VW Passat 2015 review
New VW Passat makes it to the UK, and it's a top choice if you're after an executive saloon
Don’t be put off by the diesel-only line-up – this TDI 150 is fast, quiet and refined. The SE Business is the one to go for, boasting exceptional levels of standard equipment, for little extra outlay over the more basic SE. Volkswagen is onto a winner with its eighth-generation Passat, and if you’re in the market for an executive saloon, this should definitely make your shortlist.
Petrol power used to account for less than one per cent of VW Passat sales in the UK. As a result, the German carmaker has ditched the green pump for the black and made this new eighth-generation model TDI only with the exception of the hybrid GTE that's due later this year.
But that’s no bad thing. Because with four different power outputs to choose from, as well as manual or automatic gearboxes and two or four-wheel drive, the range is as extensive as it’s ever been.
Our first drive on UK roads was in the model VW bosses predict to be the big seller, the mid-range TDI 150 – either in SE or SE Business trim. On paper it’s easy to see why, with the 148bhp 2.0-litre turbo diesel sprinting to 62mph in just 8.7 seconds, with the ability to also return more than 70mpg. A cheaper 1.6 and faster 187bhp 2.0-litre are also available, as well as a pricey 237bhp four-wheel drive DSG range-topper.
On the move, the new Passat feels calm, composed and altogether much more sorted than before. SE models and above get the familiar Driver Profile Selection system, allowing owners to choose between Comfort, Normal, Sport and Eco – or indeed an individual setup of their choice. In Comfort, the Passat does a frankly remarkable job of soaking up lumps and bumps, while in Sport mode everything sharpens nicely but without feeling too firm.
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In fact, if you do choose to put your foot down, the new Passat shifts surprisingly well down a twisting B-road. It’s still no BMW 3 Series, but there’s no doubt in our mind that this rejuvenated VW has caught and surpassed the previously class-leading Ford Mondeo in terms of driver enjoyment.
Not only is it better to drive, it’s also cheaper to run. As mentioned, this TDI 150 will return 70.6mpg with a light right foot, equating to impressive 106g/km CO2 emissions for £20 annual road tax. What’s more, VW expects to sell 80 per cent of its Passats to the fleet market, where the 17 per cent BIK rate will no doubt appeal to those looking at changing their company car.
Inside, the Volkswagen has taken a welcome jump in quality. So much so, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were sitting in a far pricier Audi or Mercedes. All cars come with the Golf’s 6.5-inch motion-sensitive touchscreen as standard, with bigger versions available on the options list. The controls are perfectly laid out and the display is crystal clear. The sat-nav system – which comes as standard on the SE Business spec – features a useful iPhone style pinch-to-zoom function, allowing you to see areas of the map in greater or lesser detail given the circumstance and situation.
Practicality is good too. There’s enough room in the back for a six-foot adult to sit behind a similarly-sized driver, and if you’re prepared to raid the options list you can upgrade the standard air conditioning to fancy three-zone climate control.
Boot space is generous – with the Passat posting a 21-litre improvement over the outgoing saloon. The 586-litre boot is more than 100 litres bigger than you’ll find in a 3 Series, and even beats the more versatile hatchback shape of the new Ford Mondeo. However, if luggage room is your main priority, the Passat Estate will be the model to go for, boasting 1,780 litres with the rear seats folded flat. It costs around £1,530 over the saloon.
The new Passat feels built to last. It’s beautifully crafted with all the buttons and switchgear operating with suitable weight and precision. The ergoComfort driver’s seat is great over longer distances – but we think it’s worth speccing the leather if you plan on spending a lot of time behind the wheel. It adds an even greater touch of class to the cabin, and works well with the chrome flashes and aluminium inserts on the dashboard.
Our car came fitted with a host of options but most buyers shouldn’t feel the need to spec anything over and above the mid-range SE. Those cars improve on the already generous S specification by adding 17-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control and front and rear parking sensors. The SE also includes the Driver Profile Selection, the ergoComfort driver’s seat and dusk-sensing headlights. The SE Business tested here also adds sat-nav, front fog lights, tinted rear windows and electric-folding door mirrors for just £700 more.
There’s no denying the new Passat is an excellent car wrapped up in an exquisitely finished package. It’s among the best in class to drive, should be pretty inexpensive to run, and sits within touching distance of the BMWs, Audis and Mercs for interior quality.
Until the super-frugal BlueMotion and petrol-electric GTE arrive later this year, the mid-range TDI 150 is the one to go for, and if your budget allows, this one size fits all SE Business trim is our spec of choice.