As a wheelchair using driver, there are some crucial things I need to know. Simple little things like “is the boot big enough?” My other favourites are things like “where are the buttons” and “will I still be sitting up if I go around a corner?”
So, recently I had the use of a 2014 Volkswagen Sharan. It was the 2 litre turbo diesel with a 6 speed DSG gearbox, which packs around 138bhp – quite a punch for any vehicle of the Passat/Mondeo size or bigger. This model was the basic “s” trim, which doesn’t have steering radio controls, cruise control or automatic lights/wipers. What it does have is all round electric windows… and a lot of storage bins.
Getting into the car, the boot lip is flat – this is vital when lifting a chair in or out, especially if you sit on the boot lid to hoik your own wheels in or out of the car. The boot itself accommodated my wheelchair laid down – if I wanted to stand the wheelchair up, I would need to remove the wheels though. The sliding doors along the side mean that if I wanted to, inserting the chair in through the side would be a doddle, especially if you were to take the optional electric rear doors – expect to pay around £700 for those though.
Once in, the front seat is quite supportive for the driver. The dials have a central read out of which gear you are in (the actual number, not just D for drive), enabling you to work out if you want to manually switch to go up or down in the gear box for whatever reason. There is also an “S” selection for sport – which adjusts the ratios to give you a quicker response. I found I never needed it.
Getting out on the road, its important to remember it’s wide – and I mean really wide. Once you have that mastered though, it is a very comfortable ride. I found that the engine pull was very good, especially when getting on to the motorway. The DAB radio picked up any station I could ask it to and the MDI connection to a USB stick was welcome.
My niggles? There were a few – steering wheel controls for the stereo would have been nice, even on a basic car. Automatic lights would be a welcome luxury, too. I don’t enjoy reaching about much and if you do need to stay in your seat and supported, then little things make a difference.
So – a verdict? A great people carrier and lovely drive. Would I buy one? If I could get the SE or better with the toys, yes I probably would – the sliding doors and huge boot make it a good vehicle to have. I would consider its sister though – the Seat Alhambra.