spruce in March.

As taking stuff to the tip is becoming a startlingly regular occurence in my life (and apparently our team here) it's heartening to see how up for the job this Touran is.

Not only is its boot capacious it's also flanked by tough plastic and easy-to-clean carpet material, and the engine seems more than powerful enough even with full loadspace.

Mileage: 2,523

Fuel economy: 41.8mpg

By Adam Binnie and James Taylor


 

Fourth update: which version is best?

Here’s an unsurprising fact – the Volkswagen Touran is Europe’s most popular MPV – with 112,000 new registrations in 2016.

If you’re looking to join those ranks you could go with what VW says is the best-selling combination: a manual 1.6-litre diesel-powered car in SE trim.

That represents only the second rung on the ladder, with three more expensive trims and two more powerful diesel units to choose from, plus the DSG automatic gearbox to consider.

So are the pricier versions worth the extra cash and how do they stack up to our long termer? We’ve been driving opposite ends of the Touran range to find out.

The cars on test

  • SE Family, 1.6-litre TDI (115hp) manual - £27,005
  • SEL, 2.0-litre TDI (150hp) automatic - £29,805 (our long termer)
  • R-Line, 2.0-litre TDI (190hp) automatic - £31,795

Power and economy

As you’d expect the 1.6-litre TDI is the cheapest car to run, but what’s interesting is that there isn’t actually much between this 115hp unit and the considerably faster 150hp and 190hp motors.

Low running costs will appeal more to family buyers than 0-62mph times but if you plan to regularly drive with all seven seats filled, or even with a full boot, then performance is very relevant.

The key here really is the amount of torque available and where in the rev range it is delivered. Typically you want more newton metres at low engine speeds in order to pull away quickly when loaded up - both 2.0-litre engines fare better here than the 1.6-litre thanks to their larger displacement.

At the top of the engine tree the 2.0-litre 190hp makes mincemeat of overtaking manoeuvres and standing-start slip roads thanks to its 8.2 second 0-62mph time - a second faster than the 150hp version and a whopping 3.2 seconds quicker than the 1.6-litre.

We think the 1.6-litre engine is perfectly adequate for everyday use and the occasion full-up run. The 2.0-litre 150hp is a great all-rounder with plenty of punch even if you’re taking a bootfull of garden waste to the tip and in most situations is more than enough engine for the Touran if you’d rather not be left wanting.

The 2.0-litre 190hp has stacks of power in reserve which you’ll realistically have few opportunities to deploy (unless your children have strong stomachs) so is best suited to an enthusiastic driver with regular solo trips.

Some figures at a glance...

1.6-litre 115hp

  • 115hp at 3,200-4,000rpm
  • 250Nm of torque at 1,500-3,250rpm
  • 118mph top speed
  • 0-62 mph in 11.4 seconds
  • 61.4mpg, 119g/k of CO2

2.0-litre 150hp DSG 

  • 150hp at 3,500-4,000rpm
  • 340Nm of torque at 1,750-3,000rpm
  • 128mph top speed
  • 0-62 mph in 9.3 seconds
  • 60.1mpg, 122 g/km in CO2

 

2.0-litre 190hp DSG

  • 190hp at 3,500-4,000
  • 400Nm of torque at 1,900-3,300
  • 137mph top speed
  • 0-62 mph in 8.2 seconds
  • 58.9mpg, 125g/km of CO2

 

What about the gearbox?

The big consideration here is how often you find yourself stuck in traffic. If it’s a lot, you want the DSG automatic gearbox – all three cars here feature adaptive cruise control which works down to 0mph, but only if you pick the auto. Manual cars shut off below about 20mph.

Why does that matter? Because with the adaptive cruise activated in a jam the car essentially drives itself, speeding up and slowing down with the flow of traffic.

If you only ever travel on traffic-free roads (lucky you) then the manual gearbox is absolutely fine. It’s light and springy like most VW units and the clutch isn’t so heavy as to induce an achy left leg. Plus it's £1,300 cheaper.

What difference does the trim make?

SEL and SE Family trims are broadly similar and cost the same like-for-like. There are a couple of key differences – the former gets three-zone climate control, Car-Net App-Connect (smartphone mirroring) and front foglights, while the latter has a panoramic roof.

We’ve detailed the individual styling differences below:

SE Family

  • 16-inch alloys
  • Lasano cloth upholstery
  • New Brushed Design decorative inserts in dash, centre console and front doors

SEL

  • 17-inch alloys
  • Lots of exterior chrome, including window surrounds and twin exhaust tailpipe, plus front fog lights with static cornering function
  • Art Velours seat centre section and microfibre side bolsters
  • Chrome-plated instrument surrounds
  • Piano Black decorative inserts in dash, centre console and front doors

R Line

  • 18-inch alloys
  • R-Line styling pack taking in the front and rear bumpers, radiator grille and body-coloured side skirts
  • R Line badging
  • Race-styled seat centre section and San Remo microfiber side bolsters
  • Black rooflining
  • Black Lead Grey decorative inserts in dash, centre console and front doors
  • Grey stitching on leather trimmed three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with aluminium inserts and R-Line logo
  • Stainless steel pedals
  • R-Line door sill protectors

Essentially SE Family is functional, SEL is luxurious and R-Line is sporty, in terms of both look and equipment. I reckon picking between the first two comes down to whether you mostly use your car for family or business use. SE Family rides better on its smaller wheels and has a lighter cabin thanks to the panoramic roof, while SEL looks a bit more premium and features some additional storage cubbies in the roof liner.

