Though at first glance every inch an MPV, the Sharan, says Volkswagen, is something quite different. Sure enough, though it seats between five and seven people depending on the model you choose, it's easy to drive, simple to park and no more expensive to run than the car you have at the moment.
This, say Volkswagen, is the future; car-like qualities in what, until pre-Sharan and Galaxy times, was a van-like sector of the market. In the showroom, the car costs about the same as a mid-range Volkswagen Passat estate, measures in at about the same length and takes up no more space on the road. Behind the wheel, it's exactly like a medium range estate - only better, thanks to that high-seated driving position and the glassy cabin.
Whichever version you choose, you'll be looking for flexibility - and you shouldn't be disappointed. Whatever configuration of seats you choose, you'll find that all of them can be folded down or unclipped and removed completed. Above CL specification, the front seats also swivel round to face the rear passengers, facilitating picnics or on-the-spot conferences.
Check for faulty trim and excessive transmission noise caused by the specially lengthened gear linkages. On the popular 2.0-litre, listen for clattery camshafts and make sure that the drivebelt has been replaced on schedule.
If you're buying a base model, make sure you're getting seven, rather than five seats (some basic cars miss out the back two). Also, most CL models do without air conditioning (well worth having in a car with this glass area) so think carefully before you go without.
Bear in mind too that most Sharans will have been used by people not used to cars of this size. It's worth checking, therefore, for body scrapes and scuffed mirrors. Finally, check the condition of the rear seats; their frames may have been damaged by ill-judged removal attempts.
(Estimated prices ex VAT) A clutch assembly is around £110, an exhaust system around £200, a catalytic converter around £360 and an exchange alternator around £165. Front brake pads are around £60 and a headlamp unit should set you back just under £85.
This car (along with its Galaxy and Alhambra stablemates) is the best handling people carrier you can buy. The Sharan doesn't roll, pitch or wallow like many of its MPV counterparts. Nor do you need a period of acclimatisation before you can drive it quickly, as you would, for example, with a fashionable four-wheel drive.
Both the Sharan and its Galaxy stablemate lead the MPV class on merit. If you can find a good one at the right price, don't hesitate.