The Water Carrier- Volkswagen Sharan SE Nav 2 litre TDI SCR 6 speed manual.
Twenty years ago, ‘People Carriers’ were big news. After Renault launched their Espace & it sold in droves, all of the other major car manufacturers followed suit, including Volkswagen, who launched their version the Sharan, alongside near identical models from Seat & Ford. In 2016, SUV’s are big news , now available in small, medium & large & in some case seven seats. Renault no longer build the Espace & MPV’s are no longer in vogue.
However, many car brands including Volkswagen, are still producing MPV’s, with the smaller Touran incredibly popular in the UK. The larger Volkswagen Sharan was launched in 2015, exactly 20 years after the original & having spent a week driving one, it really is better than ever.
Bland & boxy, is one way of describing an MPV’s looks, it’s shape of course is also it’s main advantage. Large rectangular cars are never going to make petrol-heads happy, but if like some friends of ours who have four teenage children, you are in need of a proper seven seater with luggage space, they really are hard to beat. A case in point is that on a recent holiday with these friends, both families hired cars from Split Airport, mine turned out to be a Seat Toledo perfect for a family of four, my friend who had requested a Sharan sized MPV, instead had a Peugeot 5008, a pretty tight squeeze for six plus luggage.
Climb into any Volkswagen nowadays & you’ll find the reassuringly familiar layout found across the VW range awaits you. The high quality plastics & finish may offer little in the way of frills, but delve deeper & you’ll soon realise that the VAG engineers have crafted one of the most satisfying & user-friendly dashboards & cabins on the market. The steering wheel controls are actually set up logically, with clearly defined audio volume & cruise control buttons. The multi purpose audio system consoled through a 6.5″ touchscreen, also includes Bluetooth which is easily connected & the SatNav is also one of the better one’s out there, offering the driver clear & easy to decipher instructions & images. Even connecting to your favourite DAB station is straightforward.
The interior is fit for purpose. There’s loads of space in the front & in the back the five rear seats can be moved back & forth or folded flat individually. As well as the usual array of door cubby holes & a glove box, VW have included an on top of the dashboard storage bin & two downward opening roof compartments, as well as a floor storage compartment in the footwell, which is useful to hide valuables when parking your vehicle & the rear seta also have fold down trays attached to them.
Weighing in at 1772kg, the Sharan is no lightweight. Luckily, my test model was powered by the 150PS diesel unit which makes driving the Sharan quite enjoyable.Top speed is 124mph with 0-62mph reached in an impressive 10.3 seconds. Despite it’s size & weight, the Sharan with this power unit offers emissions of just 130g/km & a claimed combined fuel economy of 56.5mpg on the combined cycle, which if you are a company car driver who needs a large MPV, is excellent news.
If you enjoy driving, then you may be surprised top learn, that the Sharan handles well for a large vehicle. The slick manual six-speed gear box is smooth & efficient, whilst the power steering is light making the Sharan easy to park & manoeuvre. Of course, it’s practical too. I used my test car to carry some furniture to my daughters University house in Leeds from the NW & was able, with the two rear most seats folded flat, to get an awful lot of stuff in the back & still leave the rear seat passengers with plenty of legroom. Even fully laden, the 150PS engine offers plenty of pull, especially on the motorway, where I took advantage of cruise control & the front assist radar controlled distance monitoring as I headed over the M62. The engine is quiet, although the large airy cabin does allow some road & wind noise in, which is hardly surprising with so much glass surrounding you.
The SE Nav specked model I tested comes well equipped. From a safety perspective, there’s an Automatic Post Collision Braking System, which joins ABS, HBA, ESC, EDL & ASR on the list. Curtain air bags for front & rear passengers & front side seat impact airbags plus driver & passenger air bags & a drivers knee airbag complete the picture. Standard spec on the SE includes, an electronic parking brake, stop/start, climate control, City Emergency Braking with speed limiter & on the outside, halogen clear headlights, 16″ alloy wheels, sliding rear doors, & rear tinted glass. All of this does come at a cost though, with the basic SE retailing at £31,140. Add on the extras fitted to my test car which were an integrated child seat £210, electric rear sliding doors £625, 17″ alloys with R17 tyres £630, Car-Net-App-Connect £125, Dynamic Chassis Control £835, front fog lights £235 & a Winter pack including heated front seats & heated washer jets £200, taking the real cost up to £34,595, which is an awful lot to pay for practical car.
In conclusion, if you have a large family, then the Sharan is most definitely a car that you should have on your shopping list. Yes it’s expensive. Yes it’s bland, but as the old adage goes, when you’re in car it’s only the inside that you can see & the Sharan has a brilliant interior, containing everything one could want to make a long or short journey comfortable for those inside. SUV’s may be more popular, but they are definitely not as practical or as comfortable as the Sharan, which by forsaking beauty, achieve’s it’s goal of being an all-round excellent, large family car. Stick to the standard SE specced model & you’ll have made a very sensible choice.
A Didier Deschamps 3/5