VW Passat

Eco-friendly version of the Passat now joins the line-up.

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

All manufacturers are waking up to improving their green credentials. But VW is being a bit complacent here. The problem with the Passat is that it isn’t as efficient as it could be, while rival brands – particularly Toyota and BMW – are much more on the ball when it comes to reducing emissions further. However, the Passat’s pricing is fair, and there’s lots of standard equipment, so buyers need not compromise on kit.

When it comes to being green, VW’s Bluemotion technology works very well in both the Polo and Golf.

With those models, buyers see the sparse interiors and frugal engines as part of the attraction, and are prepared to accept them in return for improved economy and emissions.

But can the same philosophy be applied to larger models, in which lots of gadgets and decent performance are essential? That’s the question we wanted to find out when we tried the new Passat Bluemotion.

Exterior changes are so subtle that you hardly notice the narrow tyres and lowered ride height, which aim to cut aero-dynamic drag.

The Passat uses the familiar 103bhp 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine – but here it gains a revised turbocharger and particulate filter to produce combined economy of 55.4mpg and emissions of 136g/km of CO2.

Cabin changes are minimal – powered windows and mirrors plus cruise and climate control all remain, and the driving position is excellent. Unfortunately, the VW also retains the slow-to-operate automatic electronic hand-brake and hill-hold functions, where a simple lever would be preferable.

On the move, however, you soon notice that the Passat is tuned for economy. First gear is quite low to get the car underway, but the higher ratios have been lengthened in order to improve engine efficiency.

To assist eco-friendly driving further, there’s a display on the dash indicating the optimum point to change up. In practice, you will often find yourself shifting gears before then, as the engine becomes gruff at high revs. The tiny display is perhaps an indication of the scale of the effect Bluemotion has on the Passat. The changes are virtually out of sight, giving the impression VW hasn’t taken things as far as BMW has with its Efficient Dynamics set-up.

The Passat Bluemotion is priced at £17,270. Compare that with a standard petrol 1.8-litre TSI S, which is £17,325, and it’s clear buyers aren’t being charged a premium.

VW could do more by ditching kit to reduce weight and adding a stop-start ignition. But it seems it’s being cautious in case customers aren’t ready to make such compromises.

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