There's a story, probably apocryphal, that Volkswagen's designers were already well advanced in their assault on the mini-MPV market when Vauxhall launched the seven seat Zafira in 1999. Suddenly Volkswagen's five seat offering looked a little inadequate and the designers went back to the drawing board. Fast forward to 2003 and Volkswagen at last had an entrant in the lucrative mini-MPV sector in the rather generic shape of the Touran. Why the wait?
Surely it doesn't take four years to bring a car from the design stage to production, even one as well thought out as the Touran? Those intervening years saw a huge growth in the mini-MPV sector, with Citroen, Vauxhall and Renault largely carving the spoils up between them, Volkswagen and, surprisingly, Ford having nothing to offer. There is, however, a sound technical reason why Volkswagen was so late to the party.
With an entirely new platform designed for the 2004 model year Volkswagen Golf, the top brass in Wolfsburg felt it wasn't cost effective to build a stopgap mini-MPV based on the 'old' Golf chassis. Instead, they reasoned, it was better to bide their time until this superior set of running gear was available. The Touran was the second car in the Volkswagen Group to adopt a chassis that adopts a sophisticated independent rear suspension system. This is said to offer superior comfort and better handling, minimising the lurching body roll that can afflict some mini-MPVs. An entry-level TDI 90 diesel engine was introduced in the winter of 2004 and a 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI followed in 2006.
The next landmark in the Touran's lifecycle was a big one. The 2006 facelift addressed criticism that VW's MPV was a touch frumpy with a significant restyle to the front and rear. This made the car look lower and altogether more dynamic and the interior too was refreshed. At the same time, the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine was introduced with its turbocharged and supercharged technology. The 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre FSI units were ditched at this point.