Considering you're practically driving a minibus, it's rather good. We like the strong diesel engines best
The high-set driving position, simple dashboard and lots of useful storage
All the safety kit you expect, plus some you don't
VW has proved a safe bet for reliability and the quality feel of materials in the Sharan is reassuring
No need to compromise here; you can carry seven people and some luggage, or fold the seats flat for a seriously big loadbay
Decent kit as standard but will the lure of alloy wheels, Bluetooth or a panoramic sunroof tempt you to upgrade?
There are two turbocharged petrol engines - a 148bhp 1.4-litre and a 197bhp 2.0-litre - but the two 2.0-litre diesels, with 138bhp or 168bhp - suit the car better thanks to their extra mid-range pulling power. Volkswagen's brilliant semi-automatic DSG gearbox is standard with the 2.0-litre petrol and an option with the other engines.
The Sharan has a very comfortable ride, and it actually handles fairly tidily for such a big car thanks to decent body control and accurate steering. Bear in mind, though, that the Sharan's bus-like proportions can make it tricky to manoeuvre in tight spaces.
There's some wind noise around the door mirrors at motorway speeds, but the diesel engines stay smooth and hushed at all times and road noise is only an issue on very coarse surfaces. Most models have an efficiency-improving stop-start system, which is fairly unobtrusive.
The Sharan's dashboard is covered in classy, soft-touch material, and most of the switchgear is shared with other Volkswagen models so it's a doddle to use. The driving position is elevated and there's loads of seat- and steering-wheel adjustment, plus plenty of useful cubbies.
There's generous space for seven, and the sliding rear doors make rear access easy in tight parking spaces. Even with all the seats in place, there's enough boot space for a decent amount of luggage, and with just five seats in use, the boot is huge. All of the seats can be folded flat for a van-like load bay, although the two rearmost ones are a bit of a fuss to operate.
Entry-level S cars come with four electric windows, climate control and an eight-speaker stereo. SE trim adds steering-wheel-mounted stereo controls, Bluetooth and alloy wheels, while SEL brings cruise control, a CD changer and a panoramic sunroof. Executive models include leather upholstery and just two middle rear seats, this time with armrests and space in between.
Volkswagen has a reasonable reliability record, and consistently scores well in the annual JD Power customer satisfaction survey. It also has the maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, and every model includes a tyre-pressure monitor and seven airbags, including curtain airbags running the length of the cabin. Deadlocks, marked parts and an alarm are standard. SE cars and above get locking wheel nuts, too.
The Sharan costs about the same as a similarly specced Ford Galaxy, but the Sharan will hold its value better over three years, and is cheaper to both insure and service than the Ford. Average fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are competitive, too.