"Boasting comfort, practicality and excellent driving dynamics the Sharan is a comprehensive family package – it's just a shame about the high price-tag"
The Volkswagen Sharan is a seven-seat MPV which seems built to last. It features a large cabin that provides flexible seating for carrying large goods or large families. Unlike a lot of people carriers, it delivers car-like handling and feels light on its feet on windy back roads. The engines are brilliant, serving up a blend of impressive fuel economy and punchy performance. The letdown is the high price tag, although some people will be willing to pay for the quality on offer here.
The VW seven-seater is available with two petrol engines and one diesel. The 1.4-litre petrol is quite sprightly, with 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds. While the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel is slower, it delivers better economy. Buyers can also opt for a 168bhp diesel, giving 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds. If performance is a priority, the 2.0-litre petrol engine shaves another 1.5 seconds off the 0-62mph time. Handling is good: body roll is well controlled and the nicely weighted steering responds eagerly to slight turns of the wheel.
Although the latest Sharan seems to have been made a bit firmer to provide a better drive than the previous model, this hasn’t really come at the expense of the comfortable ride. There is an option to specify an adaptive suspension system, which allows owners to choose between Comfort, Sport and Normal modes. Unless you’re a keen driver, however, it's probably not worth the extra expense. Noise in the cabin is kept to a minimum thanks to the quiet engines and extensive sound insulation.
Volkswagen cars in general tend to have a very impressive reliability record, and much of the engine technology in the Sharan has already proved itself to be extremely durable in other models across the VW, Skoda and SEAT ranges. What's more, the seven-seater MPV put in a brilliant performance in crash safety tests, with independent body Euro NCAP awarding it a full five stars and a fantastic 96 per cent rating for adult occupant protection.
As a large family car, the Sharan has been designed with practicality in mind. The rear doors slide on rails to make access easy and these can be motorised as an option. There is seating for seven people, but the rearmost seats will be a bit of a squeeze for adults. The good news is that the seats fold down to create a flat load area big enough to pass for a van.
Value for money
Buyers can choose between S, SE and SEL trims, but Volkswagen also offers an Executive spec aimed at business users. S models have all the basic kit you’ll ever need including dual-zone air-con, DAB radio and plenty of airbags. Steel wheels are included, but buyers will have to upgrade to SE to get 16-inch alloys as standard. This model also has Bluetooth, parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers. Luxurious SEL versions get 17-inch alloys, heated seats, cruise control and a panoramic sunroof. Executive cars have six seats rather than the usual seven and full leather.
Go for the 2.0-litre diesel if you want the lowest running costs. The 138bhp engine is most efficient, claiming 50.4mpg, but the more powerful 168bhp diesel isn’t far behind, with 48.7mpg. The powerful 2.0-litre TSI petrol car is most expensive to run, with combined fuel economy of 33.2mpg – although the 1.4-litre petrol isn’t much better, claiming 39.2mpg.