What Car? says...
While the popularity of big, brawny SUVs continues to grow, the Volkswagen Touran sits quietly in the background as a well-established hero, offering maximum family practicality in a relatively small footprint.
The seven-seater people carrier has scooped up an impressive number of What Car? MPV of the Year awards over the years, and there are plenty of reasons why.
Where the Touran really shines is in how it doesn’t feel that different to drive from the previous-generation Volkswagen Golf it’s based on. It also has more compact dimensions than full-sized MPVs such as the Ford Galaxy and the bulkier, more expensive Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace SUV. That's something you’ll appreciate when you're trying to squeeze it into a tight parking space.
And crucially, for such a relatively small MPV, it's a genuine seven-seater. So, don’t think of this as some sort of van with windows – it’s more like a spacious and incredibly flexible hatchback, with handy sixth and seventh seats that pop out of the boot floor when you need them.
The engine range has been reduced over the years to one option, but there’s still a wide range of trim levels to choose from from the entry-level SE to the sportier flagship R-Line.
So, is the Volkswagen Touran a better choice than similarly priced rivals, which include the Citroën Grand C4 Spacetourer and Ford S-Max? Read on over the next few pages of this review to find out. We'll assess its performance in all the important areas, and tell you which trim levels make the most sense.
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Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The only engine available for the Volkswagen Touran is the 148bhp 1.5 TSI 150 petrol. It offers fairly punchy acceleration even with seven people on board (0-62mph takes 8.9sec), and enough pull from low revs to save you from having to thrash it hard to reach motorway speeds.
A seven-speed automatic gearbox is available as an option but a six-speed manual is the default. There’s a noticeable lag before the auto changes gears, which can be frustrating when you're trying to get into a gap at a roundabout.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Touran rides with fluidity over most surfaces, softening all but the worst bumps and only fidgeting a little along scruffy town roads. It rides well enough, even on the larger 18in wheels that are fitted to range-topping R-line trim.
For the smoothest progress, we recommend sticking with the smaller 16in alloys fitted to SE and SE Family versions.
Anyone who’s driven a previous-generation VW Golf will have some idea of what the Touran feels like to drive. Its steering is predictable and well-weighted, there’s plenty of grip and body lean is kept neatly in check – more so than in any rival, even the Ford S-Max.
The Touran feels stable on a motorway and is easy to steer around town. That's partly because it feels relatively compact – not something you can say of its more cumbersome rivals, such as the Citroën Grand C4 Spacetourer and Ford Galaxy.
Noise and vibration
The Touran's petrol engine is relatively hushed by MPV standards unless you rev it vigorously. It doesn’t particularly suffer from wind or road noise, either. Indeed, in our noise tests, it was quieter than the Grand C4 Spacetourer at 30mph and 70mph.
The clutch is light and precise, as is the manual gearshift, while the optional DSG automatic gearbox is only jerky at very low speeds, such as when you're parking.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
All versions of the Volkswagen Touran have a front centre armrest, a height-adjustable driver's seat and a steering wheel that has a good amount of in-and-out and up-and-down adjustment.
From entry-level SE trim you also get manually adjustable lumbar support. Electric lumbar adjustment is available as an option on SEL models. The seat is reasonably firm, but it’s supportive and comfortable enough for long journeys.
The pedals are well-positioned and the dashboard is neatly laid out for ease of use, with instrument dials that are no problem to read at a glance. The air conditioning is controlled using physical switches rather than through the infotainment screen, making it easier to operate on the move than the Citroën Grand C4 Spacetourer and the current VW Golf.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The high-set seat gives you a good view of the road ahead, helped by the fairly thin and upright front pillars. Add in the big rear screen and generously sized side windows and you're assured of a good view out in all directions.
The Touran's boxy shape also makes it easy to judge the car's extremities, and all trims come with front and rear parking sensors to make life easier still. A rear-view camera and an automatic parking system are offered as relatively inexpensive options.
Heated, electrically adjustable door mirrors are standard across the range and a heated windscreen is a well-priced option to help you see clearly on frosty mornings.
Sat nav and infotainment
All Tourans have an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen as standard, with a DAB radio, Bluetooth and a USB socket. If you upgrade to SE Family trim, you'll get the Volkswagen Discover Navigation system, which adds sat-nav and a three-year subscription to the brand’s Car-Net service. Car-Net provides information such as traffic and fuel prices.
Whichever trim you choose, you'll find the operating system easy to use and fairly quick to respond (quicker than the sluggish software in the Grand C4 Spacetourer). There are some small icons that can be hard to hit accurately while you're driving, though.
