Volkswagen Passat review
A styling overhaul and a few mechanical upgrades ensure this is the most stylish and luxurious VW Passat yet
This VW Passat looks a lot sharper than the car it replaced – every body panel apart from the roof was changed. Look under the skin though, and you'll find the same platform which underpinned the old model. Nevertheless, Volkswagen has done enough to ensure this model is sharper and more refined than the old car. Improved sound deadening and a slightly improved range of engines upholds the Passat's fantastic reputation as a long-distance cruiser. There are three different bodystyles to choose from, including an estate and slinky 'CC' model, plus a rugged Alltrack version of the estate. Highline trim comes loaded with plenty of equipment.
Our choice: Passat 2.0 TDI Highline
The VW Passat looks sharper and more like a premium model than ever before. Even if you go for the entry level S you still get an attractive set of 16-inch alloy wheels. Upgrade to the Highline and you'll get bigger rims as well as chrome detailing around the windows and bumpers. At the front is Volkswagen's new family face, which includes sharp headlights and a bold grille, while at the rear is a fresh set of tail lights and a smoother bumper. The eco-special BlueMotion models get a lowered ride height, unique alloys and an aerodynamic bodykit to improve its aerodynamic profile. On the inside the dash is clean and clinical and the neat design is very easy to use but some buyers may be put off by its functional looks.
Most Passat drivers will cover many motorway miles, and for that the 1.6-litre TDI diesel with 104bhp is perfect. At cruising speeds it's quiet and returns almost 70mpg in BlueMotion trim. It can feel slightly underpowered though, so drivers looking for more grunt can go for a 138bhp or 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI. The three petrol options – a 120bhp 1.4-litre TSI , 158bhp 1.8-litre TSI and 207bhp 2.0-litre TSI – are all smooth and quiet, while the range-topping 2.0-litre delivers an impressive 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds. In the bends, the Passat handles well, with excellent body control and accurate steering, though unfortunately, it lacks a sense of fun and is capable rather than compelling. Sport models get a clever XDS active diff, but its still not the most exciting car in the class to drive. Opt for the adaptive dampers though and the Passat provides a fine balance between comfort and poise at the touch of a button on the dash which firms or softens the suspension depending on your mood.
The Volkswagen Passat carries an impressive reputation for reliability, and owners of the previous generation – on which this car is based – reported no major issues. However, due to an ageing setup it slipped in our 2012 Driver Power survey. However, the new model should change that, and we expect to see it perform well in 2013. A five-star rating from Euro NCAP proves the Passat is also one of the safest cars in this class. It now comes with some hi-tech safety features like fatigue detection, lane-keep assist and automatic braking, although many of these are expensive optional extras.
There’s lots of room with 565-litres of boot space, and rear seats fold down easily at the touch of a button to create an almost flat load area. VW also offers an system which opens the boot by waving your foot under the rear bumper offering easy access with full hands. Build quality is hard to fault, and the seats are comfortable over long journeys with plenty of room in the back for tall adults. S models kick off the range but still come with air-conditioning, electric windows and a USB aux-in connection. Leather seats are a costly option in any trim, but higher-spec models do come with hi-tech gadgets like Bluetooth, sat-nav and DAB radio plus Highline models get touchscreen sat-nav and parking sensors.
For a car of this size, the economy achieved by the BlueMotion model is genuinely impressive. At a motorway cruise, VW believes nearly 80mpg is possible, while the combined figure stands at 68.9mpg. Emissions for the frugal 1.6 TDI BlueMotion are just 109g/km, but be careful - a few models wear 'BlueMotion Technology' badges, meaning they miss out on free road-tax for the first year, due to increased emissions. The 1.4-litre TSI gets the badge for instance, but is only capable of 47.9mpg. The best blend of performance and economy comes from the 2.0-litre TDI engine with 138bhp. Fixed price servicing packs and strong residual values should help take the sting out of ownership.