Volkswagen Passat Estate review
It may look similar to the previous model, but the new Passat Estate is better to drive and more practical
It may bear a striking similarity with the old car, but the eight-generation Passat Estate is totally new.
Lighter than the model it replaces, the new Passat Estate is also more spacious and has improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions. On sale now, it sits in the middle ground in the executive estate market – on the one hand it goes up against traditional competition such as the new Ford Mondeo Estate, Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer and Mazda 6 Tourer, while on the other, Volkswagen has made the Passat posher than ever before so it can do battle with premium cars like the BMW 3 Series Touring, Mercedes C-Class Estate, Audi A4 Avant and Volvo V60.
This positioning is reflected in the prices, too. The entry-level Passat Estate S starts at around £1,700 more than the equivalent new Ford Mondeo Estate, while the range-topping Passat Estate R-Line costs about £2,800 less than a BMW 330d xDrive M Sport Touring.
Like the new Passat Saloon, the Estate can only be ordered with diesel engines in the UK – but there are a number of engines sizes to choose from. The cheapest is a 118bhp 1.6-litre TDI while further up the range there is a 2.0-litre TDI with 148bhp or 187bhp and a twin-turbocharged, high-performance 2.0-litre. Called BiTDI, this engine sits at the top of the range, has 237bhp at its disposal and only comes with a twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox and 4MOTION all-wheel drive.
The all-diesel range will be joined next year by an eco BlueMotion version powered by a super-efficient 1.6-litre TDI which will emit just 95g/km of CO2, and a 1.4-litre TSI petrol-powered plug-in hybrid called GTE. An Alltrack model with four-wheel-drive and off-road styling will also appear in 2015.
Volkswagen is allowing customers to choose from five trim levels – S, SE, SE Business, GT and R-Line. Mid-spec SE Business with the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine should prove to be the best-all rounder.
Our choice: VW Passat Estate 2.0 TDI (150) SE Business
Volkswagen has done a neat job with the styling of the eighth-generation Passat Estate and it’ll appeal both to new buyers and traditional customers alike. That’s due to the new car clearly bearing stylistic resemblances to the two previous generations of the model while adding more dynamism and presence to the overall look.
That extra presence has been made possible due to positioning the engine lower in the engine bay allowing VW’s designers to lower the bonnet and shift the windscreen towards the rear giving a more ‘cab-backward design’. It gives a more sporty look overall. Furthermore, while the car may look larger and have a 78mm-longer wheelbase increasing passenger space, the Passat Estate is in fact 2mm shorter than the model it replaces.
If you want your Passat Estate to cut a real dash at the supermarket and office car park, you’ll have to step into SE from £24,840 as this model gets 17-inch alloys and posh chrome trim window surrounds. SE Business adds front fog lights while GT throws some more flare into the mix by featuring gloss black b-pillars, 18-inch alloys, LED taillights and extra chrome detailing. The range-topping Bi-TDI has all-LED taillights while R-Line cars’ visual appeal is boosted by sporty front bumpers, wider side sills and snazzy trapezoidal exhaust pipes.
Inside, the build quality is first rate – just as you’d expect from the German giant. Depending upon trim, there are soft leathers on the seats while all models benefit from high-quality plastics that are a notable step up from the likes of the Ford Mondeo Estate, Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer and Mazda 6 Tourer.
Volkswagen has also tried to inject a little more style into its previously drab interiors so there’s now an air vent that sweeps across the entire upper part of the dashboard and a fully-configurable digital instrument binnacle. Called Active Info Display, it’ll be available in 2015 and is a 12.3-inch virtual screen which replaces the traditional dials. It features a whole host of displays – undoubtedly the most impressive is the ability to show the sat-nav map between the digital rev and speed counter dials.
Even the entry-level Passat Estate S features a 6.5-inch touch screen in the centre of the dashboard, a leather multifunctional steering wheel, a Driver Alert System, iPod connectivity, Post Collision Braking System, DAB radio, Bluetooth and smart-looking brushed metal inserts in the dashboard.
SE costs a further £1,095 and adds Volkswagen’s Ergo Comfort seats and front and rear parking sensors; SE Business costs another £700 on top of SE and adds sat nav, tinted rear glass and electrically folding mirrors. GT is priced at a further £1,295 on top of SE Business and adds three zone climate control, heated Alcantara seats with leather side bolsters, colour multifunction display, ambient lighting and piano black dashboard inserts. Meanwhile R-Line adds branded seats and contrast stitching and sporty stainless steel pedals.
On top of these new features, there is the traditional analogue clock that breaks up the full-width air vent. Naturally, there are also a whole host of options which can be added to each model should you wish to spec your car to your desires.
The Passat has never been the most thrilling car in its class to drive, and even more so with the Estate. However, the eight-generation Passat is now based on the much-used MQB platform. It forms the basis of many VW Group cars – from the Golf hatchback and Skoda Octavia Estate through to the posh Audi A3 – and as such the new Passat Estate is a far better car to drive compared to the models that have come before.
