Not much to look at, but it’s pretty effective as a hauler of kin and stuff. PHOTOS BY DYLAN AFUANG

Not much to look at, but it’s pretty effective as a hauler of kin and stuff. PHOTOS BY DYLAN AFUANG

All right, it’s neither Statham nor Kombi. The VW Touran best goes about not by looks but by, well, transporting
EVERYBODY has a VW story. Car writers of a, uhm, certain age just have a bit more to tell besides the usual air-cooled Bugs and Buses from their youth.

For starters, there are memories of actually having test-driven the millennium Polo and the comically looking New Beetle—unremarkable experiences both—and stories about the colorful wrangling for VW distribution rights during the brand’s first return to the Philippines, as well as gossips on the second comeback.

And then there is this interesting thing where an independent company, commissioned by VW’s head office, had determined that gasoline in the Philippines is bad while diesel is all right, explaining why the present local VW distributor, Automobile Central Enterprises Inc., is making do with an all-diesel lineup.

In the VW Touran’s case though, that is not a bad thing.

The Touran 2.0 TDI DSG Comfort Line, an MPV costing P1.775 million, won’t get you second looks in traffic, and, frankly, not much initial glances either. Its styling—if it can be called that—is nondescript and discards any serious attempt at flair or flash. Its doors and windows and lights delete distinctive lines and shapes. Its two-box mold sits on four 16-inch alloy wheels.

But take note of the “box” aspect here. The Touran’s smaller box, the one in front, holds the engine and other drivetrain bits. The second, much bigger box. . . well, that promises room for up to seven people (thanks to three-row seating) and a reasonable amount of cargo.

Like the car’s exterior, the cabin is just as unremarkable to look at with its slightly varying hues of dark gray and black, depending on which material gets dyed or painted with the stuff. The shiny bits are few. There aren’t much contrasting touches. The seats are wrapped in what appears to be hard-wearing fabric and not fancy leather. There is no sliding glass roof overhead. The sole touch of whimsy in the cabin is the pair of foldable trays mounted on the front seatbacks.

The message one gets from the Touran is that style takes a backseat to substance. Because what the car lacks in flash it makes up for in quality. As a VW, the Touran lives up to tradition as it feels and looks well-screwed-together. The plastics and fabric used on the dash, ceiling, door cards and other panels feel good to the touch. The leather covering the steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake lever is convincing enough. Control stalks and switches engage with a definite click, the seats adjust or rearrange smoothly. Gaps between various trim are consistent, and the respective textures of each piece are as uniform in quality. Of course, modern kit like ESP and multiple airbags and cruise control are present in the Touran, as is a hill-hold function.

My sole gripe with the car are its turn-signal repeater lamps on the side mirrors. I can see them when driving and I can’t figure out why I should; like in all cars there’s an indicator on the instrument panel that says the turn signals are switched on plus the tick-tock-tick sound that goes with it. The thing is just annoying as, at times, it was hard to tell if it was another vehicle signaling or if it was the Touran.

Thankfully, not as gimmicky are the Touran’s controls for its multimedia unit and air-conditioning, with the car instead preferring logical knobs and buttons that the adults who drive—and more important, buy—cars can easily decipher, as opposed to the eight-year-olds who think trawling through sub- sub-menus is entertaining.

The car’s ride quality is equally mature as the suspension system is pliant—just so—to cushion against rough patches on the road but isn’t so soft as to make the Touran wallow around corners. The steering, electrically boosted, as the norm is these days, turns the front wheels as they should while requiring minimal effort from the driver.

Just as relaxed is the Touran’s 2.0-liter, inline-four, common rail direct injected diesel engine, which makes a paltry 108hp but a respectable 280Nm of torque from as low as 1,750rpm. Pair this mill with VW’s six-speed dual sequential gearbox, which rows from one cog to the next imperceptibly, and which chooses gears without fumbling or groaning as other gearboxes of this sort do, and the Touran moves about fairly quickly in daily traffic jostling as well as in short highway cruising. Again, just as in terms of styling and features, the car is remarkable only for its utter lack of quirks or any distinguishing trait.

And that’s no putdown, but rather just another VW story to tell.


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