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Car group tests

VW Passat vs Ford Mondeo & Mazda 6

VW’s new Passat aims to lead family cars back into the spotlight and knock out Ford and Mazda rivals

In recent years, buyers have been turning their backs on the large family car class and moving upmarket to the compact executive sector. But now, it’s time for the family fightback, as new models are being launched with greater premium appeal, better performance and lower emissions than ever before.

The latest arrival to the class is the eighth-generation Volkswagen Passat saloon, which promises a best-ever mix of upmarket quality, low running costs and involving driving dynamics.

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• Best family cars

For its first test, we’ve lined it up alongside another newcomer in the shape of the Ford Mondeo. It’s had a long gestation period, but the Estate model didn’t fare well in its first test. So, can the hatchback in Titanium spec make amends?

Both cars will need to be at the top of their game to beat our current class champ, the Mazda 6, though. While the switch from hatch to saloon body robbed the stylish Mazda of some of its practicality, there’s no doubt that it’s a fine performer, both in terms of emissions and driving involvement. 

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So, does the Passat have what it takes to win on its debut, can the Mondeo compete in hatchback guise, or will the 6 keep the newcomers at bay and retain its family car crown?

Volkswagen Passat review

Ford Mondeo review

Mazda 6 review 

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Follow the links above to read full reviews of each car, and scroll down to see which family favourite comes out on top...

Head-to-head

Boot versatility

All three cars have long load areas that are hard to reach the back of, but the Ford’s hatch tailgate means it’s the easiest to access here, even though it’s a stretch to close the high-opening rear door. The Mondeo offers a 550-litre capacity, although the VW betters that with 586 litres. 

The Passat and 6 have levers to release the rear seatbacks. While the VW’s fold flat automatically, the Mazda features a flat floor.

Company costs

As the 6 has a lower list price and emits 104g/km, higher-rate earners choosing it will pay £80 a year less in tax than for its rivals.

Best company cars 2015

The Mondeo doesn’t fare well, although business users should check out the ECOnetic model. It emits 107g/km, so is closer to the VW and Mazda for tax costs.

Option packs

The Mondeo offers the £2,000 optional Titanium X pack, plus the Winter Pack (£300), which adds a heated steering wheel and seats. 

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Options for the Passat include the Dynaudio sound pack (£1,620), Driver’s Assistance Pack (£1,095) and Winter Pack with three-zone air-con and heated rear seats (£1,025).

Verdict

1st place: Volkswagen Passat

The Passat moves straight to the top of the family car class thanks to its winning combination of comfort, fine handling, a high-quality interior and excellent running costs. It’s also well equipped and can be specified with a range of options that only enhance the car’s appeal. While the saloon body isn’t the most versatile, it makes up for it with plenty of space for passengers and luggage.

2nd place: Mazda 6

If you want a family car that’s fun to drive, then the Mazda 6 is still the model of choice. The boot is smaller than its rivals’, but it’s still vast and will suit most needs. The biggest letdown is the dated dash, although it will be addressed in the car’s forthcoming facelift. When that arrives, we have a feeling that the Passat won’t have its own way at the top of the class.

3rd place: Ford Mondeo

We were underwhelmed by the Mondeo when we first tried it, and the launch of the Passat has only compounded the Ford’s shortcomings. The new multimedia system and smarter cabin layout are a big upgrade from the old model, but it’s not a patch on the Passat for quality, while it’s also lost the driver appeal that made the old car a front runner in the class.

Key specs:

 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI (150) SE BusinessMazda 6 2.2D (150) SE-L NavFord Mondeo 2.0 TDCi (150) Titanium
On the road price/total as tested£25,135/£30,250£23,995/£23,995£23,495/£30,365
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£11,537/45.9%£10,678/44.5%£9,468/40.3%
Depreciation£13,598£13,317£14,027
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£853/£1,705£766/£1,532£891/£1,781
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,361/£2,268£1,483/£2,472£1,460/£2,433
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost19/£434/B/£2019/£318/B/£2023/£369/C/£30
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£288 (2yrs)£172/£233/£236£390 (2yrs)
    
Length/wheelbase4,767/2,791mm4,870/2,830mm4,871/2,850mm
Height/width1,456/1,832mm1,450/1,840mm1,482/1,852mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,968cc4cyl in-line/2,191cc4cyl in-line/1,997cc
Peak power/revs148/3,500 bhp/rpm148/4,500 bhp/rpm148/3,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs340/1,750 Nm/rpm380/1,800 Nm/rpm350/2,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission6spd man/fwd6spd man/fwd6spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel66 litres/space saver62 litres/repair kit62.5 litres/space saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down)586/1,152 litres489/1,632 litres550/1,446 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,475/620/2,000kg1,553/502/1,600kg1,578/682/1,800kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.7 metres/N/A11.8 metres/0.26Cd11.6 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/22312,500 miles (1yr)/17018,000 miles (1yr)/781
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.19th/31st8th/12th25th/27th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars85/87/66/5 (2014)92/77/66/5 (2013)86/82/66/5 (2014)
    
0-60/30-70mph8.7/7.7 seconds9.1/8.6 seconds8.5/7.4 seconds
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.5/6.1 seconds3.6/5.4 seconds3.5/6.1 seconds
50-70mph in 5th/6th7.5/10.2 seconds6.8/9.1 seconds6.9/9.6 seconds
Top speed/rpm at 70mph136mph/1,850rpm131mph/1,900rpm134mph/1,900rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph51.4/37.2/9.7m55.3/39.8/10.2m52.9/38.4/9.9m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph67/54/57/64dB60/41/56/64dB68/47/55/64dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range47.3/10.4/687 miles43.4/9.5/592 miles44.1/9.7/606 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined60.1/78.5/70.6mpg60.1/83.1/72.4mpg55.4/70.6/64.2mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined13.2/17.3/15.5mpl13.2/18.3/15.9mpl12.2/15.5/14.1mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket160/106g/km/17%174/104g/km/16%172/115g/km/19%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraNine/yes/yes/£310Six/yes/yes/noSeven/yes/£450/£450
Auto box/stability/adaptive cruise ctrl£1,600/yes/yes£1,200/yes/no£1,370/yes/£900
Climate control/leather/heated seats£590/£1,615/£280Yes/no/noYes/£2,000/£300
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£540/£705/yes£540/no/no£545/£1,050/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/no/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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