Volkswagen Passat estate (2011-2014)
"The Volkswagen Passat estate is as comfortable and luxurious as the saloon, but with a bigger boot and a more practical interior."
- Big, versatile boot
- Comfortable long distance cruiser
- Economical engines
- Ford Mondeo is more fun to drive
- Styling is quite bland
- Passenger space could be better
The Volkswagen Passat estate certainly delivers the extra practicality you expect from an estate version of an excellent family car. It offers one of the largest boots in the family car class, in fact, while also proving to be one of the most versatile as well, coming fitted with one-touch levers for folding down the back seats to expand the boot to its maximum luggage capacity. You can also get a clever option that allows hands-free opening of the boot: simply wave your foot under the bumper and the electric tailgate lifts up – just don’t stand too close! With a good line-up of engines and excellent comfort, the Passat estate is indeed a fine buy – we just wish it was that little bit better to drive and had some more visual style.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Most of the specifications on offer can come fitted with VW’s eco-friendly BlueMotion technology, but the 1.6-litre TDI diesel BlueMotion spec is, unsurprisingly, the most efficient. It manages to return 65.7mpg in combined fuel economy and to emit 113g/km of CO2, which keeps road tax low. However, most of the models equipped with BlueMotion tech manage to return economy in the 60mpg bracket, although there is a noticeable drop in the more performance-focused models higher up the range (R-Line and Sport petrol models only returning mpg in the 40s, with CO2 emissions climbing above 140g/km). The petrol engines are generally more costly to run, with the 2.0-litre TSI returning 35.8mpg. But they are cheaper to buy than the diesels, so it would be wise to make sure that you regularly clock up enough miles to enjoy the cost benefits that a diesel brings.
Engines, drive & performance
With a range of engines on offer, you should be able to find a good fit for your needs among its three diesel and three petrol engines. The 2.0-litre diesels offer the best balance of performance and economy, producing either 138bhp or 168bhp, and accelerating from 0-62mph in 10 seconds and 8.6 seconds, respectively. The 1.6-litre TDI BlueMotion is the cleanest engine on offer, but it's also the slowest by quite some margin and you will have to work it quite hard to keep up with faster traffic, which can be a bit of an effort. Petrol choices range from the 120bhp 1.4-litre TSI engine to the 2.0-litre TSI, which produces 207bhp. The latter accelerates the Passat estate from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds. Otherwise, it handles well, has accurate, responsive steering and while the likes of the BMW 3 Series are undeniably more fun to drive, the Passat estate is much better than its practical dimensions might suggest.
Interior & comfort
For the money, few cars are as comfortable as the Passat estate. Decent suspension makes easy work of smoothing out rough roads, while the VW engineers have improved the quality of the insulation material used inside the car to keep engine, road and wind noise to a whisper (most of the time). All the engines on offer are very quiet anyway, even the diesels. You can also choose to get adaptive suspension fitted, which has settings for Sport, Normal and Comfort, but we generally think that the standard settings on the Passat are good enough on their own.
Practicality & boot space
So how much extra practicality does the estate model add to the standard Passat? Well, with the back seats in place, the boot offers a decent 603 litres of space, which is much larger than either the Audi A4 Avant or Ford Mondeo. Fold down the standard-fit split-fold seats and that capacity expands to a pretty huge 1,731 litres – and comes fitted with dedicated controls inside the boot to drop the rear bench with one easy touch. Plus, if you opt to have keyless start installed, you can even automatically open the boot by waving your foot under the rear bumper, which is an incredibly useful function if your arms are full of shopping. There’s a massive amount of space for even tall adults to travel comfortably in the back, and overall build quality is excellent.
Reliability & safety
The latest Passat estate is pretty much identical to its predecessor beneath the new body work – which is actually good news, because that car had a good reputation for reliability. In fact, it even managed to return to the top 100 cars list in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, having dropped off the list entirely in 2012. Ranking 79th – which is only 10 places lower than its 2011 ranking of 69 – is pretty impressive, so you can expect the latest model to do even better when it finally qualifies for the survey in the near future. VW itself still underwhelms a bit, given the public’s perception of its cars being very reliable, sitting solidly in the middle of the manufacturers rankings in Driver Power at 16th – this is actually an improvement on the 2012 showing of 18th. You just expect more from Volkswagen, given its reputation, excellent cars and brand value, but customers are just being that little bit disappointed by the build quality over time. Safety is top-notch, however, as you’d expect, with a range of airbags fitted as standard, plus electronic safety equipment and driver aids designed to prevent accidents. There are also some novel optional extras, including a drowsiness detector, lane-change assist and a system that automatically brakes the car to help prevent collisions. It was awarded the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Price, value for money & options
The Passat estate comes in six main specifications – entry-level S, the eco-focused BlueMotion, R-Line, Highline, top-of-the-range Sport, and the rugged off-road-capable Alltrack. And Volkswagen has definitely focused that little bit of extra attention on delivering value for money, so even the base models come fitted with alloy wheels, air-conditioning, USB and an iPod connector, Bluetooth connectivity and a full-size spare as well as plenty of safety equipment. High specification models come equipped with larger alloys, exterior chrome additions, cruise control, and automatic headlights and wipers. The Sport model adds lowered suspension, upgraded climate control and tinted glass. As is usually the case with cars that come from Volkswagen group, the Passat’s sister car, the Skoda Superb, is superior value and offers almost as much for your money.