R-Line is a bit harder to justify as its combination of style and substance is obviously reflected in the cost. It does look good though – the performance additions are quite subtle – and rides surprisingly well even on 19-inch wheels. Admittedly our test car featured the £655 adaptive dampers option and I suspect it would be a bit choppy without ticking that box.

Verdict

There's a clear divide between these three cars - pick the SE Family model for mainly family use, the SEL if you plan to use it as a company car too, and the R-Line if you're having to trade up from a sports car.

The only problem is, the version most people will buy costs £25,785 - some £1,300 less than even the cheapest version here, and £6,000 less than the most expensive.

No Touran is cheap but these three versions require a very careful look at the details above and what it is exactly you need from your car.

Mileage: 2,147

Fuel economy: 41.8mpg

By Adam Binnie


 

Third update: flexible and fuss-free

Moving to a new house means it’s something of a blank canvas, which also means countless trips to Ikea over the following few months after settling in.

Shockingly, I haven’t loaded the Tour-van up with numerous boxes of flat-pack for this long-term update. Instead, a whirlwind of interior decorating means it needed to transport some ladders and scaffold boards to avoid any painting-based injuries.

No problem, though – the folding front passenger seat meant the boards fitted perfectly within the 2.7m length space with about 1cm to spare – it’s a feature that makes this car an incredibly versatile MPV.

It’s easy enough to fold down all of the seats individually, however some of its rivals – including the new Renault Grand Scenic – let you lower all the seats at the touch of a button from the boot or via the car’s touchscreen.

It’s a small thing that makes life that bit easier, and one that’s missing from the VW – at least you get more of a workout going through all of the seats and lowering them individually, though.

Nevertheless, the Touran still impresses in most areas. It’s a doddle to find a comfortable driving position, it’s easy to drive and manoeuvre thanks to excellent visibility and its smooth DSG gearbox, while the flexible interior is simple to navigate and it all feels well-built.

However, the diesel is very vocal – especially when cold and driving at lower speeds – plus there’s a noticeable amount of wind noise at motorway speeds. I also don’t think the swathes of piano black trim are particularly family friendly, no matter how nice it looks (when it doesn’t have finger prints all over it).

It’s easy to see why the Touran appeals as a dependable family car though – it goes about its business without any fuss. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Mileage: 1,748

Fuel economy: 38.3mpg

By Tom Goodlad


 

 

Second update: Let's talk about specs

You can have your Touran in one of five trims (called S, SE, SE Family, SEL and R-Line) and four petrol or diesel power outputs ranging from 110hp to 190hp.

Our car is an upper-mid-table model in both respects, with the 2.0-litre diesel motor and an automatic gearbox in SEL trim. On balance it’s a good combination of kit, power, fuel economy and value for money, but VW reckons the 1.6-litre diesel SE will be the best seller.

Diesel engine is a good compromise

It costs £30,070 and for that you get a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 150hp from 3,500rpm and a decent, 340Nm wedge of torque from 1,750rpm.

This power output means a sub 10-second 0-62mph time (9.3 to be exact) and a 128mph top speed. More relevant is the claimed 60.1mpg fuel economy and 122g/km of CO2 produced - helped, as is so often the case these days, by a tank of AdBlue that will eventually need refilling.

It’s the engine you want, to be honest, thanks to its balance of speed and economy. The 1.4-litre petrol is faster but less efficient, while the 1.6-litre diesel is more efficient but slower. There’s a more powerful 190hp version but we’re not convinced you really need it.

The six-speed DSG gearbox costs £1,300 and is a bit harder to justify. It’s a great luxury (for reasons we’ll go on to explain) but the manual ‘box is pretty light in action and not exactly taxing to use. You’ll also see your VED bill jump from £30 a year to £110, which is a bit of a wince-inducer. It’s no surprise that only 30% of Tourans are so equipped.

Loads of safety tech as standard

All Tourans come with VW’s three-year/60,000-mile warranty and a year of Volkswagen Assistance breakdown cover for added peace of mind. You also get a wealth of safety kit including automatic post-collision braking (applies the anchors after a crash to prevent further accidents) and seven airbags.

Our car also has a host of acronyms to help keep you on the straight and narrow (ESC, ASR and EDL) which essentially all stop you from skidding. An electronic differential called XDS improves grip and handling, which is well worth having, as is the automatic city braking system which helps avoid dings at low speed.

