This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Volkswagen Sharan review.

Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5

The engine line-up originally had three petrol and two diesels starting with the 2.0-litre petrol with 115bhp and the impressive turbocharged 1.8T with 150bhp. The 2.0-litre is smooth but lacks punch, taking 15.2 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph. Economy isn't that good either, with only 30mpg on average. The 1.8T is far better and gives the Sharan real urgency and is available with a five-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox.

The top petrol is the 2.8-litre V6 which sounds lovely and produces 204bhp giving it a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds, however it's also thirsty and manages just 26mpg on average. The diesels are very popular, especially among high mileage drivers, and the range starts with a 1.9 TDI with 90bhp but it's sluggish and was discontinued in 2002. A model with 115bhp is also available and although it's a fairly noisy and coarse engine, there's no arguing with its fuel efficiency - it can return 44mpg.

In 2003 a 1.9 TDI with 130bhp was added to the range. Both performance and economy improve compared to the lower powered 1.9-litre diesel and this version can return 44mpg. However at the end of 2005 this was replaced by a better 2.0 TDI with 140bhp. The top diesel sprints from 0-62mph in 12.2 seconds but it is the in-gear pulling power that impresses most, making it ideal for motorway driving.

Economy is good too at 42mpg. The low-emissions Bluemotion version (later renamed Bluemotion Technology) was introduced in mid-2008 and uses the 2.0 TDI engine, but with longer gear ratios, a lower ride height and reduced weight. As a result emissions are 159g/km of CO2 (compared to 177g/km) while economy rises to 46mpg.

While it's a fairly boxy shape, the Sharan handles surprisingly well for a people carrier, but it's designed for comfort rather than corners. On the motorway it is smooth and makes a reasonably comfortable long distance car while in town the steering is light enough to make parking and three-point turns straightforward. On the open road, the Sharan doesn't feel as agile as newer people carriers such as the Ford Galaxy, but it is composed and reassuring nonetheless.

Sport models come with stiffer suspension so they are better in corners, but have a firmer ride too. Some models are available with 4Motion four-wheel drive which gives added traction and is useful in slippery or icy conditions.