Volkswagen Arteon Review
The sleek Volkswagen Arteon has been given a refresh for 2020, with new tech, safety systems and a fuel-sipping plug-in hybrid model.
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The old Arteon was a pretty handsome-looking car, so Volkswagen hasn’t changed much for this new model at all. The biggest difference is a new strip of daytime running lights on the grille that stretch from one headlight to the other. It makes the Arteon look a bit like Robocop’s helmet.
The brake lights have been tweaked and R-Line models get a set of four chrome ‘exhaust tips’ instead of two, although these are quite spectacularly fake, just like on the old car. The rest of the Arteon looks pretty much the same as the previous model. So it’s a bit sportier than a Volkswagen Passat, but not quite as aggressive as an Audi A5 Sportback.
The infotainment system is now the same one as you get in the recently revised Passat but unfortunately not the all new system from the new Golf. There is a 9-inch touchscreen as standard which is same size as the upgraded optional display you could get in the old Arteon and you get the same old digital dials, too.
However, now you can connect your phone via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto without using a cable. And the VW ‘We Connect’ app lets you use your smartphone as a key to unlock the car. Well, if you have the latest Samsung phone, anyway.
The new Arteon also comes with VW’s latest voice command system. It’s supposed to understand plain speech, but let’s just say it had it flaws when we tested it. Find out more in new VW Golf review.
There are changes to the Volkswagen Arteon’s interior, too. The old car’s analogue clock has gone. And the physical heating controls have also disappeared. Now, you get a row of touch-sensitive keys under the infotainment system – just like in the new VW Golf, which isn’t so easy to use while you are driving.
VW has resisted the temptation to give the new Arteon the Golf’s tiny gear selector. But, they have changed the layout of the dashboard and air vents, so it doesn’t just look like a Passat inside. In fact, it looks and feels genuinely special.
You can also get the Arteon with some fancier interior trims. So you can choose to pay for carbon-fibre or Eucalyptus inserts for a more natural feel. There’s 30-colour mood lighting and six different styles of seat trim.
The Arteon has always looked fantastic, and now it has the tech to go with the looks.
As well as the new R’s 2.0-litre turbo, you’ll be able to get the Arteon with a bunch of more tame, less expensive, more economical engines. Petrols include a 150hp 1.5-litre petrol engine, a 2.0-litre with 190hp or 320hp – the latter of which is all-wheel drive rather than front wheel drive.
If you still like diesels there’s a 2.0-litre with either 150 or 190hp. The 190 is available with all-wheel drive as an option.
There is also a Volkswagen Arteon Plug-in Hybrid in the range. This uses a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor to produce 218hp. Fully charge its 13kWh battery and you can drive for around 33 miles in electric-only mode. This also means you won’t have to pay the London congestion charge.
The hybrid’s petrol engine and its electrical bits are shared with the VW Passat GTE. So, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Arteon hybrid should return similar performance and economy figures which means 0-60mph in around 7.5 seconds and 180mpg – well so long as you plug it in regularly.
The sleek looks shroud a cabin that’s actually pretty roomy, but fitting a child seat could be awkward.
That low, sloping roofline might give you the impression that the Arteon is all about the style and if you want space you can buy a Passat instead. Not so. There’s actually loads of space for those in the front seats, no matter how tall they are. There’s also loads of adjustment for the seats and steering wheel, so finding your ideal driving position is easy.
Moving backwards, there’s loads of legroom in the rear seats, so you should never feel in anyway cramped, even with a tall person ahead.
The two outer rear seats have more than enough headroom for even a six-footer, but anyone consigned to the middle rear seats should be shorter of stature, because they’re liable to find their head brushing the headlining and interior light cluster.
Still, Volkswagen has thought to put soft materials in all the places you touch, such as on the armrests, to enhance the feeling of luxury. The one exception is the centre armrest in the rear, which has hard plastic cupholder just where you’d put your elbow – not ideal.
Fitting a child seat is comparatively easy, because there’s so much space and the Isofix anchor points are easy to get to. You might still get a sore back though, because the sloping roofline forces you to stoop a bit more than would be ideal.
There isn’t a vast amount of storage around the Arteon’s cabin but there is enough. So, ahead of the gearlever sits a flat area that’s perfect for holding even a large smartphone, but it’s a shame that VW hasn’t seen fit to stick a wireless charging pad in there.
Between the seats sit a couple of deep cupholders behind a sliding lid. These are great for big cups, but getting a small cup out of them can be tricky.
Below the central armrest is a smallish cubby that can hold small cans and suchlike, and there are a couple of USB-C sockets in there.
The door pockets in both the front and rear, meanwhile, are good, and can easily hold a 1.5-litre bottle. These are also felt-lined, so stuff won’t rattle in there.
There’s also a decent-sized (and felt-lined) glovebox, and a small flip-down cubby by the driver’s right knee.
Once you’re in there, there’s 575 litres of space, which is only just behind the 586 litres you get in a Passat. The Arteon also looks a whole load cooler, and is easier to load because of its hatchback rear end.
Watch your back though, because there’s a real drop to the boot floor, so lifting heavy stuff out of the boot could be a bit of a strain.
There is a hidden area beneath the boot floor but unfortunately there’s no dedicated area to store the parcel shelf, which is a shame. Oddly, while there are the usual array of foldaway hooks and lashing points to stop bags sliding around, there’s no 12V socket.
You need to reach in and release the levers on the seat backs to fold down the rear seats, and unfortunately the backrests don’t lie flat when you do, which makes loading items a pain.
Comfort and relaxation are front and centre, but driver engagement is missing.
The range of petrol engines kicks off with a 150hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. Then there’s a 2.0-litre with 190hp, and finally a further 2.0 turbo with 320hp in the R models. This last version is all-wheel drive rather than front wheel drive.
Diesel fans have a choice of a 2.0-litre with either 150 or 190hp. The 190 is available with all-wheel drive as an option.
There is also a Volkswagen Arteon Plug-in Hybrid model that combines a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor to produce 218hp. It will cover around 33 miles on electric power alone, and also successfully avoids the London congestion charge.
The hybrid’s petrol engine and its electrical bits are shared with the VW Passat GTE. So, the Arteon hybrid should return similar performance and economy figures which means 0-60mph in around 7.5 seconds and 180mpg – as long as you plug it in regularly.
You can pay around £1,000 extra to have your Arteon on adaptive suspension, but to be honest we’re not sure we’d bother because it is really comfortable, even on the large-diameter alloy wheels.
The rest of the car works beautifully in town, with light, accurate steering and a very quiet drivetrain. The seven-speed automatic DSG transmission is also well suited to the car, because it shuffles up and down through the gears unobtrusively.
The view forward and to the side is perfectly fine, but looking out of the back window is like peering through a letterbox, and it’s flanked by two large rear pillars, which make parking tricky if you haven’t paid extra for a reversing camera.
On the motorway, the Arteon is quiet and comfortable, and most models are decently fleet of foot. It’s pretty economical, too, which is great given the performance.
You can add VW’s all-singing-all-dancing active cruise control, too, which basically takes over most of the motorway driving for you. It works well.
Off the motorway, the Arteon deals well with bumps and resists unruliness well, although it doesn’t quite have the poise of a BMW 3-Series. Still, the steering is accurate and the grip is pretty strong, so you’re unlikely to feel disappointed.
Overall, the Arteon is a car that will devour miles with no bother at all.
It all looks classy and feels beautifully built, but touch-sensitive controls irritate.