2010 Volkswagen Routan Highline
2010 Volkswagen Routan Highline. Click image to enlarge

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2010 Volkswagen Routan

It may be a well kept secret but there is a Volkswagen minivan and it is built right here in Canada. Along with the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and the made-for-Europe Chrysler Grand Voyageur, Chrysler’s Windsor assembly plant also builds the Routan for Volkswagen.

If you didn’t know about the Volkswagen Routan it is no surprise. There aren’t that many on the road in Canada. Since it went on sale in late 2008, Volkswagen Canada has sold just 1,844 units. By comparison, in 2009, Chrysler sold over 40,000 Grand Caravan and 3,165 Town & Country minivans.

It may be that Volkswagen doesn’t do much to promote the Routan and that’s a shame because among the minivan variations produced in Windsor, the Routan is arguably the best. But it’s meager sales total may also be due to its price, as among minivans, the Routan is a premium priced vehicle.

As is often the case, it is difficult to compare model to model. For example, a Dodge Grand Caravan can be purchased for as low as $19,445 including currently available and published discounts, but not including transportation, taxes and other charges. For that money the Dodge comes with a 3.3-litre V6, steel wheels, monotone paint, cloth seating, second row bench seat, manual climate controls and manual sliding side doors. The lowest entry point for the Routan is the Trendline, also with steel wheels and a second row bench, but priced at $28,075. However, the Routan includes a 4.0-litre V6 engine and metallic paint, which the Grand Caravan SE cannot be equipped with.

2010 Volkswagen Routan Highline
2010 Volkswagen Routan Highline. Click image to enlarge

Our test vehicle was a Routan Highline, the third in four trim levels available (Trendline, Comfortline, Highline and Execline). The suggested list price for the Routan Highline is $40,575. For the money, our test vehicle was well equipped. Standard features included 4.0-litre V6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, power sliding side doors and rear tailgate, halogen headlights and foglights, power glass sunroof, 16-inch alloy wheels, four 12-volt power outlets, six-speaker audio system with six-disc in-dash CD changer and auxiliary input jack, satellite radio, leather covered seating with heated front and second row seats, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, and power-adjustable pedals.

Optional equipment included navigation package and rear view back-up camera ($2,425) and 17-inch alloy wheels ($700), for a total price excluding taxes and additional charges of $43,700. Compare this to our better-equipped, made in Canada 2010 Chrysler Town & Country Limited which came in at $41,220.

It is not difficult to see why Volkswagen is having a difficult time selling the Routan.

2010 Volkswagen Routan Highline
2010 Volkswagen Routan Highline
2010 Volkswagen Routan Highline. Click image to enlarge

But in its defence and despite being built in the same factory and having the same engine and transmission as the Grand Caravan and Town & Country, the Routan is, in my opinion, a better van. My rationale: better exterior design, better interior design, higher quality interior materials, more comfortable seating and better driving characteristics.

Only the roof and door panels of the Routan are the same as the Chrysler minivans. All other sheetmetal, headlights, taillights and exterior trim are unique to the Routan. It doesn’t look the same and unless you knew – and you do know now – you wouldn’t think it came from the same factory. And the paintwork, as demonstrated by our Nocturne Black Metallic Routan, is exemplary.

Expressing simply a personal point of view, I prefer the look of the Routan over the Chrysler vehicles.

Inside the Routan is a blend of Chrysler and Volkswagen, but mostly the latter. The general layout, including the dash mounted shifter, is Chrysler, as is the navigation system (albeit with VW logo) and surrounding function buttons, and the heating and air conditioning unit. As noted in our review of the Town & Country, one must reach across to the right side of the navigation screen to touch the phone button to accept an incoming call. With most other competitors, this function is mounted on the steering wheel.

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