Volkswagen Passat saloon (2005-2011)
"The VW Passat is good to drive, refined and spacious, and adds a dash of class to the family car market."
- Spacious cabin front and rear
- Neat, clear dashboard layout
- Economical, quiet diesel engines
- Not as fun to drive as rivals
- Bluemotion versions are expensive
- Four-door layout hinders practicality
It’s not unusual to find a VW Passat parked right between a Ford Mondeo and BMW 3 Series at the local golf club. It’s spacious, well equipped, and good to drive, and as such represents a kind of half way house between full sized family hatchbacks – like the Mondeo, and upmarket compact executive cars, like the 3 Series. The fact it’s only available as a saloon dents practicality, but front and rear seat passengers are sure to admire the space, and quality feel of the cabin. There’s a model for virtually everyone, ranging from the economical BlueMotion diesel versions to the high-performance, four-wheel-drive R36. All models have alloy wheels, air-conditioning and front electric windows as standard.
MPG, running costs & CO2
For high mileage drivers, the economical diesels are the best bet, with BlueMotion models returning more than 60mpg combined. That puts them in low Road Tax bands because their CO2 emissions are low. Diesels also hold their value better than the petrol versions, helping the Passat achieve residual values that are closer to premium cars like the BMW 3-Series than its mainstream rivals.
Engines, drive & performance
While the Passat isn’t the best family car for comfort or handling – it loses out on both counts to the Ford Mondeo – it’s not far off. All the controls feel solidly built, plus there’s a positive gear change and steering that makes the car feel agile in tight car parks and built up areas. The Passat also feels stable and secure on the motorway. The Passat comes with VW’s latest diesel engines, which are far smoother than the engines they replaced, but still prove punchy and economical.
Interior & comfort
The Passat is engineered to keep the cabin as calm as possible for driver and passengers. There’s a slight harshness over the worst road surfaces, but the suspension soaks up cracks and bumps without sending shock waves into the cabin. At cruising speeds, road and engine noise is kept at bay, although you’ll notice the rustle of the wind from the wing mirrors. The driver’s seat and steering wheel are both adjustable for height and reach, and the pedals are well spaced, with plenty of room in the foot well to rest your clutch foot during long journeys. Sporty R-Line trim adds some welcome visual flair to the Passat on the outside, but it also firms up the suspension, which spoils cruising comfort.
Practicality & boot space
Unlike the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia, there’s no five-door version of the Passat. The boot has 565 litres of space, which is 65 litres up on the Insignia saloon. The rear seats split and fold so that longer items can be through loaded into the cabin, which offers a total usable area of 1011 litres. There’s plenty of room in the cabin, and you can easily fit three across the back seat.
Reliability & safety
Despite Volkswagen's reputation for reliability, and the fact that the engines and many of the parts are used in other VW cars, the Passat hasn’t enjoyed a flaw-free existence. The car rated 72nd in the 2010 Driver Power owner survey for build quality, and a very poor 93rd for reliability. Its only recall to date was in 2007 for a potential windscreen wiper failure.
Price, value for money & options
The range of trim and engine options is so vast that it might prove difficult to work out which Passat suits you. Even basic models have air-conditioning, alloy wheels and a CD player. Diesel-powered BlueMotion and BlueMotion Technology models – the latter are standard cars with some BlueMotion parts fitted – offer superior economy but command a premium over standard models.