Volkswagen Passat (2011-2015) review

The Volkswagen Passat combines a spacious, high-quality interior with low running costs

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

£27,970 to £37,100
  • Classy interior, efficient BlueMotion model, long-distance comfort
  • Rivals better to drive, not very spacious, expensive options

The Volkswagen Passat has been around for a while, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a car that manages motorway miles as solidly. It still provides a strong challenge for the Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb and Mazda 6, and in tandem with most Volkswagen cars, it's got an upmarket image, quality interior and impressive refinement. It's immensely quiet thanks to improved insulation, so engine, wind and road noise are hardly noticeable. The result is a car that makes an excellent long-distance cruiser. The Volkswagen Passat is available in saloon and estate versions, and there's also a rugged Alltrack version as well as a four-door coupe based on the Passat, called the CC. The Passat saloon is available in a variety of specifications, including entry-level S, BlueMotion, Highline, all-new R-Line and top-of-the-range Sport. All versions of the Volkswagen Passat come with a generous amount of equipment, and a host of hi-tech safety features as options. There's also a wide range of more than capable petrol and diesel engines. The green BlueMotion model offers the lowest emissions, but all diesels will keep fuel consumption low. However, the latest low-capacity TSI petrol engines aren’t as far behind on efficiency as you might expect, and still deliver punchy straight-line performance.

Engines, performance and drive

There are two petrols and two diesels in the Volkswagen Passat range. Petrol versions come in 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre capacities, with 158bhp and 207bhp, respectively. The 1.4-litre is fitted with BlueMotion technology, too, but this is a feature across all of the diesel models. The more powerful 2.0-litre version genuinely feels fast, and reaches 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds. The entry-level 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel is quiet and refined on the motorway, but can feel a little underpowered. Buyers wanting a bit more grunt should opt for the 138bhp or 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI. Higher up the range, more powerful versions are offered with an automatic gearbox, which is fast and efficient, and even lets drivers change gears through steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Excellent body control and accurate steering ensure the car is capable enough through corners, although it lacks the sense of fun provided by rivals like the Ford Mondeo and Mazda 6. Don’t buy the Alltrack estate expecting strong off-road ability - while this model benefits from a raised ride height, chunky body mouldings and 4MOTION four-wheel drive, it’s not as capable over rough terrain as a crossover like the Mazda CX-5.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

The Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion version offers the best fuel economy in the range – with a 1.6-litre TDI engine mated with the six-speed manual gearbox, it returns 68.9mpg and emits114g/km of CO2. Both the standard 1.6-litre TDI and 2.0-litre TDI manage 65.7mpg and 61.4mpg and emit only 114g/km and 119g/km of CO2 respectively. Even the more powerful 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine will return almost 40mpg but spec a model with an automatic gearbox and those CO2 figures will begin to creep up. VW also offers several service packages to help ease the burden of expensive repair bills if something was to go wrong.  

Interior, design and technology

The Volkswagen Passat is still a class contender, despite its age - it still looks quite sharp and fits in with premium rivals such as the Skoda Superb. The front end is characterised by the familiar Volkswagen face, featuring stylish headlights that flow into a bold grille, with attractive taillights and a smooth bumper providing strong visual appeal at the rear end. Entry-level Volkswagen Passat S versions get 16-inch alloy wheels, while top-of-the-range Sport models get 17-inch rims and a chrome trim around the windows and bumpers. New R-Line models come with 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights and a sporty styling pack. Buyers should be aware that Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion models don't feature alloy wheels - they get steel wheels instead, which are specially designed to maximise aerodynamic efficiency. The BlueMotion model also gets a lowered ride height and a more suitably aerodynamic bodykit to lower fuel consumption further. There's nothing to rave about in terms of the Passat's interior, but it is well built nonetheless. DAB radio features as standard on all models, but those wanting an easy-to-use touchscreen navigation and stereo set-up should opt for Highline specification and above.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

With the Volkswagen Passat you'll get 565 litres of boot space - that's larger than what the Ford Mondeo has to offer, and the rear seats can be folded flat just by touching a button. The rear seats boast enough room for even tall adults to stretch out, and if you choose the estate version of the Volkswagen Passat, you'll get 603 litres of boot space - this expands to 1,731 litres, which is up there with the most practical family cars in the class. Buyers can opt for a clever keyless start system, which allows you to open the boot by waving your foot underneath the rear bumper - quite useful if your hands are full with this week's shopping. 

Reliability and Safety

The previous Volkswagen Passat finished 79th in the Driver Power list of the top 100 cars, with the latest model being too new to feature in the 2013 survey itself. As the latest car is largely based on the previous generation, this should provide some peace of mind - users ranked it highly for reliability and practicality. Volkswagen, meanwhile, managed to finish 16th in our 2013 manufacturer ratings survey. The Volkswagen Passat boasts a range of safety features, including a variety of airbags fitted as standard, electronic safety equipment to prevent accidents and optional extras such as a drowsiness detector, lane-change assist and a system that can apply the brakes if it senses an imminent collision.

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