VW’s engineers have managed to shed 85kg from the old Passat Estate which has helped the car’s handling and fuel consumption by quite some margin. Like the Saloon, the Estate has also been made more rigid so, along with the weight savings, the car is far more agile on the road. Behind the wheel, the Passat handles in a way that belies its size and doesn’t get flustered when you push on through corners – the whole driving experience is further improved with accurate steering that weights up when needed and a slick six-speed manual gearbox (if specified).
While Volkswagen has worked hard on making the Passat Estate more responsive and fun to drive, it has not come at the cost of refinement. We’d go as far as saying that the new Estate delivers class-leading refinement levels. On the move it’s a quiet and relaxing place to be, and it’s also comfortable – but models that ride on 18- and 19-inch alloys do lose some ride comfort but this can be rectified if the optional Dynamic Chassis Control is ordered. It’s standard on GT cars but comes as a £700 option on other models.
The Passat Estate can be fitted with a variety of diesel engines. While we haven’t tried the entry-level 1.6-litre unit yet, the predicted best-seller – the 2.0-litre with 148bhp – provides all the power you’d ever need. The unit is also matched with good fuel economy figures – a claimed 68.9mpg on the combined cycle – and CO2 emissions of 109g/km – the latter will certainly interest company car buyers and fleets, and its with fleets that Volkswagen reckons more than 80 per cent of Estates will be sold to.
The more powerful 187bhp is also a strong package and while the high-performance 237bhp Bi-TDI – which only comes with a dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox and 4MOTION four-wheel drive – delivers great acceleration and the added reassurance of all-weather grip, its benefits are less clear cut that the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI due to its higher fuel consumption figures – 52.3mpg – and higher CO2 emissions of 140g/km.
The German company is very proud of the fact that the Passat is its best-selling model, and undoubtedly one of the reasons for this is its strong reputation for durability. This point is also further improved on the new car thanks to the Passat Estate using the VW Group’s well-proven MQB platform that unpins an ever-increasing selection of VW-owned products.
This is good news as the eighth-generation is packed with new technology that adds some extra clout to the Passat’s arsenal when it comes to safety. Although crash experts at Euro NCAP haven’t tested it yet, it’s pretty certain the new Passat Estate will receive a five-star rating due to a strong body and some clever kit. This includes, on SE models and upwards, adaptive cruise control, PreCrash occupant protection, a driver alert system, and city stop emergency braking with pedestrian detection. This is just some of the kit available – there’s also side scan radar, High Beam Assist, Lane Assist and Trailer Assist (which, cleverly, helps you park a trailer or caravan).
But all models, however, feature a Post Collision Braking System, Driver Alert System, and knee, driver and rear side airbags.
However, despite these good points, what is less encouraging is the German giant’s performance in the 2014 Auto Express Driver Power survey. Readers’ views eventually ranked the company in a disappointing 19th place while its dealers finished in 31st out of 32.
Volkswagen has worked hard on improving the space on offer with the new eight-generation Passat Estate. While the car looks as though it has grown in size, the Passat Estate is in actual fact 2mm shorter than the outgoing model. The firm has managed to elongate the wheelbase by 79mm, passenger space by 33mm, rear legroom 40mm and the Estate’s boot capacity has grown by 47 litres – but yet it’s smaller. Shorter overhangs have not only helped this illusion of greater size but it has also made the car seem more sporty with the wheels placed closer to the corners of the car.
That boot can now carry 650 litres – 125 more than the brand new Ford Mondeo Estate, 46 more than the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer, 144 more than the Mazda 6 Tourer and 155 more than the BMW 3 Series Touring. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of room inside meaning larger adults can find plenty of space in the front while in the rear there’s lots of leg and headroom – even with the optional panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof. It’s also easy for the driver to find a good driving position thanks to the highly-adjustable seat.
The latest Passat Estate has always been a top choice in the fleet market, and the new version is no exception. Volkswagen reckons that more than 80 per cent of sales will be to fleets so it’s no surprise to see that the firm has worked hard to make the latest generation as appealing as possible.
The all-diesel line-up is competitive with rivals’ offerings with the manual 1.6-litre TDI and both lower and higher output 2.0 TDI units falling into the 17 per cent company car tax band. With their CO2 emissions ranging from 107 to 109g/km of CO2, it means buyers will be spending just £20 in Vehicle Exercise Duty.
For the really frugal-minded company car drivers, their bills will get even less with the super-eco BlueMotion TDI and petrol-powered plug-in hybrid GTE coming next year. Like most cars, buyers should be aware that choosing the dual-clutch gearbox and larger alloys wheels bumps up CO2 emissions, and therefore tax prices, on most models.
Thanks to its premium positioning in the market, when it comes to part-exchange time, the Passat Estate should enjoy similar residual values as cars like the Audi A4 Avant.