Volkswagen Sharan review
The VW Sharan is one of the best all-round seven-seater MPVs on the market but it isn’t as funky as a Citroen Grand C4 Picasso or as sharp to drive as a Ford Galaxy
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The VW Sharan is a practical seven-seat family car with loads of space in the back and a range of efficient petrol and diesel engines.
The Sharan was launched in 2010 and refreshed in 2015 with remodelled bumpers, revised interior trim and a new infotainment system. It’s a pretty forgettable-looking car, but it’s well-built and the hugely roomy cabin more than makes up for its rather conservative looks.
The interior does all you need for a family car – the materials are robust and a few soft-touch plastics and glossy trims in the front make it feel a little more upmarket than other seven-seat MPVs such as the Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer. All Sharans get an easy-to-use 6.5-inch infotainment display in the centre console, but only SE Nav models and above come with satellite navigation.
The optional Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity feature is well worth the £130 asking price – it lets you use many of your smartphone’s apps, including those for sat nav and music streaming, through the car’s built-in screen.
The Sharan’s low-tech bits are just as useful – you’ll be able to squeeze 300 litres of luggage in the boot, even with all seven seats in use. If you need to carry even more, you can fold the two rear seats down to create a flat 711-litre boot – more than big enough for a family holiday.
Planning a monster camping trip for two? Fold all but the front seats down and the Sharan’s completely flat floor can swallow a simply vast 2,297 litres of luggage – that’s very nearly as large as the cavernous 2,339-litre Ford Galaxy, and easily enough to start a removals business on the side.
If that isn’t enough storage, there are 33 handy cubby holes dotted around the Sharan’s cabin, too. Have fun remembering which one you put your keys in…
Fitting a child seat is easy thanks to the Sharan’s tall roofline and large rear doors that slide rather than swing open, so youngsters can’t slam them open into cars next to you. The middle row of seats slide forwards independently, too, so you don’t need to limber-up before jumping in the rearmost seats.
You can’t exactly call the Sharan exciting, or stylish, or fun. Thankfully, you can call it spacious, practical and well-built – it’s a great family car
You can get the Sharan with one petrol and two diesel engines. The 150hp 1.4-litre petrol model will return around 35mpg and is your best bet if you spend most time driving around town. The 150hp 2.0-litre diesel version will be more suitable if you travel long distances. It’s slightly louder than the petrol when you accelerate hard but it’ll cruise happily at motorway speeds and returns around 45mpg.
If your day-to-day driving usually involves traffic jams then the optional seven-speed automatic gearbox is a worthwhile investment. It’ll set you back around £1,500 across the Sharan range. Pair it with the optional £855 adaptive suspension and the Sharan becomes one of the most comfortable and relaxing MPVs on the market.
The Sharan was awarded a five-star safety rating back in 2010 by Euro NCAP but the testing regime has been made significantly stricter since. Despite this, the Sharan’s impressive practicality and fairly frugal engines make it a compelling choice if you’re after a well-built MPV with seven seats that’ll be cheap to run.
The VW Sharan is a superbly practical old-school people-carrier, with room for seven on-board, but if you don’t need so much space, you can find something a little sleeker and more stylish
There's no doubt that the practical Sharan is a great people-carrier, but don't forget that the Seat Alhambra is much the same car - and it costs a fair bit less
There’s plenty of seat adjustment to help you get comfortable in the Sharan. You can tweak both the seat height and steering wheel position to give you a comfortable and commanding view of the road ahead – even if you’re more than six-foot tall. Driver’s lumbar support and electric backrest adjustment come as standard on SE models and above, too.
The Sharan’s huge rear doors slide rather than swing open and the middle seats fold and slide forward at the pull of a lever to make jumping in the back a breeze – even in a tight car park.
Once you’re in you’ll find plenty of room in the rear two rows for five people to sit in relative comfort. The middle row has plenty of headroom and there’s enough shoulder room for adults to sit three abreast. The seats in the middle row can slide forward and backward independently, too, so you can choose between lots of middle-seat legroom or a bit more boot space. A small lump in the floor limits foot room slightly, but unless your friends have comically big feet there’ll be more than enough space to stretch out.
The two seats in the third row are a little firmer than the five seats in front of them and there’s considerably less headroom but – for short journeys at least – two adults will still be fairly comfortable, and kids will be more than happy.
