The revised Volkswagen Passat
suffered a rather lukewarm reception when it first hit UK soil at the end of last year. In practical estate guise, the newcomer was relegated to the runners-up spot when it went head-to-head with the Skoda Superb
However, the Passat isn’t ready to take this defeat lying down, and so now it’s the turn of the saloon version to defend the family-friendly VW’s honour. And with the promise of low running costs, class-leading refinement and a premium cabin, the four-door model is clearly aimed at company and private buyers who want something that’s a cut above more mainstream machines.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the VW Passat
Unfortunately, it fails to shine in either the corporate car park or on a suburban driveway. Bosses claim that all the panels apart from the roof are new. But on the face of it, the new Passat is indistinguishable from its predecessor.
Whiile eagle-eyed fans will spot the reprofiled nose and revised tail lamps, elsewhere it’s business as usual. Our Sport trim test car was given a visual lift thanks to its 17-inch multi- spoke alloy wheels and dark tinted glass for the rear windows.
Inside, it’s clear designers have taken an equally cautious approach, as the bulk of the fixtures and fittings have been carried over largely unchanged. In fact, the only clues to the car’s status as a newcomer are the revised switchgear on the centre console and the addition of a classy analogue clock.
As we’ve come to expect from VW, the quality of the cabin is first rate. The plastics have a premium look and feel, while the fit and finish is easily a match for more expensive rivals.
Surprisingly, you’ll find more executive car gadgets on the Passat than the pricier Lexus. The long list of standard equipment includes satellite navigation, cruise control and automatic wipers.
There’s a decent amount of space, too, with occupants in the rear benefiting from more head and legroom than those in the cramped Lexus. Open the tailgate and you’ll discover a well shaped load bay that swallows 565 litres of luggage – 167 litres more than in the IS 200.
The VW also puts in a strong display when it comes to straight-line pace. Despite delivering 10bhp less than the Lexus, the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine provides much stronger mid-range urge.
It propels the Passat from 50 to 70mph in sixth gear in 11.9 seconds – 4.9 seconds quicker than the IS 200.
Away from the track, the differences are even more pronounced, thanks to the car’s smoother power delivery and slick six-speed gearbox. Impressively low levels of road and wind noise help
make the Passat a great long-distance companion.
Guide it through a series of corners and you’ll discover a composed and capable chassis. Sport trim adds suspension that’s lowered by 15mm for sharper responses and stronger grip – although the trade-off for this is a firmer ride. Disappointingly, there’s precious little feedback through the major controls.
However, while the VW isn’t fun, it does make financial sense. Not only is it cheaper to buy than the Lexus, CO2 emissions of 119g/km make it a more cost effective company car choice. Strong residuals and a pre-paid servicing pack add to the car’s showroom appeal. So, could this be a first victory for the Passat?
Chart position: 1WHY: The recently refreshed Passat aims to mix premium car desirability with an affordable price tag and running costs.