Multipurpose vehicles (MPVs) are a dime a dozen on Singapore roads. From 5 to 8 seaters, MPVs attract families with their ample space, roomy compartments and their functionality such as the ability to ‘flat-bed’ the rear seats to suit the modern family’s diverse lifestyle needs. So when we were given an opportunity to test-drive the Volkswagen Sharan for a week, we (being sedan drivers) were quite intrigued to see if this MPV can convince us to consider one.
Unlike the blinking lights and ‘gimmicky’ add-ons from other competing MPVs, the value-added conveniences which the German-made VW Sharan demonstrate some clever thinking, guided by the safety principles and product innovation which the Germans are famous for.
From the get-go, this host of intuitive and safety features impressed us:
1. Keyless Access – The ability to lock and unlock the Sharan with a mere touch of your hands when the ignition key is within 1.5m of the vehicle makes it effortless to access the Sharan, especially when one’s hands are full with groceries, bags and your kids.
2. Keyless Ignition – The Sharan starts at the push of a button inside as long as the keys are inside the car. This means that the key stays conveniently in your pockets or your bag, without having to fish for them when you are in a hurry. Great if you’re constantly on the go or when you want to have one-less important thing to remember. By the way, the Sharan will not lock itself when the keys are inside the car.
3. Auto Hold – We love this function the most as it allows the Sharan to stop and go just at the touch of the brake and accelerator pedal at traffic lights or at slopes. No more messing around with handbrakes, brakes and accelerators!
4. Talking about Handbrakes, the Sharan has none! Well, at least not the big stick shaft, it’s all controlled electronically – no messing around with a huge and heavy stick to stop the vehicle permanently.
5. Touch-Screen Entertainment / Navigation Console: The Sharan offers convenience and safety at your fingertips: The touch-screen console plays different media entertainment (CDs, SD card and DVDs – yes it plays DVDs too when the car is stationary). The console also comes built-in with Volkswagen’s very own navigation system and maps which can be updated and, check this out, all the controls can be voice-controlled! So, navigating between various modes of entertainment (e.g. radio, CD, SD cards) to the maps is just a voice command away! Very cool and intuitive.
6. The Multi-Function Steering complements the entertainment console by allowing the driver to manually control all at the touch of the finger. It also allows the driver to customize essential diagnostic info to be displayed on the dashboard.
7. Park-Assist – Volkswagen is one of the pioneers of this intelligent technology. Coupled with its all-round sensors, this feature aids the driver to park the car both in parallel and perpendicular (reverse) parking situations. Impressive feature! Like most IT-enabled feature, once you get the hang of it, it’s gem to work with! We will miss this.
8. Cruise Control – A common and necessary feature found in the Sharan which makes it the ideal car for long road-trips as it eliminates pedal-fatigue.
9. Sunroof – Every kids’ favourite feature in a car. The sunroof allows ample light and ventilation into the Sharan which comes in useful when fetching more people and things as odor will not be trapped in the interiors. Along with its large windows and plush leather-trimmed seats, the Sharan certainly makes the interior comfy and breezy.
10. Electronic Seat Adjustment – Another feature which we love: No more fiddling with knobs and pulling levers just to adjust seat to a comfortable driving level when you switch drivers! This applies also to the lower back seat adjustment – a practical feature to reduce fatigue and increase comfort on long drives.
11. Sliding Passenger Doors – Excellent space saving (and energy saving!) feature, which allows for all passengers (especially kids) to move in and out with ease!
12. Electronically-controlled Rear Hatch Door – The rear hatch door is electronically controlled from the door itself as well as from the driver. The opening height is also customizable so that you don’t need to be a tall German to close the hatch door!
What is a German vehicle without its high-level of safety? The Sharan, along with its value-added features, does not compromise on safety. Some of the features that we will miss include:
• 7 Airbags – driver and front passenger airbags, 2 side airbags in the first seating rows, 2 side curtain airbags between the A- and D-pillars, 1 knee airbag on the driver’s side. All round safety for your family.
• 3-point safety belts for all seats – While some popular brands compromise on seat belt functionality at the rear seats, the Sharan does not. There is a 3-point safety belt even for the middle seats which most MPV would just settle with a waist belt.
• ABS and ESP System to improve braking and road handling in those tricky situations.
• All-round Sensors – Very important and integral feature to ensure that all blind spots are covered and accidents, scrapes and scratches avoided especially moving in and out of tight spaces.
• Child-lock on side doors – Electronically controlled child-lock on both side doors which can be controlled by the driver.
• Reverse Camera – This is a very useful feature (esp. for beginning drivers), which gives visual aid during reverse parking. Even in low-lit areas, the view can be seen clearly. Also to add, when the reverse camera is on, the media is silenced to enable the driver to direct his/her full concentration in parking the Sharan.
• Safety Headrest – The headrest on its seats can be adjusted forward to avoid whiplash injury in accidents.
Handling The Sharan:
The Sharan is a larger vehicle than the conventional sedan but its size and height actually makes it a boon to drive – With it’s elevated position coupled with large, bright windows and state-of-the-art parking sensors, the Sharan actually is safer to drive and maneuver. From the expressways to the tight-spaces in older commercial buildings like the People’s Park complex, driving the Sharan is surprisingly as manageable as any family sedan. Being higher from the tarmac also reduces noise. The model we tested came with 17 inch, Continental CSC 2 tires, giving me a grippy yet quiet ride. Moreover, the Sharan with its 2.0 TSI engine and 6-speed DSG offers fuel efficiency without compromising on performance for any vehicles in its class.
To give a balanced user evaluation of the Sharan, here are some of our dislikes:
- Beeps and Peeps – The all-round sensor tends to give off a cacophony of peeps and beeps when parking into tight spaces as it detects vehicle distance as close a 1 meter away. It intensifies as the vehicle draws nearer and this can be quite disconcerting.
- Park-Assist – Would love it if park assist can assist the driver to drive OUT of tight spaces automatically.
- The Foldaway Rear Seats can’t be removed and stow away like the smaller Touran to improve efficiency.
In conclusion, the Sharan is a gem to drive. With its Europe NCAP 5 Star safety rating and intuitive features, it not only offers the space of an MPV but beyond that, you receive the best of German safety, technology and efficiency in this family car. With the Sharan, VW has produced an all-rounder in value in the newly revised Category B group of vehicles.