The Sharan’s wide door openings also make fitting a child seat to any of the three standard Isofix mounts in the middle row as easy as pie. Unfortunately, you can’t use these mounts at the same time as the optional £400 integrated booster seats.
The Sharan’s absolutely packed with practical cubbies to hide away various family bits and bobs. A pair of trays under the front seats – in SE models and above – can hold a small soft bag or a map book while a fold-down pocket in the headlining is the perfect place to store your sunglasses.
Both the glovebox and four door bins can easily swallow a one-litre bottle of water, and the rear door pockets are designed to stop open bottles from tipping over and spilling everywhere.
There are two large cupholders in the centre console and a large storage bin beneath the front armrest while a pair of fold-down picnic tables for passengers in the middle row are standard on all but S models. Lift up the hatches behind the front two seats and you’ll find a couple of handy under-floor hideaways – perfect for concealing a few valuables.
Overall, there are 33 cubby holes dotted around the Sharan’s impressively practical cabin. The only mark against this very clever VW is that passengers in the third row of seats aren’t offered any handy storage features.
You’ll be able to carry 300 litres of luggage in the Sharan’s boot – that’s more than the VW Polo – even with all seven seats in place.
Fold the rearmost seats away and you’ll be presented with a flat boot floor that’ll happily carry 711 litres. You can fold all but the front two seats down to open up a simply cavernous 2,297-litre load bay – ideal for helping a friend move house or for impulsive Ikea shopping sprees. That’s on a par with some small vans and only 42 litres less than the colossal Ford Galaxy.
There’s no awkward load lip to lift heavy items over and the boot’s square shape and flat floor makes it easy to slide large boxes right up behind the front seats. The Sharan’s sliding rear doors mean you can load bulky items from the side just as easily as you can from the rear.
There’s a 12V socket in the boot and a set of four useful tie-down hooks to help stop smaller items for rolling around. Unfortunately, there’s no underfloor storage in the Sharan’s boot.
The Sharan’s easy to drive, fairly frugal and won’t cost the earth to run – just don’t expect it to be much fun
The VW Sharan’s a bit of a snore-fest in the driving department. That’s far from unique for an MPV, however, and your passengers surely won’t mind
You can get the VW Sharan with one petrol and two diesel engines. Do a lot of town driving? Then go for the 1.4-litre 150hp petrol – it’s the smoothest engine on offer and is quieter at slow speeds than the slightly grumbly diesels and uses less fuel in stop-start traffic, too. VW claims it’ll return 43.5mpg but expect to see a number in the mid thirties.
Pick one of the two diesels if you regularly cover longer distances. Both use less fuel at motorway speeds than the petrol and are reasonably quiet once you’ve settled into a cruise. The 150hp model isn’t quite as quick as the more powerful 184hp version but it’s slightly more efficient – it’ll return around 45mpg.
All Sharans come with a manual gearbox as standard but you can upgrade to a smooth twin-clutch automatic for around £1,500 across the range. It might sound like an expensive extra but it’ll really help take the stress out of long journeys and seemingly endless bank holiday traffic jams.
The Sharan might look huge, but its giant windscreen and square side windows mean it’s easy to see out of and there aren’t any particularly large blind spots. All but entry-level S models come with front and rear parking sensors too, for a little extra peace of mind.
You’ll find it’s relatively easy to drive around town, too, thanks to its light steering and raised seating position that gives you a good view over the road ahead. Large potholes can send an unpleasant jolt through the cabin but the Sharan does a good job of ironing out most small bumps at higher speeds.
The Ford Galaxy feels slightly sharper to drive than the VW but the optional £855 adaptive suspension helps the Sharan take tight corners without leaning excessively and comes with a comfort setting to take the edge off bigger bumps and potholes.
You’ll hear a slight roar from the tyres at motorway speeds and a little wind whistle from the Sharan’s large door mirrors but neither are particularly intrusive.
The VW Sharan received a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2010. The Sharan – with no automatic emergency brakes or self-drive functions – would probably perform significantly worse if tested today.
The VW Sharan’s interior might not be very stylish, but it’s full of handy cubby holes and is solid enough to cope with the rigours of family life
Volkswagen Sharan colours
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