When a planned French flight changes to a 1,800-mile round trip drive with associated clobber to a friend£€™s new home the choice of car needs thought. Having taken longer than pals in economical diesels as I refuelled fast but thirsty cars, something sensible was needed.
Enter for my busman£€™s holiday Volkswagen£€™s accomplished all-rounder the Touran. The mid-size MPV seven-seater is comfortable, quiet, spacious and economical. The 113bhp 1.6 turbo diesel lists at £26,745 in SE Family trim, a lot more than rivals like Citroen£€™s C4 Picasso but there are discounts and good PCP deals.
With alloy wheels, satellite navigation, sunroof, tyre pressure sensors, front and rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, multi-function steering wheel, height adjustable driver£€™s seat, adjustable lumbar support the car is well equipped. The Touran knows you are abroad so there was no fiddling with headlight masking tape on the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. The sea was calm but the boat£€™s engines vibrated so much it was difficult to sleep and my wife£€™s planned 6.45am arrival was actually 5.45am because of the time difference. And they get you up a lot earlier.
With a quiet, comfortable ride and supportive heated seats my wife was soon back in the land of nod. We were ahead of the game but you need care on the autoroutes these days.
France is desperate for money so the cruise control and speed limiter got plenty of use. The heated seats are part of a £385 winter pack which includes headlight washers and heated windscreen jets which were useful for some very cold nights.
Digital radio and audio streaming helped the miles go by. Stowage is brilliant. The Touran has 47 compartments including front door pockets for big water bottles and drawers under the front seats. The two adult-size rear seats, fold into the boot floor and for van capacity the centre three fold flat as well.
I was glad of the Touran£€™s straight sides when inching near to toll booths. With a queue behind, dropping your credit card is not recommended for international relations. A well positioned front reading light means a passenger can read without dazzling the driver.
Strong sun saw the tinted glass appreciated and, in the rear, the side window blinds. The full-length sunroof comes with blind and front opening section. Sensible speed cruising saw 58.6mpg average, but I would have liked more power on long uphill climbs.
Despite feeling it was labouring, the car, counter-intuitively, picked up speed if I followed the gear change indicator£€™s advice and went up a gear. It£€™s a bit loud accelerating, but quiet cruising. There£€™s a six-speed manual gearbox but the engine doesn£€™t like revs and the 148bhp model looks the car to go for.
It£€™s not sporty but the front-wheel drive Touran is predictable through bends and drives like a smaller car with a gentle clutch and light steering. There are optional drive modes. Eco should improve economy but so deadens the accelerator I couldn£€™t live with it. Normal is fine. Sport increases steering weight and sharpens throttle response.
The brake pedal feels £€˜soft£€™. The fronts do most work. The rear wheels stayed clean while the fronts were coated with brake dust. The satellite navigation was very good but it was still tricky finding a house deep in the Dordogne; but it looks a long-term bargain as property prices there have fallen by more 50% over the last ten years.
Frequently we were grateful for the handy electric tailgate. Quality is impressive. You would have to pay BMW prices to get better.
Also consider: Citroen C4 Picasso, Ford S-Max, BMW 2-Series Tourer.
Verdict Near ideal family car. Good for carrying wine too!