High fives for Touran in new era of the practical
Five child-seat anchors set MPV apart
I recently spent a fascinating hour strolling through one of the world's great car collections at the famous Louwman Museum at the Hague.
And in the midst of the priceless motoring heritage - it would be gauche to even mention or estimate the worth of this unique collection of extraordinary cars - one question kept popping up.
I wondered how many of today's cars will be looked back on as trailblazers and mould-breakers of their time?
It is a major question and not one answered within either the constrictions of current perspectives or space but it served as a sobering backdrop to today's offerings.
While some cars span the epochs, most are of their era; they serve a purpose within short allotments of time and are replaced by the next best thing.
Such is the rapidity of renewal and the ubiquity of styling (as in crossovers) that few set, rather than follow, benchmarks.
In the old days, breakthroughs were more pronounced because technology limited their frequency. Nowadays it accelerates them.
I don't expect Volkswagen's Touran to be picking up retrospective Oscars in future motoring halls of fame. Yet it is, in its own practical fashion, a car of its time.
It won't win design awards and much of what it does is replicated to a marginally greater or lesser extent by several competitors.
Yet for anyone looking for a family vehicle that will take five child seats (it has five ISOFIX anchor points), it commands attention for meeting the immediate, large-family needs few others can accommodate in the mid-size MPV price range.
It was also, on my test drive in the 150bhp 2-litre diesel, a distinctly better piece of driving apparatus than its forerunner, though that is marginal praise given the former's poor show on dynamics, not to mention style and general decor.
But unlike one or two of the newly-arrived mid-size MPVs, it was capable of letting me fix my ratio of seating-to-luggage with notable ease. A couple of old office chairs, required to salve aching backs, as well as a few (plastic) bags of this and that needed transportation from midlands to Dublin.
We had plenty of room for them all and a front-seat passenger; the third and second rows fell as flat as a political promise but were easy to tee up again.
It goes without saying the third row is for toddlers, but even my bulky frame wasn't unduly stressed in trial accessing it.
With the second and third rows flattened, the figures claim I had luggage space of 1,857 litres.
That seemed substantial to me, anyway, and especially I noticed the additional width to take the three ISOFIX fittings across the middle row.
As a driver I was catered for as well as I might have hoped; good solid seating, decent layout of instrumentation and one fine driving position.
I have driven the Touran not just with the 2-litre diesel but with the 1.6-litre diesel too, the latter anticipated to be, by far, the most popular among buyers.
If I had the extra money I would plump for the 2-litre, especially if I expected to have my cabin heavily or fully occupied in the course of most journeys.
Against that, the 1.6-litre's more moderate credentials are unlikely to count heavily against it on the school run and there was a decent degree of pulling power in my Irish drive. Furthermore, it saves you €70 a year on road tax.
Cast against the great backdrop of motoring history, the Touran is barely worth a mention but, like a newly-signed journeyman footballer, it serves buyers a lot better than before and provides the practical ballast to the allure and excitement of the star players.
Funnily enough though, one of its rivals, the Renault Scenic (and in particular the larger Grand Scenic), may well earn its future museum place on the basis of being the car that first brought, 20 years ago, the people-carrier genre to the mass market.
Facts & figures
Volkswagen Touran 7-seat people carrier, 2-litre diesel (150bhp, road tax €200/6spd manual, €270/7spd DSG).
Prices from €29,725 for 1.2-litre petrol; €31,970 1.6-litre diesel; €36,185 2-litre diesel. Delivery/related charges extra. Standard equipment includes five ISOFIX anchors for child seats, air con, 5ins Composition colour radio system connectivity package. Comfortline adds 6.5ins Composition audio system with CD player, 16ins alloys, front fogs, park distance control, cruise control. Highline includes adaptive cruise control, 3-zone climatronic air con and multifunction colour display.
My side of the road
It's not easy to drive safely and try to control children at the same time. I'm sure you, like me, regularly see instances of exasperated parents distracted in trying to keep the peace.
I'm not sure if there is a solution other than stopping and warning but, from memory, that only lasts a while too. Any suggestions? It is a serious problem.