German model blends traditional quality with genuine practicality

  • You can also manually select Normal, Comfort and Sport modes, although the latter gives a firm ride. While the Laguna looks special on the outside, the VW is best viewed from the cabin. There’s plenty of room and the materials and build are first rate.
  • The German car can’t match the Renault for agility, but it’s a closer competitor than you’d think. That’s largely due to the VW’s Adaptive Chassis Control, which is standard on GT-spec models. By continually altering the damper settings, the system helps give the Passat strong body control, maintaining composure during hard cornering and over bumpy surfaces. The leather trim on our test car is an option that costs £1,445 – it’s standard on the Renault.

Volkswagen isn’t a company that’s known for doing things differently. The German firm has built a reputation for producing well built and conservatively styled models, but the Passat CC bucks that trend.

We’ve got no complaints with the quality, so it’s the striking concept that sets this model apart. Unlike traditional coupé rivals, the VW has four doors and aims to mix sleek looks and practicality. Only the much pricier Mercedes CLS serves up a similar layout.

While it lacks the flowing lines and elegance of the Renault, the CC certainly makes a strong visual impact. A prominent chrome grille, low roofline and pillarless doors all help to distinguish the car from the standard Passat.

However, buyers who value style above all else will find the Laguna has the more appealing shape. There’s a slight awkwardness about the German model’s proportions, particularly at the rear.

There’s better news once you climb aboard. As with its rival, the VW borrowsits dashboard from the standard Passat, but designers have added classy new dials, heating controls and a chunky steering wheel. As a result, the CC’s solidly screwed together interior feels a little more special than the standard model’s.

Even in sleek CC form, the VW easily wins the practicality contest. Not only does it benefit from a four-door layout, but also offers greater head and legroom for occupants in the back. Like the Renault, the VW is a strict four-seater, as the rear bench gets a deep storage box instead of a middle seat. The upshot of this is that the heavily bolstered individual chairs are supremely comfortable.

You can squeeze more luggage into the VW, too. The long load bay swallows an impressive 532 litres, which is a substantial 109 litres more than the Renault, and even 47 litres bigger than the standard Passat’s boot! Folding the rear seats flat creates a useful load length of two metres.

While it has more space, the VW can’t match its rival for pace, and trailed the Laguna at the test track. In the real world the differences are harder to detect, although the Passat’s 168bhp 2.0-litre engine lacks the high-rev urge of the Renault’s more powerful oil-burner.

Head for a twisty stretch of tarmac, and it’s immediately clear that the VW isn’t as agile as the Laguna. Its steering is direct and well weighted, but it doesn’t have the sharp responses and ample grip of the Renault.

The Passat has a hi-tech handling trick up its sleeve in the form of Adaptive Chassis Control dampers. Drivers can choose from Auto, Comfort and Sport settings depending on the road conditions. Body control is strong when cornering, while big bumps are soaked up with ease, helping to make the VW a great choice for long journeys.

There’s no doubt the Passat is desirable, thanks to its beautiful build, eye-catching looks and decent practicality. But is it different enough from a normal saloon to score against stylish coupé competition?

Details

Price: £23,170Model tested: Volkswagen Passat CC 2.0 TDI 170 GTChart position: 2WHY: Rakish lines add style to saloon, while four-door layout means it’s still practical.

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