With the new Ford Mondeo delayed until September next year, Volkswagen has seized on the opportunity to bolster its Passat range with a new trim level. The Highline model replaces the best-selling SE in the line-up and adds an array of hi-tech kit for a small price hike.
Highlights include a touchscreen sat-nav system, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and 17-inch alloy wheels – although our car was fitted with winter tyres and 16-inch rims – plus Bluetooth and a DAB radio.
VW reckons this generous equipment bundle is worth £1,680, but the Highline costs just £500 more than the equivalent SE model, which means this DSG auto estate comes in at £26,045.
Visually, the Highline is identical to the outgoing SE, apart from the smart Sao Paolo alloys. So it gets the same squared-off design, which is subtly handsome but conservative next to swoopy rivals like the new Mazda 6.
However, once you climb aboard, the build quality and extra goodies mean the car feels like a premium product. It’s spacious, too. Rear legroom is good, and only the Skoda Superb Estate in this market can better the 603-litre boot with the rear seats in place.
Thanks to its fuel-saving BlueMotion technology, though, the Passat is much cleaner than its Skoda cousin, returning 54.3mpg and emitting 135g/km.
Our car had the tried-and-tested 2.0-litre TDI engine. A smaller 1.6 TDI and a trio of petrol engines are offered, too, but our TDI worked beautifully with the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox for smooth progress. Even with a power output of just 138bhp, it feels easily punchy enough to haul five people and their luggage around in comfort.