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New Volkswagen Passat 2024 review: VW’s trust in Skoda was a wise move

The new Volkswagen Passat has been developed by Skoda alongside the new Superb and it’s all the better for it

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The new Volkswagen Passat doesn’t represent a seismic shift in the estate market, but then nor did it need to. VW’s trust in Skoda for this Passat’s development was a wise move, although on the face of it there’s now very little to choose between them. Our full verdict will come when we drive the new Superb in the coming weeks.

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A total of 34 million sales, a recent 50th birthday, and a certified Volkswagen family-car legend. You might think we’re talking about the Golf, but we’re actually referring to the Passat, which in 2024 is back for a ninth generation. 

Just last week we got behind the wheel of the all-new Volkswagen Tiguan. But unlike that car, which will live on into the electric car era, the future isn’t promised for the Passat – despite it being the oldest model name in Volkswagen’s current line-up. This latest version can not just be a good car; it’ll need to sell well if it’s to convince the VW bigwigs that the Passat name should survive. No pressure, then.

First off, the Passat is now only offered in estate guise. Even with the well documented struggles of the executive saloon sector, Volkswagen’s decision to kill off the booted Passat is a bold move. Development of the car has been handed to Skoda this time around, who engineered it alongside the new Superb; a car that’ll come in both hatchback and estate bodystyles later this year. 

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The Passat hasn’t really stood out since the grille-less, third-generation B3 model, and at first glance the new car looks to retain the car’s traditional understated appeal. It follows Volkswagen’s curvier design approach that we’ve seen on the facelifted Golf, new Tiguan and its all-electric ID range of cars. 

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This, along with a lower roofline compared to the outgoing model, means the Passat has a relatively low drag coefficient of 0.25Cd – compared to 0.31Cd before. The new plug-in hybrid (due later) gets a whole new powertrain and larger 19.7kWh battery, helping nudge it towards an all-electric range of 62 miles – almost double the distance of the old Passat GTE. 

The car we’re testing here is the only model offered at launch: a 1.5-litre eTSI four-cylinder petrol with 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance. It sends a total of 148bhp and 250Nm of torque to the front-wheels through a seven-speed DSG automatic for a 0-62mph time of 9.2 seconds – three-tenths slower than the previous-generation car fitted with the non-hybrid engine. Unlike the PHEV, the mild-hybrid also gets cylinder-deactivation technology; Volkswagen is yet to finish WLTP testing of the new Passat, but we expect this model to improve on the old car’s fuel economy figure of 44.1mpg. 

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On the move, the mild-hybrid system works away in the background and is virtually imperceptible. Cruising along, the petrol engine is pretty refined, with the ability to cut out when coasting or not under load. It’s certainly one of the smoothest MHEVs we’ve tried. 

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The new Passat sits on an evolution of the MQB evo platform used on the old car and as a result drives in much the same way. The biggest difference we found came from the new optional DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) system which can adjust the stiffness of the dampers. There are 15 different levels – arguably too many for a family estate – and to get to the maximum stiffness you have to manually select it yourself on the central touchscreen.

We wouldn’t bother though, as even on smooth French roads it felt far too firm. The slightly softer Sport setting still transmits bumps and jolts through to the cabin, and there’s little payoff for the quicker gear changes or the heavier steering. Leave it in Comfort and the Passat does a great job of soaking up the larger imperfections, but it still has a tendency to wallow over speedbumps. 

It might be longer by 50mm in the wheelbase, 144mm in the body, and 20mm in width, but it’s just as easy to place on the road thanks to decent all-round visibility. Our test car was the mid-range Elegance, but with extra sound insulation and double-glazed windows thanks to the optional acoustics pack. We found it to be extremely quiet inside, and almost as hushed as the electric ID.7

The interior is a pleasant place to be, although not terribly special. It’s almost identical to the new Tiguan, in fact. Our Elegance model came with a panoramic roof and massage seats, but entry-level Life models still come with three-zone climate control, an electric bootlid, adaptive cruise and a rear-view camera.

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Taking up a lot of dashboard real estate is the new 15-inch central touch screen – the same unit we’ve seen in the ID.7, and of course the aforementioned Tiguan. It’s a responsive and easy to understand system, although some of the customisable shortcut widgets could be a little bigger.

Being developed alongside the new Superb really shows in some places, though we wish that extended to the latest Skoda’s chunky climate controls. Instead, the Passat uses a touchslider beneath the main screen; this is at least back-lit now, but it still isn’t our favourite feature. Thankfully, Volkswagen has reverted back to physical switches on the steering wheel.

Another big benefit of using Skoda knowhow for the new Passat is the sheer amount of space. In addition to the clever storage spots – such as the pockets on the back of the front seats – the rear legroom on offer wouldn’t feel out of kilter in a Mercedes S-Class. The cavernous 690-litre boot matches the Superb's, too, and extends to 1,920 litres with the rear seats lowered. There’s no compromise to be made if you opt for the plug-in hybrid, either.

The new Passat starts from £38,480 in base Life trim, or £41,580 for our Elegance car; the range-topping R-Line (there will be no hot R model) costs from £42,830. The biggest problem for the VW is that much-mentioned, mechanically identical Skoda, which if history is anything to go by, could represent a significant saving on list price alone.

Model:Volkswagen Passat 1.5 TSI Elegance
Price from:£38,480
Price as tested:£41,580
Powertrain:1.5-litre 4cyl, petrol MHEV
Power/torque:148bhp/250Nm
Transmission:Seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:9.2 seconds
Top speed:138mph
Economy/CO2:TBC
Size (L/W/H):4,917mm/1,849mm/1,497mm
On sale:Now
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Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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