Buying an estate car can bring with it certain prejudices – such as the feeling that owning one is like accepting life is catching up with you and it’s now time to stop being silly. That said, the practicalities of an estate car are there for all to see, but ever since Volvo entered estates into the British Touring Car Championship two decades ago, these cars are no-longer seen as boring and staid in the way they once were. Two of the very best of the current crop are the Volkswagen Passat Estate and the Ford Mondeo Estate, which are also extremely popular choices as company cars.
Both of these cars have plenty to recommend, so if you’re trying to choose between them you’ve come to the right place. Here we’ve collated lots of facts, figures, data and expert opinions to give you a comprehensive comparison between the Passat and Mondeo Estates.
For a vehicle that is primarily all about practicality, styling is increasingly important to buyers in this sector. While neither of these two is what you could call ‘drop-dead gorgeous,’ they’re both a long way from being ugly. It’s always going to be a bit of a struggle to make an Estate as easy on the eye as a saloon, hatchback or a coupe, but you have to make some sacrifices to get all that extra space.
Strangely, the Ford is probably the better-looking car in saloon guise but the Volkswagen seems to edge it for us when it comes to the estate. The Passat looks as though it was designed from scratch as an estate whereas the Ford looks a little like the extra metal was a bit of an afterthought, perhaps sketched in a coffee break after the hatchback was completed.
Higher-spec versions of the Passat benefit from nice alloy wheels and plenty of classy chrome trim as standard kit, while even the entry-level versions still come with quality 16-inch alloys. The entry-level Mondeo Edge models are blighted by steel wheels in standard form which don’t do too much for the look of the car at all. If you’re looking at it as a company car and you are not able to add optional extras, you may want to take this into consideration.
In complete contrast, the top-end Titanium X Sport models really do look the business, but they really should do for the substantial price tag.
Interior and practicality
Both the Passat and the Mondeo are at the top of the class when it comes to interior space and practicality. However, if you really are keen to have as much room as possible for all the stuff that your passengers bring, or if you have to lug around lots of gear as part of your job, the Passat is the clear winner between these two. Although the Mondeo’s 537-litre boot isn’t to be sniffed at, the Passat’s appears almost cavernous by comparison with its frankly enormous 603-litre load space. You can see the Passat’s other sizes in our extensive Volkswagen Passat dimensions guide. Handy!
Not so very long ago you would have seen a definite difference between these two in terms of quality when it comes to interior trim. But in recent years Ford has really upped its game and there’s now very little to choose between the two. Although they both fall short of what you would see inside a BMW or Audi, they’re not as expensive as cars from those brands. The clean, neat and practical layouts they both offer make them both very nice places to be during those long motorway drives. There are a few cheap plastics making an appearance in both cars, but this is probably to be expected unless you go for cars from renowned luxury manufacturers instead.
What may come as a surprise to some is that the Volkswagen has pretty high levels of standard equipment; even the base S model’s blessed with electric windows all-round, digital (DAB) radio, a full-size spare wheel, air-conditioning and a USB aux-in connection.
There are plenty of cubby-holes and clever storage solutions throughout both of these extremely practical vehicles, but the Passat just edges it here thanks to its generous levels of equipment and that unmistakably German feel to the cabin that many of us still love so much.
For many years now the Mondeo has been lauded as one of the best cars you can buy in its class when it comes to driving characteristics, and this estate version is no different. While the entry-level models make look like they were created from the hatchback as an afterthought, they certainly don’t drive that way.
The ride has been stiffened a little so it can cope with heavy loads, but the Mondeo still has sharp steering, excellent body control and amazing agility for such a big car.
The Passat would be a happy choice for most buyers if driving enjoyment was high on their list of required attributes and they hadn’t driven the Mondeo. To get what you need out of the Passat you will have to go a couple of rungs up the engine ladder, especially if you regularly carry big loads.
But even then, the Passat is not one for the driving purists among us. Don’t get things wrong though, the Passat is good to drive with fine manners for a large and long vehicle that is designed to cope with varying loads, it’s just that the Mondeo is so adept whatever road you throw at it that you can’t help marking the Passat down in this area by comparison.
As you would expect, especially if you are looking at a company purchase, diesels are very much the default engines in both of these cars when it comes to engine choices. The 138hp 2.0-litre TDCI diesel will probably be the choice for most when it comes to the Mondeo, although the sporty-but-economical 1.6- and 2.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost petrol units shouldn’t be overlooked either.
We seem to have been programmed to go for diesels in this country above all else in recent years, but if you are not doing ridiculous mileage, Ford’s EcoBoost technology is a very enjoyable petrol alternative.
The 120hp 1.4-litre TSI, 158hp 2.0-litre TSI and 207hp 2.0-litre TSI petrol options available in the Passat are all smooth and quiet, but few will choose any of them over the 138hp or 175hp 2.0-litre TDI. Not many manufacturers do diesels better than Volkswagen, so it’s hardly surprising that the 2.0-litre units are so good that few of us will look seriously at the petrol options offered as an alternative.
If you avoid the lower-powered engines with either car you won’t go too far wrong. The diesel engines in both cars are hard to fault, but if you prefer petrol then the EcoBoost engine in the Mondeo is hard to beat for a mix of economy and performance.
Value for money
A big part of what concerns buyers of this sort of car is fuel economy, and there’s little doubt that both the Passat and the Mondeo have models in their line-ups that will deliver more than 50mpg in the real world. The list of engine and trim combinations for both vehicles is almost bewildering, so there’s bound to be one in each range that will suit the demanding private or company buyer down to a tee.
The Passat Estate range starts out with the 1.4-litre petrol BlueMotion Tech SE Estate at £21,152 and runs right through to the 2.0-litre TDI BlueMotion Tech SE DSG (that means automatic!) Estate at £24,827.
Ford has used slightly shorter models names, thankfully. The Mondeo Estates start with the very basic 1.6-litre Edge Estate that costs just £19,100, and tops-out with the stunning Titanium X Sport model that won’t give you too much change out of £30,000.
Although the basic Mondeo does have stop/start technology as standard (this’ll save you fuel when driving in traffic), the economy delivered from the VW engines is good enough for this to not be too much of an issue as far as value for money is concerned. The most efficient Passat Estate, the £22,775 Bluemotion, achieves 65.7mpg on the combined cycle, while several other Passat Estates just crest the 60mpg mark. The thriftiest Mondeo is even better on paper: £19,445 gets you a 1.6 TDCi Eco Graphite with a 67.3mpg rating.
It may be the opposite of how things used to be, but in general the Passat seems to represent better value than Mondeo, especially at the top-end of the range. Both cars justify their prices, however.
Both these cars are excellent at what they are designed to do and you won’t be disappointed whichever you choose. If you are looking towards the top-end of either model’s range there really is very little to choose between them, although the Passat does come in a lot cheaper than the Mondeo.
The Volkswagen comes with that aura of invincibility that we tend to apply to German cars, but the Mondeo is by far the best car if you want to have fun while you are getting to where you need to be.
It will be a shock to many that the Volkswagen is cheaper than its Ford equivalent in many cases (save for each car’s most frugal option) and that coupled with its slightly more sophisticated styling may be enough to sway your decision. Both manufacturers have also done a lot of work to get emissions down so that both cars are more than affordable to company car users in both petrol and diesel forms.
If you want the best driver’s car then you must go for the Ford Mondeo Estate, but if you want the most interior space and the best value for money, the Passat is the way to go. However, note that the Passat is due to be replaced by an all-new model in 2015 – this means you should be able to get some good deals on current models using the carwow car chooser.