VW Touran TDI marries practicality with fun and driveability
Big performer, small thirst The roomy Volkswagen Touran 1.6TDI drives well even though its specs are not impressive on paper. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

My colleague Lynn avoids MPVs like the plague. Even though her combined role as mum, wife and daughter puts her right smack in the people-mover demographic, she has no immediate plans to give up her BMW X6.

To her, a car has to be "all about the drive". A little obsessive, but understandable.

People who enjoy driving generally do not lose the special love they have for a well-sorted car when they start a family. And there are not many MPVs out there that rise above mere functionality in the driving department.

Surprisingly, the new VW Touran TDI is one of them, even though it looks like it will put an insomniac to sleep behind the wheel.

The turbodiesel seven-seater is not a new product. But it has never been available here until now.

Its arrival is quite timely too, filling a void left by the 1.4TSI variants which have all gone over to COE Cat B since a 130bhp power limit on Cat A cars kicked in last month.

The TDI is between $2,500 and $26,000 cheaper than the 1.4-litre petrol versions, but that is just one aspect of its attractiveness.

The car is quite easily the smoothest and liveliest 1.6-litre turbodiesel in town, even if its vital statistics are not very impressive.

Powered by a 1,598cc four-cylinder turbodiesel that puts out 105bhp and 250Nm of torque, it takes nearly 13 seconds to reach 100kmh and maxes out at a relatively modest 183kmh.

You would not have guessed it behind the wheel, though. The small TDI pulls very willingly, helped in no small measure by the car's peachy-as-ever seven-speed DSG transmission.

The pair work in perfect harmony to deliver seamless ratio swops and long, deliciously linear throttle response. It is so good that you forget sometimes that it is a diesel.

The VW's century sprint may be leisurely on paper, but on tarmac, it feels thoroughly adequate and driveable.

Small diesels tend to suffer from narrow and lumpy power bands, not to mention high levels of noise, vibration and harshness.

But the Touran TDI exhibits only traces of these traits. It never feels constipated or breathless, and doles out meaningful pick-up with each degree its accelerator is depressed.

Its performance is truly impressive, and further seals Volkswagen's position as a company that makes the best turbodiesel cars. Incidentally, the TDI version of the VW Sharan is a riot. Among other things, it creates wheelspins like an over-excited boy racer.

Like all previous Tourans, the TDI displays solidity and surefootedness, making it the most car-like minivan around. You can drive it with reasonable enthusiasm without fear of making your passengers sick.

A commanding cockpit and a relatively taut and quick steering add to the Touran's fun - a word rarely associated with MPVs. In fact, there are moments when it feels like an overgrown hatchback.

The only time it feels a tad inferior to a TSI is when the engine is idling. But even that is minimised, because of the stop-start system that puts the engine to sleep to conserve fuel. By the way, the efficiency of the air-conditioner is not compromised by the stop-start, unlike in some other cars.

The Touran averaged around 6 litres/ 100km in this test-drive. That is not quite the boast-worthy 4.6 litres/100km declared by the manufacturer, but still pretty decent. And with diesel being significantly cheaper than petrol at the pumps, its running cost will probably be the lowest among MPVs.

So, if there is a car that can change Lynn's mind about MPVs, the Touran TDI is quite possibly it.

 

CAR INFORMATION

Volkswagen Touran Diesel 1.6 TDI DSG (A)

Price

:$139,300

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve TDI Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,598 cc

Horsepower

:

103 bhp

Torque

:

250 Nm

Transmission

:

7-speed (A) DSG

Acceleration

:

12.8 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

183 km/h