June 12, 2012

Review: Volkswagen Multivan, VW Sharan

Photo by Alfacevedoa
via Wikimedia Commons

Volkswagen offers one minivan in the US, the Routan. The less said of it the better. It's not even a Volkswagen: it's made by Chrysler and is actually a re-badged Town & Country, sharing the platform also with the Dodge Grand Caravan. You can tell it's not part of the VW fold by looking under the hood, where you will find a 3.6L V6 engine that gets a 20th century fuel efficiency of 17 / 25 mpg (cty/hwy). It's an ugly critter, too, sporting a mean smirk at the front.

If you want to see a real VW microbus, you have to go to the beautiful city of Santa Clara, CA, where the characteristic sound of the boxer engine can be heard everywhere. This is where good VW buses retire: rust-free, basking in the mild California climate and pampered by their loving owners. Some of them are still attired as hippiemobiles. Some go all the way back to the original T1 generation.

The next closest place is Mexico, where Volkswagen still sells the Transporter, one of the T4 generation (the last that was sold in the US). With the frugal TDI option. And a choice of pickup truck, cargo van and passenger van versions.

But for the real thing, the place to go is the home of Volkswagen.

In Germany, the current generation minibus (T5) comes in several manifestations. The Multivan is the sensible runaround MPV. Its variants include the AWD Edition 25, a version with an elongated wheel base, and a luxury Business edition. Of course, there is the California camper, complete with fold-out roof. The photos made CelloPlayer fairly faint with desire.

As a sign of its versatility, the Multivan also occurs in Volkswagen's "utility vehicles" list. But for the consumer versions, the second row of seats can be swiveled to face to the rear. Pull out the built-in table, and you're ready for a cup of tea, or lunch. And there are panoramic windows, even for the children in the back. Of course, there's plenty of space in the trunk for strollers, sports equipment, and a cello or two. Altogether a family-friendly vehicle.

All that at a fuel efficiency better than 30 mpg.

But if you don't need a living room on wheels, you can take a look at the VW Sharan: "Great to the smallest detail". It sort of looks like a larger version of the Golf, but has a sliding side door, handy for those tiny European parking spaces, and comes with a 6-seat or a 7-seat option (the latter is an extra € 1,575).

Photo by El Monty via Wikimedia Commons

All seats are easily foldable to form a flat cargo floor in case you need to move larger pieces. In case that's not enough, the Sharan can pull a 750 kg (1650 lbs) trailer without brakes, and 2200kg (4850 lbs) with brakes. So yes, you can take this car on a camping trip and do fine with it.

This is one of those examples where going with a smaller package can give you big savings: the 7-seat Sharan is € 2600 ($3200) less expensive than a comparable Multivan with the same engine. The table below compares the Multivan to the Sharan, both outfitted with the sweet 2.0L TDI Bluemotion powertrain. Both MPVs have the same width, but the Sharan is less tall. It also has quite a bit less weight, so its fuel efficiency is about 30% higher than that of the Multivan. (No user data is available yet for these cars, but apparently the European test cycle is much more accurate for diesel engines than for conventional gasoline ones).

Since the Sharan is really in a different class from the Routan, perhaps VW can be convinced to start selling us this MPV that offers space for larger families but still has a sensible carbon footprint.


Multivan Sharan
Type 2.0L TDI Bluemotion
2.0L TDI Bluemotion
Trendline 7-seat
Year 2012 2012
Emissions rating EURO5 "C" EURO5 "B"
MSRP € 36,224 € 33,600
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 9.1 / 6.1 L/100km 6.8 / 4.8 L/km
Avg. quoted 7.2 L/100km
5.5 L/km
(43 mpg)
Avg. actual    

2.0L TDI Bluemotion

2.0L TDI Bluemotion
Power 103 kW (138 HP) 138HP @ 4200rpm
Torque 320Nm (231 lbs-ft)
@ 1750-2500 rpm
Transmission 6-spd manual 6-spd manual
Fuel Diesel Diesel
Length, mm(in) 4892mm (193in) 4854mm (191in)
Width, mm(in) 1904mm (75in) 1904mm (75in)
Height, mm(in) 1990mm (78in) 1720mm (68in)
Weight, kg(lbs) 2218 kg 1774 kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft)   300-2300L
Turning radius, m(ft)   11.9m
Top speed, kph(mph) 173 kph 194 kph

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