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In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Passat review

The VW Passat has classy looks and a premium cabin that set it apart from the family car norm

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£25,080 to £40,335
  • Luxurious feel
  • Strong engines
  • Spacious interior
  • Drab-looking base models
  • Not much fun to drive
  • Expensive at top of the range

Volkswagen knows that the only way is upmarket for conventional family cars. The class is dying out, so it needs to focus on rivals such as BMW and Mercedes, rather than Ford and Vauxhall. Luckily for VW, this Passat is a more convincing alternative to these executive cars than ever. It's got the quality, refinement and technology to compete with the best, even if it lacks the badge prestige.

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The Passat has plenty of advanced tech, including the latest infotainment and active safety options, while the GTE uses Volkswagens’ clever hybrid tech to minimise emissions and appeal to fleet users. Most buyers will still be best-served by the smooth, economical diesel models.

• Best family cars to buy now

The exterior looks aren't very inspirational, but the Passat has moved up a notch in terms of luxury, which is reflected even more strongly inside, where it feels a cut above the Ford Mondeo. The Passat is roomier than most rivals, despite being no larger than the previous-generation model, and it rides and handles better than ever, thanks to its lighter platform architecture.

The Volkswagen Passat saloon and Passat Estate are the longest lived models in the VW line-up. They've been for sale since 1972, so pre-date the Golf by a couple of years, while the current B8-generation version has been on sale since 2015, with a facelift arriving in 2019.

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The big change when the current Passat arrived was a move upmarket compared to what we're used to. It was a planned step, with VW moving away from the family car sector and fixing its sights on the compact executive saloon class instead. As it sits in this middle ground between the two sectors, it has a number of rivals that it needs to take on.

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Other models in the family car class have taken a leaf from the Passat's book by moving upmarket, so cars like the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 508, Mazda 6 and Skoda Superb have all raised their game, while the Kia Optima and Hyundai i40 are alternative family cars, and the Toyota Camry has returned to shake up the market. While these rivals offer a mix of hatchback or saloon bodies, all bar the Camry also come as an estate.

At the other end of the spectrum are the executive models that the Passat is designed to emulate. This includes the big three Germans in the shape of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, while the Jaguar XE, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Lexus IS are also in the running. In reality, the Passat gets close to these cars, but isn't quite at the same level.

But if you want an upmarket, spacious and well equipped family car, then the VW Passat fits the bill. VW offers SE, SE Nav, SEL and R-Line, along with the Alltrack and GTE models; prices start from around £25,000.

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Power comes from 1.6 TDI and 2.0 TDI diesels, or VW's 2.0-litre TSI and 1.5 TSI EVO petrol units with cylinder shut-off tech. Six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG auto gearboxes are available, with the latter fitted as standard on higher-spec models. The 4Motion four-wheel drive system is standard with the 190PS and 240PS diesel units in R-Line trim and also on Alltrack models.

There's also the plug-in hybrid Passat GTE, which features a petrol engine combined with an electric motor and battery pack. It’s relatively expensive to buy but low emissions mean it's attractive to company car users – you can read our review of this version here.

The Passat uses the VW Group's MQB platform and is one of the larger models to do so. As a result, it's relatively light, so the Passat handles tidily – although it's geared more towards comfort than performance.

As mentioned, the Passat Estate is also offered, and it carries a premium of around £1,500 over the saloon. It's available in all the same trims as the saloon, including GTE, but also comes in Passat Alltrack spec, with raised suspension, 4Motion four-wheel drive and with SUV styling additions. It's a great alternative for buyers who don't want an SUV but appreciate their abilities and space.

For an alternative review of the latest Volkswagen Passat Saloon visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.5 TSI EVO SE 4dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £25,080

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.4 TSI PHEV GTE 4dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £36,100

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 BiTDI SCR 240 R Line 4MOTION 4dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £40,335
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