In recent years, Volkswagen has turned out to be one of the star performers in our local market. Yet, conspicuously absent from its wide range of staple and niche models was a full-size multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) to take on the likes of the Ford Galaxy, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Previa.
This gap in the line-up has just been plugged by the arrival of the all-new Volkswagen Sharan, a proper seven-seater that dwarfs the mid-sized Volkswagen Touran, the only other Volkswagen MPV available here.
The newcomer does not look like just an overgrown Volkswagen Touran, by the way. Indeed, the Volkswagen Sharan could almost be described as sleek compared to its van-like smaller sibling!
The trademark Volkswagen snout has been enhanced by black slats and chrome highlights for the grille. Fashionable yet functional LED driving lights and more chrome strips on the lower part of the bumper give the car a striking countenance.
Multi-purpose vehicles are all about space and practicality, and the new Volkswagen Sharan does not disappoint in these respects. The dashboard is uncluttered, with all switches and knobs ergonomically arranged.
Build quality, as expected of current Volkswagens, is first-rate. Plastics are mostly soft-touch and customers have a choice of “Titanium Silver” inserts or ornamental wood trim.
The cabin ambience would be heightened by choosing beige and not black seats, as the latter make the interior sombre rather than inviting. A full-length panoramic sunroof brightens up the “living room”, with an electrically operated sunblind that can be adjusted to stay at any position. It can even be fully closed with the front sunroof panel open!
Darkened rear side windows as well as the rear windscreen reduce solar radiation by up to 65 percent and keep the cabin cool. The tint on the massive front windscreen, however, is far too light, resulting in a fair amount of glare for the front seat occupants. Adding an effective solar film would definitely raise the cabin’s comfort level on bright and sunny days.
Standard equipment in the Volkswagen Sharan includes the much lauded RNS510 infotainment system with a high-resolution 6.5-inch touch-screen display, integrated 30GB hard drive, audio CD (WMA and MP3) and video DVD playback, an SD memory card slot and eight loudspeakers. In short, it’s a treat for Hardware Zone enthusiasts!
Like all modern MPVs, the Volkswagen Sharan boasts multiple storage areas – even under the second row and on top of the dashboard. Family-friendly, too, are Easy Entry and Easy Fold.
Making third row entry (and exit) easier are the second-row seats that can be folded and pushed forward, while Easy Fold stows the seats in a flash to expand the cargo area.
The backrest of the front passenger seat can also be folded down completely. This extends the through-loading facility and also creates a makeshift table.
With all seats in place, luggage capacity is an adequate 375 litres, stretchable to 2297 litres with every seat folded away. Chrome-plated roof rails provide another cargo-carrying possibility.
Needless to say, headroom is generous enough even for a Harlem Globetrotter. What’s even more impressive is the legroom for the middle row. Best of all, people in the third row needn’t be dwarfs to sit comfortably.
Anyone of average height relegated to the back can handle long journeys well – something that cannot be said of more squeezy MPVs with their cattle class third row.
The twin rear electric sliding doors are great. Besides making cabin access more convenient for passengers (particularly children), they also “fit” nicely in our crowded carparks with their narrow lots.
Headlights are bi-xenons (HID for both low and high beams) complete with cornering lights and dynamic headlamp range adjustment. Also specified for the Singapore Volkswagen Sharan are automatically heated front washer nozzles and door mirrors.
For the keen driver, especially someone “forced” to drive an MPV, the driving experience matters. The Sharan is powered by Volkswagen’s signature direct injection turbocharged 2-litre engine, which also does yeoman service in many other VW Group products. In this application, power output is 200bhp, with torque rated at 280Nm.
With a 6-speed dual-clutch DSG, performance is impressive indeed for a full-size MPV. The Volkswagen Sharan feels very lively, with high torque from low rev levels.
The 4-cylinder revs freely and smoothly right up to its 6000rpm redline, while the gearchanges are reasonably fast and jerk-free, save for an occasional low-speed stumble. The sprint to 100km/h is attained in 8.3 seconds, which is speedy for a huge MPV with just a 2-litre motor under the bonnet.
Despite its size, the Volkswagen Sharan never feels unwieldy. In fact, it handles more like an oversized wagon than a clumsy MPV. Turn-in response is decent and body roll is neatly contained. The car can actually be taken through corners quite enthusiastically without displaying any drama.
The ride is excellent – neither too stiff or too soft. With its long 2.9m wheelbase, the Volkswagen Sharan smoothly glosses over undulations and tarmac irregularities. Engine and wind noise is well suppressed, but a trace of road roar filters through on rough surfaces.
The new Volkswagen Sharan is a well-thought-out MPV for the head of a large household. Spacious and practical, quick and refined, it is a strong rival to the ever-popular Honda Odyssey, the expat-oriented Chrysler Grand Voyager and that school run favourite, the Toyota Previa (and its Estima equivalent).
The Volkswagen Sharan trumps the trio on outright performance, standard equipment, fuel economy and overall driveability. Value-for-money pricing is the icing on the cake.
Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 (A)
ENGINE 1984cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 200bhp at 5100rpm
MAX TORQUE 280Nm at 1700-5000rpm
GEARBOX 6-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 8.3 seconds
TOP SPEED 221km/h
CONSUMPTION 11.9km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $188,800 (as of October 2011)