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The Volkswagen Sharan has been around in one form or another since 1995, with the current model having been launched in 2010.
Its latest incarnation saw it increase in size and change from the rounded shape of old to a more squared-off, contemporary style more in keeping with modern tastes. The Sharan does have a twin within the VW group, which is the Seat Alhambra, although the Sharan is keen to be the higher specified, more upmarket version of the two.
If you're in the market for a practical family companion and need seven seats, then the Sharan may be just the MPV you're looking for. Let's explore the Sharan in more detail.
The latest version of the Sharan was rebuilt from the ground up, with no resemblance to its predecessor aside from its name. While it did become more prominent in its reincarnation, Volkswagen made an effort to make it more car-like to drive, so you should feel immediately at home behind the wheel.
The first thing you will notice about the Sharan is how roomy it is inside. The substantial rear sliding doors give you access to the rear five seats, with plenty of room for the kids to clamber into the back row. Each seat is individual rather than a bench, and even adults should be able to sit in the rearmost two seats in reasonable comfort, but they shouldn't expect loads of legroom because some space is saved for the load area behind the third row. If you also need the practicality of a vehicle that carries large loads, you'll also be delighted to find that all but the driver's seat folds down to give you a huge load area, helped by its van-like shape.
As with any Volkswagen, the cabin is a pleasant place to be, with thoughtfully designed instruments and soft-touch materials making it feel like a high-quality product. Everything inside the Sharan is built to last and will feel familiar to you if you have previously owned or driven a VW product.
The Sharan offered a range of safety systems as standard and achieved the full five stars on its Euro NCAP crash test, so you can be reassured that your family will be as safe as possible on board.
If you are looking at a brand new Sharan, only the SE Nav is currently available to order, but there is more choice for shopping in the used market.
The entry-level S gives you air conditioning, a CD player, electric windows and Bluetooth. The SE offers upgrades including alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, parking sensors and a part-electric driver's seat. The SE Nav will also provide a sat-nav. The SEL adds extra luxurious touches, including a panoramic glass roof that stretches the entire cabin's entire length and makes it feel even airier inside.
You also get heated part-leather seats, front fog lights and electric sliding rear doors. If you can stretch your budget to the SEL, it will pay dividends because the electric doors are surprisingly helpful, and you won't want to be without them once you've tried them!
Looking now at engines, the Sharan is available with a range of petrol and Diesel units depending on your needs, and you can also specify a DSG automatic gearbox on some of the range if you'd prefer an automatic.
The 2.0 TDI Diesel is offered with either 113bhp, 148bhp or 174bhp, returning up to a surprising 56 miles per gallon of fuel. Given the car's size, if you're going to be regularly carrying lots of passengers, you'd be well advised to look at the two more powerful versions as the smallest unit may feel a little breathless under heavy acceleration.
If you'd prefer petrol, you can also get a 1.4 TSI turbo petrol engine offering 148bhp, and achieving around 42mpg. Whilst they will be few and far between, if you fancy a more powerful petrol version, then there is a 197bhp 2.0 TSI unit mated to a DSG gearbox, which will hustle you and the family along nicely.
The Sharan is primarily a family companion, so look out for signs of interior wear from heavy family use, as young children are known to use and abuse car interiors!
Also, look carefully for body damage signs consistent with the family runabout trips to car parks and schools. Most Sharans will be Diesel versions known to have issues with the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) if they're only used on short journeys around town. They can sometimes be regenerated by driving in a particular manner for a few miles, but if they get excessively blocked, they're expensive to replace. Make sure your Sharan has been serviced on time and that wearable items such as the cambelt have been replaced on time because these can also be an expensive fix if they go wrong.
If you take a test drive, feel the clutch carefully to make sure it bites well because clutches may wear on cars that have been used to carry lots of people around town. Otherwise, the Sharan should prove to be every bit as reliable as you would expect of any Volkswagen product.