The Touran doesn't disappoint for interior quality. Most of its materials feel dense and there’s a decent mixture of textures and soft-touch plastics. The switches and stalks feel well assembled and there’s an overall sense of solidity.
The interior materials begin to take on a slightly more utilitarian feel lower down, as well as in the rear seat area, but that doesn't detract from the generally classy ambience. The only rival that can really beat it here is the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer – that car's interior quality really is top-notch, but it's also more expensive to buy.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Those in the front of the Volkswagen Touran are treated to plenty of head room and just about the most leg room in the MPV class. You don’t feel short of elbow room, although the Ford S-Max is noticeably wider.
Access is very good, too, with doors that open wide and create broad apertures, and high-set seats that are easy to get in and out of.
The door pockets will each hold a 1.5-litre bottle and the cubby that's recessed into the base of the dashboard is ideal for stowing a phone or wallet. There are two fixed cupholders behind the gearstick, a shallow storage area on top of the dash under a flip-up lid and a sizeable glovebox.
The Touran has three identically sized second-row seats that are easily accessed through the wide-opening doors, and you won’t need to bend down far to belt your kids into their child seats.
There’s more space in the second row of the Touran than in many rival seven-seaters too. A couple of tall adults will be comfortable and the flat floor means even three sitting side-by-side won't feel too densely packed in. A nice touch is that all versions get folding picnic tables on the backs of the front seats.
Average-sized adults will be comfortable even in the third row, where two can sit with plenty of head room – even if the panoramic glass roof that comes with SE Family trim is fitted. Getting to the rear-most seats is easy because the middle-row seats tilt up and slide forwards easily to leave a decent gap to clamber through. Impressively, the Touran has Isofix fittings on all of its rear seats – including those on the third row.
Seat folding and flexibility
The second-row seats in the Touran are easy to slide forwards and backwards independently of one another, and it’s a straightforward job to fold them flat. It only takes one hand to tilt an outer seat forwards for access to the third row and the seat returns to its original position when you're done.
Many will opt to keep the third-row seats folded away into the boot floor when they aren't being used, but it's easy enough to pull them up again using just one hand.
All trims come with a front passenger seatback that can be folded down flat, which gives a clear area from the tailgate to the dashboard for seriously long loads – even some ladders will fit.
The Touran’s boot is better than those of its direct rivals. It's deep and wide, with a low lip for easier loading of bulky items. If you fold the third row seats away, you'll have a flat boot floor with no big gaps for anything to fall down.
There’s also an underfloor storage area for the loadbay cover, which is handy when you want to fold down the second and third-row seats for a van-like luggage area.
You'll find four lashing points and a 12V socket in the boot as standard across the range. A powered bootlid is available as an option.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Don’t let that fact alone make your mind up, because the Touran is available with some huge discounts and, perhaps even more importantly, finance deals that are keen enough for monthly costs to be very competitive. Low insurance premiums and relatively slow depreciation will help keep expenditure down.
The petrol engine has decent, if not class-leading, fuel economy, with an official MPG figure in the low 40s.
Equipment, options and extras
The Touran's SE trim is the one to go for. It has a lot of what you need plus a few luxuries, including 16in alloys, automatic lights and wipers, all-round electric windows, privacy glass, air-conditioning and adaptive cruise control. There are also a number of very reasonably priced options.
If you go for SE Family, you'll get a panoramic sunroof, blinds on the rear windows, remotely activated rear-door child locks and a voice amplification function for the driver (a microphone in the front projects the driver’s voice through the rear speakers). It’s a good trim level if you want a bit more kit.
SEL is even more lavishly equipped and comes with chrome exterior highlights and bigger alloys. R-line is less recommendable – it's more expensive than SEL and adds mostly sporty styling fripperies.
The Touran comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty that can be extended to four or five years. A fixed-price service plan is also available and a year's UK and European roadside assistance is standard.
Safety and security
Euro NCAP awarded the Touran its maximum five-star safety rating. A closer look at the results shows that it was better than the Ford S-Max overall. You get seven airbags as standard, including a driver’s knee airbag. Side airbags for the second-row seats are a reasonably priced option.
All trim levels have automatic emergency braking (AEB) and a sensor that triggers a warning if you get too close to the car in front. SE Family adds speed-limit recognition and SEL adds a driver tiredness monitoring system.
Lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring are optional on all trims, while all versions come with a standard alarm.
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|RRP price range||£36,105 - £39,065|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||40.9 - 42.8|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£2,362 / £2,686|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£4,725 / £5,371|