Volkswagen Passat Saloon review (2005-2010)
The Volkswagen Passat straddles the gap between traditional family cars and compact executives.
Styling/Image Whether you choose the four-door saloon or five-door Estate, the Volkswagen Passat is a classy and stylish family car. With its chrome grille and distinctive lights it’s an attractive and grown-up design. The marketing bods at VW would have you believe the Passat is a BMW 3-Series rival, but the reality is different. It’s closer in look and feel to cars like the Honda Accord, Vauxhall Insignia and Mazda6.
Interior/Practicality High quality trim materials are a VW trademark and the Passat doesn’t disappoint. Its neat dashboard is well thought-out and the driving position has plenty of adjustment. The saloon has a decent 485-litre boot, but rear legroom isn’t a match for the best cars in the class. Up front, the electronic parking brake is irritating to use at first. It becomes second nature once you’ve spent some time with the car but the push-in key used to start the engine is less easy to live with.
Engine/Performance The Passat has an extensive engine line-up. Petrol options include the 158bhp 1.8-litre TSI, which provides punchy performance, and the smaller 1.4 TSI, which can hit 42.8mpg. Volkswagen is famed for its diesel powerplants, though, and these are arguably the best bet. The 2.0TDI comes in three different states of tune and the 138bhp common-rail version is the most sensible. The specially developed BlueMotion diesel can hit 57.6mpg but enthusiasts will prefer the storming R36 4MOTION. With a DSG gearbox, all-wheel drive and a powerful 296bhp V6 engine it races from 0-62mph in just 5.6seconds.
Driving experience The Passat isn’t a drivers' car in the same mould as the Ford Mondeo or Honda Accord. The big family model was designed with comfort in mind and its compliant suspension provides a smooth ride. Sport versions feature a lower set-up that compromises comfort, but they’re more composed on twisty roads. Diesel models provide excellent long distance refinement and strong performance but lower mileage drivers shouldn’t ignore the clever TSI petrols.
Ownership Costs Reasonable prices make the Passat an attractive proposition, although prices creep up for the higher trim levels – the flagship R36 starts at over £30,000. However, even entry-level S models feature air conditioning and curtain airbags as standard. Residuals are nothing to write home about in this sector, but the Estate is stronger when it comes to resale values than the less practical saloon. Variable service intervals and an efficient range of petrol and diesel engines also help to trim running costs.
Safety/Environment In Euro NCAP crash tests the Passat scored five stars for occupant protection and four stars for child protection, which is impressive for a design that dates from 2005. Standard-fit ESP is also reassuring. Diesel models provide the lowest CO2 emissions but watch out for the 4MOTION or DSG models because the all-wheel drive transmission and twin-clutch gearbox both raise CO2 outputs.
Our Choice: 2.0-litre TDI (140) Highline Estate