VW's latest Touran is smoother and more user-friendly
VW's latest Touran is a smoother ride The new Volkswagen Touran is bigger than its predecessor but is lighter.PHOTO: VOLKSWAGEN

At a smoky Amsterdam cafe, a friendly chap with glazed eyes made his recommendations from the menu. He offered a choice between "uplifting" and "stoned", but I wanted only a cup of coffee. In any case, I had already experienced a mild high in the form of the new Volkswagen Touran.


The hatchback's "Golf for seven" formula is familiar, but it is now based on the current Mk 7 Golf model, which means an array of new amenities and features.


The shape is still boxy, but with more creases and curves to "break" the boxiness, plus nice lights and attractive alloy wheels in a variety of designs.

More importantly for a compact MPV, the cabin is roomier than before, thanks to a 113mm increase in the wheelbase and a 63mm increase in interior length. Despite being upsized, the car, which will come to Singapore early next year, is 62kg lighter than its predecessor.


The cabin is classier too. Unlike the previous model, the plastics and compartment lids feel like "premium economy" instead of "economy". And the equipment has been upgraded to "business class" - with electronic parking brake, three-zone climate control, LED reading lamps and lots of new safety and infotainment systems.


Helping to avoid an accident in the first place are active safety features such as Front Assist with City Emergency Braking and Side Assist with Rear Traffic Alert. The latter feature makes it safer for the Touran driver when reversing out of a parking space and changing lanes on an expressway.


But should there be a crash, up to nine airbags protect the occupants.

Cruising is made simpler by the optional Adaptive Cruise Control, which maintains a pre-set speed (from 30kmh to 160kmh) and distance to the vehicle.


This convenience allows you to enjoy the Touran's upgraded infotainment on the go. The high-spec version of the car has a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, while the top-spec version has an 8-inch screen with integrated DVD player, a 64GB solid-state drive and an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot.


All the infotainment systems are compatible with today's smartphones, thereby multiplying the information sources and entertainment applications available to the Touran's driver and co-driver - or back-seat drivers.


Everyone will be seated comfortably, on quality fabric upholstery (as tested). Access to the rear has been made easier, especially in tight spots, by doors that stay open at one of three angles (used to be just two).


Even the "airliner" trays have different angles of deployment, with the three tilted-down angles ideal for holding/reading a tablet (the trays in the old Touran have only two positions - up or down).


Headroom is as good as ever, shoulder room is slightly better than before, and space in the footwells is significantly better. The three individual second-row seats are less narrow now.


Another boost for the comfort of rear passengers: They get their own air-con vents and control panel, which work very well, even with the ambient temperature in Ams- terdam averaging 28 to 30 deg C at the time.


The rear door bins have been made bigger. Other useful storage points (Volkswagen claims a total of 47) include two overhead lockers and a dash-top compartment.


Boot space in the five-seater is a generous 743 litres. The seven-seater variant has a much smaller boot with all seats occupied, but VW says the third row is a bit roomier now.


The driving position has been improved by a nearer, more upright steering wheel, which also looks and feels much better than the old one.


Compared to the previous Touran, driver visibility is better, with larger quarter-windows at the base of the A-pillars and an unusually sleek rear-view mirror that offers a clear and wide field of vision.


On the move in the turbocharged 1.4-litre TSI Touran, with 150bhp and 250Nm put through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the mechanical smoothness is obvious. The car is fairly quick for a compact people-mover, with the century sprint timing just under 9 seconds and a top speed of more than 200kmh.


It is a relaxed cruiser, too, with the engine spinning at just 2,000rpm in seventh gear while maintaining a steady 110kmh.


The car is more fuel-efficient at the same time, consuming 1 litre less petrol per 100km than the outgoing 1.4 TSI Touran.


This dad's cab certainly has pep in its step. Thanks to its strong torque and responsive powertrain, it is likely to remain peppy even with the whole family on board.


After dropping the wife and kids off, the father at the wheel can almost relive his boy-racer days by gunning the throttle, playing with the snappy paddle shifters and taking corners more enthusiastically. If the car is specified with Volkswagen's DCC adaptive damping, he can select Sport mode to stiffen the suspension and corner even more enthusiastically.


Back to dad's cab mode with the family in tow, the Touran is a comfortable tourer ready for any road trip or school run. The ride is pliant, whether it is on 215/55 R17 or 225/45 R18 tyres. There is very little noise intrusion from the asphalt or airstream.


Refined, relaxing and well-equipped for household duties, the new Touran makes a superb multi-purpose family car.