Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TFSI Sport

High quality and a potent turbo engine mark the German saloon out

  • Clean and simple styling gives Passat an air of sophistication, better interior layout than in Mondeo, longest load length here, standard electric handbrake is useful.
  • No hatchback option, chassis lacks 'sparkle', handling isn't as nimble as Ford's, expensive in this company.

Reliable, robustly built and well engineered. That’s the reputation the Passat has earned for itself over the 35 years since the original model was launched. Now in its sixth incarnation, it has become a byword for quality, and thanks to the VW badge on the nose, instantly has more kudos than either rival before it’s even turned a wheel.

So does it live up to the hype? Well, the styling reflects that air of understated class. It’s far from sporty, but is a neatly styled saloon. There are plenty of smart details, too, such as the thin-strip front indicators, chrome window trim and a boot badge that doubles as the release. Of course, unlike the Mondeo and 6, there’s no hatchback option – the only other bodystyle available is an estate.

But that doesn’t mean practicality suffers. Obviously the load space isn’t as flexible as either rival’s, and with 485 litres of room it has a smaller capacity. But the spilt-fold rear seats are easy to use and the floor area is longer than both the Mondeo’s and 6’s. The rear seats offer decent legroom, too.

It’s equally impressive in the front. The optional leather chairs could do with being a little lower, although they offer plenty of adjustment, as does the steering. Sculpted doors increase elbow clearance and the cabin wraps around the driver more than the 6’s.

However, it’s the attention to detail throughout which is most impressive. All the controls work with real precision and are logically laid out, and, as with the Mondeo, there’s a useful central display between the dials. Overall the Passat is a more sombre offering than either opponent, but its upmarket ambience is unrivalled – and a match for expensive executive saloons.

The excellent TFSI engine wouldn’t be out of place in them, either. The 2.0-litre turbocharged unit delivers strong pace and is enjoyable to use, plus with 197bhp and an impressive 280Nm of torque, is easily the most powerful unit on test. The latter figure is nearly up to the level you’d expect from a diesel, and peaks at a low 1,800rpm.

Compared to VW’s TDI engines, it offers a quieter and smoother driving experience, while in-gear pace is still rapid, with 50-70mph taking 9.2 seconds – more than two-and-a-half seconds quicker than the Mazda. Of course economy suffers, especially if you exploit the engine’s full potential, and over our test route the Passat returned 27.5mpg. But compared to the Mazda at 27.9mpg and the Ford at 28.2mpg, it’s acceptable.

But where the Passat doesn’t quite deliver is in the driving experience. The chassis lacks sparkle and the suspension doesn’t have the same level of control as the Ford’s, while the handling isn’t as nimble. It’s better than the 6 on the motorway and does a good job of soaking up bumps – it’s certainly at its happiest steadily cruising, where passengers can enjoy the refinement. It also flows from bend to bend with more ease than the Mazda, but can’t match it for agility.

Nor can it compete on price or equipment. The Passat is expensive in this company, and at £21,132 carries a £2,700 premium over the Mondeo. Don’t expect bundles of kit, either. Our test car was a high-spec Sport model with electric seats, climate and cruise control as standard, but if you want the multifunction wheel or Bluetooth connection that are standard in the Mazda, it will set you back £735. Other options such as the leather seats and DVD sat-nav are pricey, too – the latter will set you back a hefty £2,350.

Details

Price: £21,132Model tested: VW Passat 2.0 TFSI SportChart position: 3WHY: The Passat’s 2.0-litre turbo engine is new, and although pricey, it’s a fine car to own.

Economy

Despite the variations in engine size and power, all three have similar claimed economy figures. In fact, the 6 and Passat both have a stated 34.9mpg on the combined cycle, but the VW couldn’t quite match the 6, returning 27.5mpg.

Residuals

Volkswagen has a reputation for solid build quality and bullet-proof reliability, which makes the Passat a highly desirable used buy. Over three years, it retains 40.9 per cent of its original price, and will be worth £8,643.

Servicing

Considering its upmarket image, VW will be disappointed its dealers only came 20th in our Driver Power 2007 report. Unhelpful staff was the main complaint. They’re pricey, too, as three services for the Passat cost £770.

Tax

It boasts the most powerful engine on test, but the Volkswagen’s TFSI unit is fairly efficient. It places it in the same 25 per cent tax bracket as the Mazda, yet lower-band owners will pay £1,162 a year – £82 more than for the 6.

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