MULTI-PURPOSE vehicles – that odd but nevertheless popular segment that falls between sedans and vans on the automotive evolutionary tree – are not a class of cars that usually impress with eye-catching style or performance. MPVs are useful, certainly, and given that the market for them largely consists of busy families, are consistently safe and reliable. But one thing they are not is exciting.

Volkswagen’s Touran is every inch an MPV, but sets the bar a little higher on what this ordinarily staid class of vehicles can provide its owners. Spending a couple days with a Touran – courtesy of Volkswagen BGC – we here at Fast Times were impressed with the Wolfsburg native’s performance and presence.

Subtle good looks
Built on Volkswagen’s adaptable MQB platform – the foundation for everything from the Golf and Po-lo to the Audi A3 and the fantastic though completely unknown in these parts Škoda Superb – the Tou-ran makes the most of its inevitably boxy MPV form with thoughtful style touches. The black front grills with chrome trim are nicely framed by integrated headlamp clusters and chrome-ringed fo-glamps, with the slope of the front end providing a lower, sportier face that takes the edge off any impressions that the Touran is a car for soccer moms.

Side-on the Touran does give one the impression of a Polo that has gotten fat, but black roof rails and window trim are a nice contrast to the body-colored belt molding and rear-view mirrors, whose swept shape and integrated turn lamps add a sporty touch. 16-inch alloy wheels on the Highline model we tested nicely balanced the look, making the Touran more a large car than a small van. At the rear, a nicely curved rear gate, two-section tail lamps, and integrated body-colored roof spoiler complete the subtle yet attractive exterior package.

Exacting interior
One thing that never fails to impress us about German vehicles is the care applied to construction in the cabin, and Volkswagen does it as well as anyone. While not excessively luxurious, the Touran’s in-terior is clean and comfortable, and built to nano-scale tolerances. Front passenger and driver space is expansive, with front seat height adjustment and lumbar support. Driver comfort – something that VW never overlooks – is enhanced with a tilt and telescoping steering column, topped by a sporty, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Storage compartments are generously supplied and placed through-out the cabin, as are nice little touches such as illuminated visor mirrors, an automatic dimmer on the interior rear-view mirror, and a clever vent in the glovebox that can direct cold air at one’s beverage.

Although it lacks a touchscreen infotainment center, the multi-function stereo unit and instrument cluster driver information screen provide as much data and system control as one needs. In addition, the Touran comes equipped with an excellent stock eight-speaker sound system, with USB and auxilia-ry ports easily accessible under the center armrest, which as a thoughtful bonus can be height- and length-adjusted to suit the driver.

The Touran is classed as a seven-seater; two up front, three in the second row, and two more in folda-ble third-row seats. Comfort for rear passengers is enhanced with rear air-conditioning vents and air-plane-style folding trays mounted on the backs of the front seats. One minor complaint of our team was that the center rear seat was a little restrictive for an adult owing to a low floor tunnel and the lo-cation of the rear center console; the third-row seats, while a little roomier, would also likely be a bit uncomfortable for extended travel, but as these are most likely to be occupied by child-sized butts are more than adequate.

Solid mechanicals
Powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder TDI (turbo direct injection) engine that develops 108 horsepower at 2,750 to 4,200 rpm (and puts 280 Newton-meters of torque on the ground at the lower end of that range), the Touran, despite earlier reviews scoring it for being a little doggy with a load, had power to spare under all conditions during our test.

Hooked up to Volkswagen’s 6-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission – which has a Tiptronic manual shift mode – and connected to Earth with electromechanical speed-sensitive steering, front- and rear-stabilized suspension, and generous 15-inch front and rear discs, the Touran is a smooth, responsive runner, equally comfortable on the highway or in Manila’s soul-destroying traffic. Safety and control is further enhanced with electronic stability control, which, although Volkswagen is careful to point out can’t defy the laws of physics, gives the driver an enormous measure of confidence the Touran will go where he wants it to go.

And even though the Touran doesn’t pretend to be a sports car, it has one ability we discovered that deserves special mention: This family hauler loves hills. Our chief test driver, who has to negotiate a fairly steep flyover on his morning commute, spent an hour or so of what should have been office time looking for slopes to climb, just to enjoy the rocket-like uphill acceleration.

Our verdict
At a price of P1.745 million to P1.99 million for the high-end model we tested, the Volkswagen Touran might be a tad less budget-friendly than other offerings in the class, but this is a Volkswagen, after all – the folks in Wolfsburg pride themselves on building a package worth every pfennig they ask for it, and the Touran is certainly no exception. With outstanding build quality, tasteful, comfortable styling, ver-satility, and excellent performance, the Touran is definitely worth a look, and even more worth a test ride for those looking for a credible, enjoyable people mover.



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