Inside you get special headrests that move up and down and forward and backwards in the front two seats and Isofix mounts on all five rear chairs. There’s also a PreCrash system which closes all the windows and tightens seatbelts before a collision and a misfilling device so you can’t accidentally fill it with super unleaded.

Which trim is best?

Things kick off with base-spec S and the slightly more luxurious SE, while SE Family and SEL specs offer a similar but slightly tweaked amount of kit for the same money.

There’s a full run-down of what our car includes below but the basic difference between the two are that SE Family gets a large panoramic sunroof and cargo management system (fancy boot rails). Our SEL car has 17-inch alloys (instead of 16-inch) and three-zone climate control.

You can spend roughly £2,000 more on an R-Line car, which gets 18-inch alloys and a much fancier bodykit, but I reckon SE Family or SEL trim makes more sense.

What do you get with SEL?

Pretty much everything, as it goes. In addition to what’s mentioned above we’ve got:

  • Discover Navigation sat-nav system on 6.5-inch touch-screen with traffic information and speed limit display
  • App-Connect – a combination of Apple CarPlayAndroid Auto and MirrorLink smartphone connectivity
  • DAB radio, SD card reader, USB slot, CD player, and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (works down to a standstill thanks to the automatic gearbox)
  • Speed limiter
  • Electronic parking brake with auto hold
  • Parking sensors front and rear
  • Automatic lights and wipers
  • Front foglights
  • Electric windows front and rear
  • Electrically foldable and adjustable door mirrors
  • Rear door child locks activated from the driver’s seat
  • Electronic voice amplification for driver
  • Rear window tints and manual roller blinds

Practically speaking there are 47 cubbyholes around the cabin, including a big bin under the front centre armrest, plus all the seats except the driver’s fold flat. The middle row comprises three individual chairs which tilt and slide forwards and backwards. The two rearmost seats can be folded flush into the boot floor.

That’s all for now, we’ll get onto the £5,000 worth of options in another update. Interestingly our Christmas motorway mileage has yielded vastly improved fuel economy – up to 43mpg now. Hopefully it’ll improve as the engine loosens up a bit, too.

By Adam Binnie

Mileage: 1,327 Economy: 43.7


 


First update: Welcome

If you haven’t seen The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (easily the most underrated film in the series) then you need to. Or you’re Keith Jones, who refuses to borrow my boxset despite the fact he’d actually really enjoy it.

Either way, you’re missing out on the scene where Twinkie retrieves his car from a robotic Tokyo car park – it’s not, as you would expect, a Mitsubishi Eclipse packed with NOS - but in fact a 2005 VW Touran.

Granted, it’s painted green to look like the Incredible Hulk and adorned with foot- and fist-shaped dents in the doors, but it’s a Touran none the less –the car your neighbour uses for the school run, in a film about drifting. It looks absolutely mad but also quite brilliant.

The trouble is, not even inclusion in one of the best film franchises since Star Wars could arrest the poor MPV’s decline in coolness. And it’s not the Touran’s problem by any measure, it’s all MPVs.

To combat this you can now have a SEAT Alhambra with racing stripes, while the Renault Scenic has been forced to wear massive wheels to stand out (below). We don’t even get the Espace anymore.

Part of the problem is that practicality has never been sexy – it requires planning and careful thought, not like exciting spontaneity - and the other part is the Nissan Qashqai.

Well, not just the Nissan Qashqai, but crossovers in general. The combination of hatchback driveability with SUV style and space is catnip for parents. Got any friends who have recently had kids? They’ll have a crossover. Or they’ll be looking for one.

There’s a simple reason why - inside you can load it up with rear-facing Isofix seats and aftermarket LCD screens playing Peppa Pig on a perpetual loop just like you can in an MPV - but from the outside it looks like you’re off for a spot of impulsive kayaking or trying to traverse the width of the UK without using public roads, like Gareth recently did in a seven-seat Mercedes-Benz.

So the MPV has a bit of an image problem. Does the new VW Touran try to solve this by strapping on some plastic cladding and boosting its ride height? No, instead of trying to be a crossover, it’s back as an even better MPV. Sharper and more Golf-like on the outside, but just as practical and less van-like inside.

Ours even has a microphone to amplify the driver’s voice for second and third row passengers, and after nearly 1,000 miles my son hasn’t been able to pull off any of the interior trim. This is a car made by people who know what’s important in a family car.

Given a bit more time than our standard road test cars, we’re hoping this Touran’s hidden talents will appear from beneath the fog of image and style and retake its family car all-rounder credentials from the Qashqai. Sometimes to really appreciate a car’s ability you need to live with it – and to subject it to the stringent testing of my Deputy-Deputy-Road-Test-Editor toddler. For that reason, it’s the perfect candidate for a long term test.

And before it’s even been run-in properly it’s already proved itself to be a versatile vehicle – when I spontaneously purchased an eight-foot Christmas tree, it went right in thanks to six folding passenger seats.

MPV 1, crossover 0.

By Adam Binnie

Mileage: 864 Economy: 39.1


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