SINGAPORE – The Touran, Volkswagen’s small, seven-seat MPV, has evolved. From basic but thoroughly practical and fun to drive people mover in its first generation, the second model adds lots of technology, refinement and space.
Yet when the car debuted here in June last year, a major piece of the original Touran puzzle was missing: with the 150bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol model as the sole offering, the touran was no longer a COE Category A car, one of the key factors for its original success in the days before the ridiculous 130bhp power limit for ‘mainstream’ cars.
Now though, the latest Touran returns to its home range courtesy of the newest iteration of the 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine from Volkswagen. Lately, the tides against diesel have shifted, but the facts remain the same – if you’re a high mileage driver, diesel still makes perfect sense. And it gains even more relevance, given that the price gap between Cat A and Cat B COEs has been decreasing, never being more than $5k this entire year.
But back to the Touran diesel: As expected, there’s much less power on offer here, 116bhp against the petrol 1.4-litre’s 150bhp, but the torque figures are almost exactly the same – the diesel tapers of a mere 250rpm before the petrol’s, whose maximum torque band is 1,500 to 3,500rpm. While the TDI sometimes felt underpowered, especially in Eco mode or with a full house, it still pulls well in typical diesel fashion. The flip side is great mileage, as endemic to modern diesels, paired with extra fuel saving tech like start-stop and coasting.
A modern VW TDI mated to a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox means the only significant rattle you’ll hear is from the outside of the car. We already noted in previous drives that the second-gen Touran is so refined as to be near silent at idle and the diesel is the same. A faint purr and tiny vibes let you know when the engine is pulling, but the pillowy ride quality delivered by the non-adaptive suspension setup is one of the best we’ve sampled this year, regardless of segment.
With its increased refinement, the Touran has lost a little of the direct nature the sprightly first-gen model had, but the trade-off isn’t big – the driver gets a little less entertainment, but the handling is as neat and easy as you can expect from an MPV. There’s a little of the typical, tall MPV body roll, but otherwise, all-round comfort is improved greatly.
What sets the Touran apart from its Continental competitors, like the Renault Grand Scenic (reviewed this issue), the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and the Ford S-Max, is the sheer amount of space on offer, a feat accomplished by the new MQB platform and better packaging. The VW’s seats are thinner and take up less room, but are easy to flip, fold and stow in order to accompany a varying mix of sentient and/or insensate cargo. The second row is adjustable and features folding tray tables, and while the last pair of seats can just about fit normal adults, it feels much less like cattle-class than the third-rows of competing cars.
Is there a price to pay for all this?
The Touran is still one of the more expensive cars in the small MPV class, which technically can be seen in something as inexpensive as the $110k Toyota Sienta , or the $130k Kia Carens Diesel, and all the way to the $150k BMW 216d Grand Tourer. The latter, along with the Renault Grand Scenic and Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, is probably the key rival to the Touran with the advent of the TDI model here, but it’s speedier and not necessarily superior, it being slightly less composed and quiet than the VW.
The TDI model brings the price down somewhat – now the range starts at $134,400 with COE, for the TDI in base Comfortline spec. The Comfortline petrol is $10,000 more, while the model with the least equipment of all, the petrol Trendline, is still $3,000 more than the diesel. The car we drove here is the ‘Comfortline EQP’ diesel version, VW’s label for cars with all the extra goodies. Like the TSI (Petrol) EQP (at $154,900 the most expensive Touran), it gets larger wheels, full-length sunroof, LED headlamps. It’s not a huge bump over the normal models, as they still have seven airbags and prime infotainment units for instance, but the active safety features – VW’s Front Assist autonomous braking system and pre-accident protection – are well worth the extra outlay.
Think diesels are dead? They’re not, and will not be for some time. If anything, the diesel Touran proves that in reality, as it’s clear to see that the Touran is pretty much the class-leader now: If the driving dynamics, performance and refinement didn’t do it, then the level of technology and equipment surely does. The diesel model offers all that, with the trade-off of less power but more efficiency, for significantly less cash than the petrol version.
Volkswagen Touran 1.6 TDI Comfortline EQP
Engine 1,598cc, 16V, inline 4, turbodiesel
Power 116bhp at 3250-4000rpm
Torque 250Nm at 1500-3250rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 190km/h
0-100km/h 11.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency 4.4L/100km
Price $143,400 with COE
Also Consider: BMW 216d, Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, Renault Grand Scenic