The happy dad compact MPV (don't tell the wife why)
Text by Clifford Chow, Oneshift.com.
Photos by Oneshift.com team.
Funny title, and why would I say that? The compact MPV is really the car that the man-in-the-street looks for when he wants to haul the family plus the in-laws. Smaller than the full-sized MPV, they are usually about the same in size as compact class cars that the manufacturer has available.
The Touran is Volkswagen's offering to this segment. A compact-sized MPV about the size of a Jetta, Keeping the likes of the Honda and Toyota's respective Jade and Wish offerings on their toes.
While the Honda has gone the direction of making their car more premium and for the first time, introducing a force-fed engine to a mainstream model, Toyota has kept to the sound values of quality and reliability with their Wish. The Touran however, is a fresh change.
The second generation Touran sits on the Volkswagen Group MQB platform. This forms the basis of their full-sized Passat sedan, the legendary Golf and the Audi A3. The wheelbase of the new car has been extended by 113mm to 2,791mm, adding more to the length of the car (The Wish is slightly shorter at 2750mm while the Jade is 2,760mm. Citroen's Grand C4 Picasso comes close at 2,785mm). The width has also seen an increase over the old car, at 1,829mm, 36mm of increased girth.
Sharper lines and a lighter-sportier look is offered, thanks to the new angular automatic LED headlamps, which carry VW's new design language and the new-longer windows. The aerodynamic drag coefficient for the car is an impressive 0.296. Although the car does not look much bigger, it is evident only when you drive up next to the old car, that you'd see the difference.
Thanks to the longer wheelbase, and the overall longer car, even the third row passengers have enough legroom without feeling the usual squeeze associated with smaller MPVs. Entry and exit are made possible with a forward-sliding and tilting, flexible middle row of individually adjustable seats. A big fat rear door allows easy access to the last row of seats.The middle and back rows of seats also fold flat, offering boot space which spans from 137 litres, and extends to 1,857 litres with all but the front seats up. The common 2,3,2 seating arrangement also makes the most of the retracting sunroof & fabric screen combination, which adds light and a bit of fun into the cabin. Middle-of-the-car passengers would be glad to know that the transmission tunnel is non-existent in this car, and hence you'd get a near flat floor where the tunnel should be.
Cabin materials are high in quality, with easy to clean leather seats, hard-wearing plastics where the kids will get at, and nice, smooth materials where it matters. The dash is easy to understand, with manual dual zone air conditioning switches (plus one more zone of control for the middle row), a 6.5 inch infotainment touchscreen and easy to understand switches which dot the dash. Middle row seats also get trays which are mounted on the backs for the front seats. The trays are adjustable and can support a tablet if the need arises.
The adjustable for rake and reach steering wheel comes equipped with switches for the cruise control, that is also equipped with a speed limiter (I personally don't like these as they may get you into some other form of trouble), mobile phone and in-car entertainment volume switches and adjusters. I could be a little happier if the steering wheel could adjust a little more downward for a slouchy person like myself. Phone connectivity comes from Apple's CarPlay app, and Bluetooth. A bin in the front of the centre console features a USB port, auxiliary jack for your MP3 player and a ciggy lighter 12V. One more 12V ciggy plug supplies power to the boot, and one below the air conditioning vent in the middle row. Good for those cooler boxes you may want to bring to the beach, or the vacuum cleaner to clean up the nasties. That frameless rear view mirror, a thing to behold.
Space for the driver and front passenger is generous enough, and the manual seat adjusters easily allow for occupants with a much larger frame than my 172cm. Shoulder and elbow room also are generous, and the centre console has storage with an adjustable lid which doubles as an arm-rest. The new park brake is a non-intrusive switch located just aft of the gear lever, and disengages automatically.
The glove box is quite generous in size, and there are about 40-odd cubby holes all over the interior which are ideal for stuffing things from passports to additional boxes of tissue. A panel in-front of the front passenger hides an old-school CD player and a slot for the SD card. Somehow you can sense that the space planning for this car has been done pretty well. There are however 2 buttons that seem to have been overlooked by VW. The drive select mode and the automatic start-stop switch are placed on the far left of the button panel on the dash, making it hard to reach while driving. It would have been better if they were to move the switch to the right side, since the panel has enough button spaces. Perhaps they forgot while creating a right-hand drive model.
How it drives
It feels a little like a tall Golf. Turning the Touran into a few corners, it really did, just a little. The drive mode selection does play a part in how the car drives. On Economy, the 7 speed DSG gearbox allows for disengagement when going downhill, letting the car freewheel for a bit, hence saving fuel in the process. Combined fuel figures stand at 17.9Km/l, which is the same as Citroen's C4 Gran Picasso (this is impressive, as the French car is running on Diesel, and is supposedly optimsied for range). In Normal mode, the Touran drives like your everyday car with maximum torque of 250Nm on tap from as low as 1,500rpm, while maximum power of 150bhp is produced at 5,000rpm.
Sport mode does a few nice things. The steering does get more feedback, and the transmission will hold on to its gears longer. Throttle response gets sharper, and acceleration feels more immediate. In actual fact, Sport Mode for the Touran is rather addictive, as I'm not sure if this is deliberate, but the engine note from the little 1.4 is actually nice to hear. Push the car hard from a standstill, and you'd find enough torque to catch a bit of wheel spin on first gear and again at second. The DSG is happy to change up at higher rpms, letting off the slightest hint of what some will call a DSG "fart". There is a customisable Individual drive mode, but I personally feel that all three presets well cover most driving styles.
The Touran suspension is built slightly on the firm side the car feels comfortable enough for longer journeys on roads built with lesser quality. I would say that somehow there is something missing from the ride. The car does get the job done very well, but when pushing the car out of the corner, it doesn't offer that entertaining a drive (Kind of like German soccer, they're good and get the job done, and just that).
The one thing that sets the Touran apart from the competition really is the engine and transmission combination. The gear ratios suit the car well. Some of you may ask, why a turbocharged MPV? The answer is that to haul so many people, you will need more torque, and much lower down the rev range. Some of you may still want to look for a Japanese equivalent, and you can do that, but before deciding, after working out the fuel figures and justifying the sums, take the Touran for a spin, perhaps Wolfsburg's MPV offering might just sway you over.
About the part not telling your wife? Well we all could use a car that can do most anything. While it does the job of hauling the family around well, flipping over to sports mode gives you, the family man that little bit of fun when you have your "me" time with your car.
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