THE news this week that Volkswagen had been supplanted at the top of the Irish sales charts came as something of a surprise.
Particularly, as, for the last number of years, VW has managed its sales figures carefully to assure itself of the top slot on a monthly and yearly basis.
However, to see it fall to fourth place overall in the sales standings to the end of July, behind Hyundai, Toyota and Ford, was even more of shock, especially when you see that the company’s Golf model fell to third place in the charts behind the Hyundai Tucson and the Ford Focus.
As we know, things are not at all well at Volkswagen, as the continuing fall-out from the company’s duplicitous emissiongate scandal continues to be a PR nightmare and a very expensive lesson for the company on an ongoing basis.
However, things go on — they have to — and so, VW dealers around the globe continue as best they can to sell the company’s products. These, as we know, are largely very good products and we test one of them here: The seven-seat MPV Sharan.
Although the MPV market has taken a hammering of late from the seven-seat Crossover/SUV segment, which has found so much favour with the buying public, the likes of the Sharan and its close relative the Seat Alhambra or the Ford Galaxy (all of which originated from the same drawing board) continue the fight on behalf of the MPV segment.
With three rows of seats in a two-three-two formation, the Sharan lacks for nothing in its capacity to consume people and, when you fold the seats away, it demonstrates almost truck-like cargo space.
The thing is, though, the Sharan beats the pulp out of most MPVs, because its seats are pretty much full size all around. With so many other examples of the genre, the rear-most seats are really only able to accommodate children, but not so here. Also, the seats can be folded individually, so you can create varying degrees of luggage space or, by folding them all away, turn it into a van.
Practicality also comes with the sliding rear doors, which make access and egress to the five rear seats pretty much a doddle and make life much easier in tight car parking spaces.
It is a very big car and when you sit in the driver’s seat it can be difficult to judge front and rear distances when parking. Thus, potential buyers are recommended to make sure they have a version with the rear camera and front and rear parking sensors.
Other than that — and besides the size — the Sharan is a very acceptable driving companion. The ride is generally fine except on really bad surfaces and it handles particularly well for a vehicle of this size. Aids like the automatic ‘hill hold’ function also take a lot of the trauma out of city driving.
It doesn’t quite have the dynamism of the Galaxy or Ford’s other MPV, the S-Max, so if you’re an enthusiastic driver, a look elsewhere might be advised.
However, if it is family motoring you are after and you don’t want the kids puking down your neck as you wrestle it in and out of corners, then the VW will give you all you need.
The two-litre diesel engine with a 150bhp output is more than adequate for the job and, while providing a nippy drive, is also capable of 50+ mpg if, of course, you can believe VW any more.
However, this is a generally a complete package with — even in standard Comfortline spec — a lot of standard kit, including cruise control and, if you get the ‘162 Pack’, electric sliding side doors.
Regular readers will know, however, that while the Sharan is an all round good egg, dependable, practical, comfortable and well kitted out, if you can get over any brand snobbery issues, you might be better off taking a look at the Seat Alhambra, which comes with equal — if not better — specifications and at a lower overall cost.
AT A GLANCE
The cost: €43,805 OTR —€44,981 as tested.
The engine: A very familiar and popular turbodiesel.
The specification: Basic spec is very comprehensive.
The overall verdict: Very good indeed, but there are cheaper, similar, options.
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