"With added comfort and greater luxury, this is the best Volkswagen Passat yet."
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better car to eat up long motorway miles than the Volkswagen Passat. It's nice and quiet thanks to improved insulation, so engine, wind and road noise are barely noticeable, and the robust suspension easily soaks any bump on the UK's rough roads, making in an almost unrivalled cruiser. The current Passat is basically the same as the old car underneath, but the outside looks better and the engines have been made more efficient, while the interior is more comfortable and luxurious. All of the diesel engines in the range are great, but the 103bhp 1.6-litre model can be a bit sluggish compared to the rest. The top-of-the-range 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is fast, but does sacrifice efficiency in favour of performance. The Passat saloon is available in five specifications – entry-level S, then BlueMotion, Highline, the new R-Line, and top-spec Sport. You can also get the Passat as an estate (standard or Alltrack) or as a CC convertible model.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The best fuel economy comes from the BlueMotion 1.6-litre TDI with six-speed manual gearbox, which returns a claimed combined 68.9mpg and emits 114g/km of CO2, unfortunately a whisker away from the magic road-tax free 99g/km mark. Both the 2.0-litre TDI and 1.6-litre TDI come close as well, with 61.4mpg and 119g/km of CO2, and 65.7mpg with emissions of 114g/km respectively. The whole range is pretty impressive, with even the least-efficient 2.0-litre TSI returning 39.2mpg and emitting 169g/km of CO2. Of course, pair most of the engines with an automatic gearbox and you add at least a dozen more g/km of CO2 emissions on top of the existing number. There are a number of fixed-price servicing packs available to help reduce what can otherwise somewhat expensive repair costs if anything did go wrong.
Interior & comfort
As you’d expect, what the Passat lacks in driving fun, it makes up for in general comfort. The diesel engines are incredibly quiet, while the whole range is smooth and composed when on the road, which makes for very relaxing motorway journeys. You can add an optional system that allows you to alter the suspension setting between three modes – Sport, Comfort and Normal – but the standard suspension set-up is perfectly adequate. Some targeted sound deadening keeps any road noise to a minimum, but you may notice wind noise when driving at motorway speeds. The seats have been upgraded to supply extra support. The driving position is good, with a full range of adjustment, and four adults can easily get comfortable on longer journeys.
Practicality & boot space
The Passat is pretty practical for a saloon. It's more than capable of seating four adult passengers, with a little wiggle room left to spare. Plus, you get a decent-sized 565-litre boot (that's a bit larger than the Ford Mondeo's), with rear seats that can be folded flat just by touching a button. If you go for the keyless start system, you get a clever set-up that allows you to open the boot by waving your foot underneath the rear bumper – useful if your hands are loaded up with shopping or you’re hefting a large box. There's also plenty of storage inside the Passat for your things, with suitably deep door bins.
Reliability & safety
The latest model of the Passat is still too new to feature in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but its predecessor ranked a fairly 79th in the top 100 cars. You can be sure that Volkswagen will expect this new model to perform better in 2014, even though it's basically the same car under the skin. The CC convertible model, however, came 34th, so there's hope. Likewise, VW itself only managed to comes 16th in the manufacturers list, which, while up two places on 2012's 18th place, is underwhelming for a company with such a high reputation for reliability. Safety is top-notch thanks to a range of airbags being included as standard, along with electronic safety equipment to prevent accidents. There are some novel optional extras you can add, including a drowsiness detector, lane-change assist and an optional system that can apply the brakes if it detects an imminent collision.
Engines, drive & performance
The Passat has a range of five engines on offer, all of which offer a great balance between performance and efficiency. You get two petrol options – a 207bhp 2.0-litre and a 158bhp 1.4-litre TSI fitted with BlueMotion Technology – and three diesels to choose from – a 158bhp 1.6-litre TDI, a 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI and a 175bhp version of the latter. All diesel models are fitted with BlueMotion Technology. The most powerful petrol Passat does feel genuinely fast, going from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds. The 1.6-litre diesel can feel a little sluggish, and goes from 0-62mph in 12.2 seconds, but the trade off is some incredibly low running costs. The more powerful models are offered with an automatic gearbox that is fast and efficient, and lets the driver change gears via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The Passat handles well through the bends, but it isn’t particularly fun to drive. While the steering is accurate and responsive, it doesn’t offer much feedback, leaving the driver feeling detached from the driving experience.
Price, value for money & options
With the Passat available in five versions, going from base S models up the top-spec R-Line and Sport, VW has focused on delivering value for money across the range. That means even the S comes fitted with alloy wheels, air-conditioning, USB and aux-in, and a whole array of cutting-edge safety equipment. Highline specifications get larger alloys, exterior chrome additions, a touchscreen sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, DAB stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers and parking sensors. The Sport adds lowered suspension for better grip, a clever differential that improves handling, upgraded climate control and tinted rear glass for that extra bit of cool. As ever, most VWs have good resale value on the used car market, so you can expect to recoup some of your initial outlay when it comes time to sell the Passat on.