£22,195 - £38,150 Price range
44 - 76 MPG
Volkswagen models tend to lead their respective classes when it comes to build quality and that’s something the VW Passat does with ease against rivals such as the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia. In fact, it’s so good that executive saloon buyer may well consider it instead of a BMW 3 Series – and average carwow savings of £7,279 mean it’s decent value too.
The Volkswagen Passat’s dashboard is a paragon of simplicity thanks to its 6.5-inch touchscreen that’s used to control many of the car’s systems. Plastic quality is the best you’ll get at the price.
Although it is smaller than the old car, the new VW Passat is bigger inside. Even adults can stretch out on the back seat and the 586-litre boot is amongst the best in class. If you need more room then consider the Passat Estate. There’s also a hybrid version, called the Passat GTE.
The Volkswagen Passat offers plenty of grip and accurate steering, getting close to the class-leading Ford Mondeo for driver enjoyment. The car is only available with a diesel engine, so all return decent economy – the 2.0-litre 148hp model gives the best balance between performance and economy.
Every VW Passat comes with alloy wheels, DAB digital radio, air-conditioning and a Bluetooth phone connection. The 12.3-inch Active Info display, which replaces conventional dials and can transform into a huge sat-nav display, is an option that is well worth having.
Interior quality is everything you’d expect and perhaps a little bit more besides. Perhaps it’s a little on the conservative side, but the optional head-up display and 12-inch screen in the instrument binnacle will appeal to technophiles. Fit and finish is beyond reproach and you’ll have to hunt hard to find anything but top quality materials – certainly not where anyone’s eyes but your Volkswagen technician’s will look.
VW Passat passenger space
The Volkswagen Passat has actually shrunk slightly compared to the previous generation, but cabin space is at an all time high – the wheels have been moved further towards the extremities, putting an extra 80mm in the wheelbase. Cabin space is up by 33mm in length, and the older Passat was never short on room to begin with.
VW Passat boot space
Boot space is up 21 litres to 586 – only the Skoda Superb offers more, and 100 litres more than you’ll get from either BMW 3 Series or a Mazda6. If that space is not enough the Passat Estate offers a gigantic 650-litres – once again, only the equivalent Skoda Superb Estate can top that.
Outright driver appeal has never been in the Volkswagen Passat’s kit bag and, while it’s still the case that it’s a couple of steps behind the Mondeo, you’re not likely to be too disappointed in it. Indeed with the wheels pushed out to the corners and 90kg cut from the average kerbweight, the Passat handles better than ever.
The ride quality is a cut above and with engine, wind and road noise at a minimum, it’s at home gnawing up the miles on the highways. Larger wheels can break this veneer of composure, but you can specify Dynamic Chassis Control to ameliorate this somewhat. Top-spec BiTDI models get special fluid-filled suspension bushings to isolate the cabin from even more of the road.
It’s as good around town too, with a number of driver aids to take the stress out of queues (Traffic Jam Assist) and parking (Park Assist). It even comes with a system that can self-park the car, even when its towing a trailer or caravan.
While the Passat isn’t available in pure-petrol form, the engine range offers something for everybody and is comprised of four diesels and one petrol-electric hybrid. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, while the bi-turbo diesel and GTE hybrid get VW’s excellent DSG automatic gearbox. It’s a highly recommended option on lesser engines costing between £1350-£1600 depending on model.
Volkswagen Passat diesel engines
The majority of these new-generation diesels have already been seen elsewhere in the VW range and attract praise for smooth power delivery and a relative lack of grumble. The 148hp 2.0-litre in particular is highly rated among critics – it’s impressively frugal (68mpg) for the performance available which does 0-62mph in 8.7sec. There is a 187hp version of the same engine available, but if you want performance we would just go for the top-of-the-range model.
With 237hp on tap, the BiTDI, coupled to the 4MOTION branded four-wheel-drive system, springs to 62mph from rest in an alarming 6.1 seconds, while still emitting less than 140g/km of CO2. It’s pricey, but will make a great ‘sleeper’ (ie a fast but understated car), perfect for surprising hot hatches in traffic light grand prixs. Not that we condone that sort of thing…
On the other end of the scales stands the BlueMotion model. Powered by a 118hp 1.6-litre diesel it’s able to achieve fuel economy of 76.3mpg and produces 95g/km of CO2 emissions. The low running costs are helped by suspension that’s lowered for better aerodynamics and longer gear ratios that reduce the stress on the engine at a cruise. However, reviewers are quick to point out that the most economical Ford Mondeo’s even cheaper to run.
Volkswagen Passat GTE
The petrol-electric hybrid GTE is the other super-economical model in the Passat range. It pairs a 154hp 1.4-litre petrol engine with a 115hp electric motor. It’s a brilliant hybrid, combining an electric-only range of up to 30 miles with the added performance boost of a petrol engine. It’s ideal for people who have a short commute and is exempt from paying London’s Congestion Charge.
