Volkswagen Passat saloon (2011-2014)
"The Volkswagen Passat is a high quality saloon that makes a comfortable and relaxing motorway cruiser."
- Great engine range
- High quality interior
- Really comfortable
- Bit boring to drive
- Dull design
- Some rivals are more spacious
The Volkswagen Passat is a family saloon car that sits somewhere between cars like the Ford Mondeo and premium compact executive cars like the BMW 3 Series. It’s not a car that majors in thrills and excitement – the Passat is all about understated luxury - the design is stylish if a bit dull.
The interior is really high quality and comfortable but the car’s not particularly exciting to drive – the Passat is competent, quiet, cosseting and relaxing with an efficient engine range. Few cars can match the Passat as a motorway cruiser as a result.
The car is available in four levels of specification, ranging from entry-level S, to BlueMotion, Executive, and top spec Executive Style. It’s also available as an estate or as a CC convertible. There are a wide range of engines and the diesels are particularly good, offering plenty of power and decent economy.
Find out what we think is the best compact executive car by watching our video below.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The BlueMotion version of the Passat offers the lowest running costs. It comes with a 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine and a six-speed manual gearbox and will do 68.9mpg and 114g/km CO2, which is very good for a car of this size. As it slots into tax band C, it’s free to tax for the first year and just £30 thereafter.
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The standard version of the 1.6-litre diesel is impressive, too, and will do 65.7mpg and 114g/km of CO2. The larger 2.0-litre TDI diesel manages an impressive 61.4mpg and 119g/km CO2 – meaning it just about sneaks into tax band C as well. The petrol engines don’t come close to matching these figures but they’re still pretty decent. The least-efficient engine in the range is a 2.0-litre TSI that does 39.2mpg and 169g/km CO2. Opting for an automatic gearbox will decrease the efficiency of whichever engine you go for. Running costs can be kept under control by choosing from one of VW’s fixed-price servicing packs.
Engines, drive & performance
You can choose from a range of five engines with the Passat. All of the engines available offer a pretty decent balance of power and economy. There are three diesel options: a 158bhp 1.6-litre TDI, 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI and a 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI. The two petrol engines include a 158bhp 1.4-litre and a 207bhp 2.0-litre. The latter is genuinely quick, and will go from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds. The lowest-powered diesel does a feel a little sluggish by comparison but it’s still very useable and offers excellent economy.
The more powerful models get an excellent automatic gearbox that offers fast gear changes but also allows the driver to manually shift up or down via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. All versions of the Passat handle well – the steering is well-weighted and accurate, there’s plenty of grip and it stays under control in corners. It’s not as fun as the BMW 3 Series or the Ford Mondeo, but it’s definitely capable.
Interior & comfort
The Passat hasn't been engineered for driving thrills, it’s been designed to get you to your destination in comfort, so the suspension glides over all but the roughest of roads as a result. The engines are really quiet, too, even at motorway speeds, and the cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise, so it’s a relaxing place to be.
You can select an optional system that lets you switch between driving modes. It comes with three settings: Sport, Comfort and Normal, and it will firm-up or soften the suspension depending on which mode you select. It’s a good system with just one flaw: the standard suspension setup is perfectly adequate without it, so it’s not really worth the extra money.
Practicality & boot space
The Passat comes with a spacious boot that has a generous 565 litres of capacity. That’s bigger than the 540 litres in the Mondeo and the 467 litres in the Honda Accord but smaller than the boot in both the Skoda Superb and the Mazda 6. The rear seats can be folded flat at the touch of a button and on models with a keyless start system you get a setup that allows you to open the boot by waving your foot underneath the rear bumper – a neat little system that is very convenient if you come back to your car with both hands loaded down with shopping. There’s also no shortage of cubbyholes dotted around the cabin and there’s plenty of room for four adult passengers.
Reliability & safety
Volkswagen has an excellent reputation for reliability and the old version of the Passat proved to be a very reliable car. The current version is largely based on the old model so should be every bit as dependable. The brand hasn’t performed particularly well in customer satisfaction surveys of late, though. It came 18th out of 32 in the 2013 Driver Power manufacturer rankings – behind plenty of rival brands like Mazda, Honda and Kia. Sister brand Skoda managed to come second overall, only narrowly losing out to premium brand Lexus, which shows how disappointing Volkswagen’s result was.
The Passat comes with a five star safety rating. All models come with a range of airbags, traction control, ABS, electronic stability control and ISOFIX points for anchoring child seats. You can also pick from a range of optional extra safety kit such as system that can detect if the driver is drowsy, lane change assist and an autobrake system that will stop the car automatically if it senses an imminent crash.
Price, value for money & options
You can choose from four specification levels with the Passat: S, BlueMotion, Executive and Executive Style. Entry-level S models come with 16-inch alloys, a full size spare, 60:40 split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, DAB digital radio and MP3-compatible CD player, which is pretty generous.
Top spec models get an enormous list of equipment that includes: larger 18-inch alloys, automatic boot unlocking, leather interior, stainless steel and chrome interior trim, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, bi-Xenon headlights, heated front seats, heated rear window, hill hold, front and rear parking sensors, and touchscreen sat-nav. The Passat has decent resale values, too.