Volkswagen Passat

With a new model on sale, now's the time to bag a top-value 'old' version of Volkswagen's Passat

Get the best of both worlds when you buy a used Volkswagen Passat! The handsome family car has the image of a premium model, yet the price of a volume seller.

Better still, the arrival of an all-new version has hit residuals of older models, making them fantastic value for money. Popular as a fleet purchase, there are plenty to choose from, and buyers can pick from a selection of engines.

Checklist

  • Colour: choose the wrong colour for your Passat and it could prove to be difficult to sell on. Make sure any white, solid green and solid blue examples are priced accordingly. Metallics look much better and are more scratch resistant.
  • Water leaks: ensure the footwells haven't been full of water by checking for damp carpets. This could be caused by a structural leak, a clogged-up plenum chamber drain, or the result of a blocked air-con condenser drainpipe.
  • Blue smoke: on turbocharged petrol models, blue smoke from the exhaust as you accelerate through the gears means the turbo is suffering from faulty oil seals. Make sure you check this to avoid landing yourself with an expensive repair bill.

Prices

Early Passats start from £2,000 as either saloon or estate - that will get you a high-mileage 1.6 or 1.8-litre petrol model, or a leggy 1.9 TDI diesel. Later estates carry a premium of up to 10 per cent. Budget on £15,000 for a 55-plate 1.9 TDI High-line variant. Half that should get you a 52-plate 1.9 TDI, 1.8 T SE or 2.0 SE saloon.

What to look for

Pick of the range is the 130bhp 1.9 TDI, which can hit 49mpg. However, you'll pay a premium for an oil-burner and won't get your money back until you sell the car. The 2.8-litre V6 unit is quick and smooth but does only 26mpg, while the 4.0 W8 has huge running costs.

Recalls

June 1998: Front passenger seatbelt sometimes locks on cars built in 1997.July 1998: Air mass meter grid may detach and jam throttle open. Metal brake pipes can chafe on rear subframe of Passat Syncros built between December 1997 and April 1998.Jan 1999: Ball may loosen on optional factory-fitted towbar on vehicles built between January 1996 and June 1998.Nov 1999: Possible premature wear of steering ball joints on vehicles made between March and August 1998.July 2004: Right-hand shock absorber mountings may be incorrectly tightened on cars built during June 2003.March 2005: Bolts of the tandem fuel pump cover can break on some four-cylinder diesel cars built between March 2004 and August 2004.

Owner comment

Andrew Turvey from Evesham, Worcs, likes his 2002 Passat 1.9 TDI for its build quality, performance and economy. After three years and 45,000 miles he's experienced his first problem with the car. "I had a £600 bill because the footwells filled with water, wrecking the car's ECU," he explained.

"Otherwise it's first-class," he continued. "But it can be dull to drive, so don't buy one if you want excitement."

Verdict

Despite its cast-iron reputation, the Passat is prone to the occasional big service or repair bill. Therefore, make sure the car you're looking at has been well cared for, and the chances are you'll get a reliable, refined and affordable family motor with a decent image. Facelifted examples (post-2000) make the best buys, with the powerful and economical 1.9 TDI models the most desirable. However, there's no hatchback available, so if you need to ferry large items around, go for the estate. We like the strong image, wide range of engines, excellent diesels and plentiful supply. We don't like the dull driving experience, thirsty petrol-engined models, pricey servicing and ambitious price tags.

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