A 1.4-litre engine sounds like a tiny engine to propel a large vehicle, but with a turbocharger and 122bhp it’s enough to move the Passat at respectable pace. It’ll do 60mph in just over 10 seconds and 127mph at the top end, though not as effortlessly as the diesel models in the range.
Reviewers say it’s flexible, smooth and responsive when mated with the standard 6-speed manual transmission. A dual-clutch gearbox is also available, with similar performance and economy figures. Volkswagen claims as much as 47.9mpg, though reviews reckon high 30s is more accurate. The only flies in the ointment are the diesels, which get better economy and start at only a little more money.
Available in both BlueMotion Technology and the more economical BlueMotion guise, the 1.6 TDI is the smallest and most economical diesel fitted to the Passat. It puts out 105bhp and 60mph takes an uninspiring 12.2 seconds, but 65.7mpg - or 68.9mpg for the BlueMotion - means it should cost pennies to run. Road tax is as little as £20 a year.
Some reviews aren’t keen on the paucity of performance from the 1.6, when other diesels are available that offer such effortless motion. It can get a little noisy when pushed, which isn’t uncommon given the lack of performance. However, when driving for economy rather than speed it’s refined, and rewards drivers with rare visits to the fuel station.
So far there are only two reviews of the 1.8 TSI, but they are both positive about this engine. They say it's refined and smooth, and provides plenty of power. Overtaking pace is reportedly good, with plenty of torque available.
Both reviews point out that the diesel is more economical, though more expensive to buy too. If you cover many miles a year then it's worth looking at.
The other issue is that this sporty feeling 1.8 TSI engine doesn't match the car's handling, which isn't at all sporty. If you're looking for a fun drive then the critics recommend looking at other rivals instead.
For a grand more than the slightly tardy 1.6 TDI you can get the 140-horsepower 2.0 TDI which takes over 2 seconds off the 0-60mph time dropping it under 10 seconds, and adds over 10mph to the top speed, at 132mph. The reviews say this increased performance over the 1.6 may make it favourable to many drivers and means you won’t have to work as hard for your economy.
Reviewers note that the engine is a lot stronger despite the long gearing that allows it to get 61.4mpg. The increased displacement gives strong torque for overtaking and drivers like the smooth and refined motorway cruising ability. Stop-start technology and brake-energy recuperation help the Passat reach its impressive economy numbers. The engine itself is smooth and the standard six-speed gearbox is slick.
Like every other diesel in the Passat range the 170bhp TDI now gets a BlueMotion Technology badge, which means stop-start technology and braking energy recovery. That’s not to say it’s an eco-slouch though - 60mph appears only 8.6 seconds after leaving the motorway toll booth and 141mph is within reach on the autobahn. That’s usefully quicker than the 140bhp model.
It doesn’t sacrifice economy to the less powerful models either. Indeed, at 61.4mpg it matches the 140bhp diesel. Dual-clutch models are slightly less economical. Testers like the smooth, quiet engines and refined motorway cruising. Both manual and dual-clutch gearboxes are smooth, performance is fairly effortless and as a result, good economy is easy to come by.
Euro NCAP awarded the Passat the full five stars for crash safety and prevention. The body remained strong and the passenger compartment stayed roughly the same shape throughout the crash indicating good protection for occupants.
The safety assists category should be one to watch, as the spec sheet reads like a particularly badly-weighted can of alphabetti spaghetti. There’s high beam assist to automate headlight dipping, lane assist and predictive pedestrian protection that uses radar to spot lurking jaywalkers.
Traffic Jam Assist will accelerate, brake and steer for you in queues, side assist and rear traffic alert to warn you of approaching traffic, a 360 degree camera view to help you out when parking or park assist so you don’t have to. Also on the list is Emergency Assist, which will stop the car if the driver is injured.
Amongst the six different trim lines there is a Passat to suit any taste – from the low-slung Bluemotion model to the premium-looking R-Line, while the excellent mid-range SE Business model covers just about everything expected from a company car.
Volkswagen Passat S
Even in basic S trim, the Passat is generously equipped with alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment, just to name a few.
VW Passat SE Business
This middle-of-the-range trim comes with 17-inch alloys, which are the perfect compromise between looks and ride comfort plus adaptive cruise control that makes long distance driving less tiring. Further desirable extras included as standard are fronts seats with a massage function, all-round parking sensors and an easy-to-use satellite navigation system.
Volkswagen Passat R-Line
The R-Line trim sits at the top of the range and comes with a better-looking body kit and visually pleasing (but ride quality demeaning) 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside there’s three-zone climate control with separate controls for the rear-seat passengers, as well as body-hugging sport seats.
The new Passat is just like the old Passat, only more. This particular strategy has paid off for Volkswagen in the past and it looks set to continue, as what tiny chinks in the armour are addressed while the innate qualities are carried over.
It’s at an awkward market position above the mass-production Mondeo but below the more prestige Audi, BMW and Mercedes offerings. Nevertheless, it provides a premium experience at nearly budget prices. If you’re not after a family car that doubles as a track toy, there’s no rational case for prioritising any other car. Except the Passat Estate…