VW Passat Bluemotion

New family saloon is more comfortable and refined than ever. We drive the most efficient version.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

It’s a good job VW has equipped the Passat with a fatigue warning system: the car is so relaxing to drive, there’s precious little to get excited about. In playing it safe with the newcomer, the firm has created a beautifully refined, high-quality, mid-level saloon. The Passat has superb class and comfort, and with the diesels doing 60mpg-plus, it should cost pennies to run. An anti-sports saloon – and very appealing for it. 

Volkswagen has decided on evolution rather than revolution for the new Passat – blink and you might miss the changes. But believe it or not, every panel except the roof is new.

Rather than trying to redefine the Passat as a sporty saloon, VW has played to its strengths by giving it more quality, comfort and refinement. It now has executive levels of each, and is a brilliant cruiser and a lovely place to be – even if rivals are more exciting. 

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the VW Passat

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There are no surprises in the cabin, but it’s beautifully finished, with an intuitive layout. It’s loaded with tech, too – if you’re willing to pay – including an auto-brake feature, a fatigue warning system and a boot that opens when you swing your leg underneath it. Every TDI diesel will be designated with a BlueMotion Technology badge – all get stop-start and regenerative braking – and we’re driving the most efficient, 104bhp 1.6-litre version here. An outright BlueMotion variant with the same 1.6 TDI but improved aerodynamics and altered gearing will come in late 2011; it will deliver 68.8mpg combined fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 109g/km.

Yet with 65.7mpg and 114g/km, our model all but matches those numbers, which means it avoids road tax for its first year and will cost only £30 annually thereafter. 

Despite its green credentials, it feels far from underpowered. The smooth TDI smothers clatter and the car rides with a level-bodied composure befitting a luxury saloon from the class above.

Our example came with the optional DCC adaptive chassis, which is switchable between Comfort, Standard and Sport modes. These adjust the steering and suspension settings, and Comfort adds noticeably more suppleness to the ride – which is useful on broken surfaces.

Switch to Sport and the VW corners with fair precision. Body control is good, the gearshift is slick and the driving position is excellent. Yet this car is most at home on the motorway. Its long gearing means it settles quietly in sixth at low revs, while also having enough urge to feel comfortable in the outside lane.

The popular 138bhp and 178bhp 2.0 TDI diesels will be available from January’s launch, along with a trio of TSI petrol units ranging from 120bhp to 207bhp. The twin-clutch DSG auto is available with all engines. Each motor is hushed, efficient and clean – yet this lowest-powered version is probably all you’ll need.

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