The last-generation Volkswagen Sharan seemed to be on sale forever having been launched in the mid-'90s. You can well imagine that some of the first models to have gone sale (if they're still surviving) must be on their fourth or fifth sets of families by now. The Sharan was a successful model for VW, though, and sharing the development of the car with Seat and Ford to create the Alhambra and Galaxy sister models was a smart move to save money.
For the newer car VW opted to keep it in the family, with just the Sharan and Alhambra sharing DNA. The car retains the same familiar silhouette of the original, but to it has been added the latest Volkswagen family nose, all sharp lines and prominent badge on the grilled.
Volkswagen favours a certain homogeneity with its range of cars, but it does mean they come out looking a bit dull. Family MPVs are never particularly interesting, but VW hasn't really made any effort at all to liven this one up. Potential buyers will know what to expect with that badge on the front, though.
Practicality is what matters and MPV owners are usually resigned to a lack of flair before they even begin shopping around. The Sharan's seven seats make it immediately compelling before anyone even sees the tricks it has up its sleeve with pews folding flat to create a flush load bay that is positively van-like.
Normally with such people carriers the constricted rear row of seats is usually only suitable for smaller children over shorter distances, but the Sharan can actually fit adults in the back two seats. Admittedly they will only manage to be comfortable over short distances themselves, but you'd imagine that smaller children could probably live in there.
The Sharan offers a range of gadgets to make life easier, though - the boot and side doors can be operated electronically and there's a parking assist function to help get the car into a space. The cabin is incredibly spacious and quality is generally very good save for a few lapses. The Sharan feels like it could stand up to abuse though.
The engines all feel a little underpowered in the Sharan, but the 2.0-litre diesel is a respectable motor which VW claims will return over 50mpg, proving you can have your cake and fit it in the back too.