THE Volkswagen Sharan is an enduring model in the MPV sector which has seen models come and go.
Twenty years after it was launched, the Sharan shares only the name with the first generation, and today's popular MPV is significantly bigger and roomier.
Originally a joint venture with Ford from 1995 to 2009, the new second generation Sharan is based on the floorpan of the Passat but topped with a much more practical body.
The newest version should go a long way to overcoming frequent criticisms about the reliability and durability of the first generation Sharan, but only time will tell.
It is popular with taxi and limousine companies, which explains why the Sharan now comes only with rear passenger sliding doors for convenience, but the very wide boot door permits big objects to be loaded which will find favour with families carting bikes and camping stuff as well.
There is a big range of models in the Sharan series with petrol or diesel engines, four trim levels and all are well equipped.
The SEL 2.0-litre with a 150ps diesel engine sits towards the top of the line up and despite its price tag is one of the most popular.
It gets stop/ start fuel saving electronics as well as recuperative braking, smart traction controls for grip and stability, luxurious trim including sports seats and multi-functional touchscreen infotainment system as well as high capacity air conditioning, parking sensors and rear camera.
With all this equipment to help a driver it makes easy work of town driving and parking, the visibility is good all round and the powerful lights and big wipers shrug off poor conditions.
The engine is not particularly powerful but it does have useful torque so acceleration is reasonably brisk from standstill thanks to well-chosen gear ratios and you can sharpen them with the Sport mode in use.
Gear changes are very smooth unless you are really heavy footed and the brakes haul down speed without drama or fuss and only modest pedal pressure.
I liked the gearing and weight to the steering which produced a relaxing drive on open roads but it took a few attempts to squeeze into some small parking spaces due to the turning circle.
Secondary controls were plentiful and needed familiarisation while instruments were big and clear and backed up by a lot of warning lights.
The air conditioning did a brilliant job throughout the big cabin, backed up by powered windows and sunroof with its own blind and progressive opening settings. Rearmost A/C is an £110 option, however.
Oddments space was excellent throughout and the luggage capacity, although not good when the rearmost seats were used, could be gradually increased to 2295 litres.
Access was very good through the hinged front doors and side sliders, with powered control a £660 extra, and it was only climbing into the rearmost pair of seats which needed some dexterity.
The seats were neatly upholstered in Alcantara leather and their shape supported and located occupants very well with a lot of adjustment on the driver's side and a load-through facility on the front passenger side.
Second and third row seats can be removed if desired to boost capacity to maximum for big loads.
Ride quality was slightly firm but not uncomfortable and it had little body roll or pitching under acceleration or braking, but it absorbed nearly all road shocks without complaint.
Handling was not sporting or pin sharp but it was precise and effortless and the roadholding had a tendency to run wide on tighter turns then quickly and safely come back on line if you eased off the throttle.
The fuel consumption was about what I expected but was not exceptionally good given most of the week was spent lightly loaded.
The Volkswagen Sharan range is extensive and carefully structured to have the widest appeal to particular users, they are not the cheapest and have many extra cost options as well, and you need to carefully pick your way through them.