Volkswagen Passat review
It’s easy to overlook the Volkswagen Passat in favour of its obvious German saloon rivals, but its great space, comfort and tech warrant attention. That said, it is fairly bland to drive
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When it comes to desirability, the Volkswagen Passat has always been a little ‘Championship’ next to the ‘Premier League’ trio of executive saloons that is the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class. The truth is, though, that the VW offers more space and comfort as well as a similar level of tech, all for a lower price – just not the badge.
Like a pigeon among peacocks, the Volkswagen Passat has also traditionally been conservative in design compared with these cars – even Skoda’s Superb – but this latest model has had a few tweaks to keep it fresh. There’s a new grille design, front and rear bumpers, LED headlights across the range, new colours and alloy wheels and a sporty R-Line trim with black wheels and exterior trim. Oh, and the Passat badge is now centrally mounted on the boot lid. Obviously.
Inside things haven’t changed dramatically, so the Passat still looks and feels reassuringly solid, both in terms of design and materials. There are new trim finishes and fabrics, redesigned door cards and ambient lighting, while VW has helpfully now written Passat in large letters on the dashboard in case you’ve forgotten where you are. It’s no A4 inside, but it certainly feels higher quality inside than a Superb.
Also inside is the third generation of Volkswagen’s touchscreen infotainment, while the Passat also gets the latest version of VW’s digital dials. VW is yet to confirm exact specs, but the dash screen will likely come in three sizes (6.5, 8.0 and 9.2-inch) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and are now connected to online services, opening up a range of services on demand, including the ability to control functions via your smartphone.
We’ve tried the largest-screened system, which is bright, responsive to touch, pinch and zoom and sticking in a destination is simple stuff, making it one of the best touchscreen systems available – although we still prefer BMW’s iDrive for ease of use. VW’s 11.7-inch digital dials are similarly easy to understand and you can cycle through three-view layouts depending on how you like your information displayed.
There's some serious badge snobbery when it comes to Audi, BMW and Mercedes, but this Passat is an extremely strong executive saloon
The Volkswagen Passat’s front seats are a very comfy place to kick back and while away the miles on a long drive. Space in the back isn’t quite as generous as in a Skoda Superb, but the VW’s softer central seat makes it better for carrying three adults side by side. Its 586-litre boot isn’t as big as the Skoda’s, either, but is still huge and is far bigger than that of an A4, 3 Series or C-Class.
There are no less than eight engine choices for your Passat – four diesels, three petrols and a GTE plug-in hybrid. You also get the choice of all-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox depending on the model. If you’re not doing many miles, VW’s 150hp 1.5-litre petrol has the best balance of power and economy, or, if you’ll be covering lots of motorway miles, then the 150hp 2.0-litre will prove a more sensible choice on the fuel economy front.
However, both private and company car should consider the GTE. It combines a 1.4-litre petrol, 13kWh battery and electric motors, meaning that fully charged it can travel around 34 miles on electricity alone up to 80mph. When that’s done, the engine will take over, or in sporty GTE driving mode, the two will work together to provide punchy performance.
But driving the Passat quickly on country roads isn’t particularly fun. Its soft suspension and fairly slow steering make it better suited to wafting down the motorway in comfort and quiet, something made even more relaxing by VW’s optional Travel Assist that at a press of a button will accelerate, brake and steer to keep you in your lane up to 130mph.
It’s just as comfy and easy to drive in town, too, which all adds up to a thoroughly recommendable executive saloon. The only choice to make is whether or not to prefer the slightly cheaper and even more commodious Skoda Superb, but if not, then you won’t be disappointed.
And if that’s you, make sure you check out our Volkswagen Passat deals pages.