Volkswagen Passat saloon - Interior & comfort
The Volkswagen Passat interior feels a class above its direct rivals
Volkswagen has developed a knack for designing cars that feel better built than the competition, and the new Passat is a typical example of this. The upmarket feel starts with the exterior styling, which looks far more imposing than the old Passat thanks to a prominent grille and precise shut lines.
The various models within the range are only distinguished by subtle differences – models that specialise in comfort are set apart by chrome window surrounds while sportier models use a gloss-black finish and the GTE hybrid is identified by a discreet blue line above the grille and blue-tinted badging.
On the move, the interior stays quiet and comfortable, while precise steering means you don’t need to make constant corrections to keep the car going in a straight line. Choosing the larger 18 or 19-inch alloy wheels means sacrificing some ride comfort compared to cars fitted with smaller wheels. SE and SEL versions can be equipped with VW’s Dynamic Chassis Control, adaptive suspension making the Passat even more comfortable in its softest setting.
The extra weight of the hybrid setup in the GTE means the ride is sometimes bumpier than it is on the standard models but this is offset by the ability to move in near-silence around town in electric mode. The transition between electric and petrol is barely perceptible.
Both the steering wheel and driver’s seat offer a good range of adjustment and visibility is also good – although the rear screen in the saloon is quite small. Volkswagen offers a range of options to make the Passat easier to park, including semi-autonomous parking assistance and a reversing camera.
Volkswagen Passat dashboard
The Passat uses the best-quality plastics of any model in the family-car class. Even the Ford Mondeo doesn’t feel as upmarket inside – it takes a more expensive car from the premium class to beat it. The dashboard design is simple, but also stylish, with features such as a central air vent that runs the length of the dash and a smart badge that replaces the analogue clock of the old model.
There are also flashes of chrome around the interior, and even the cheapest model gets brushed chrome inserts that add to the high-quality feel. SEL models get heated seats trimmed in leather, as well as different trim inserts, while R-Line models have the sportiest interiors of all and feature attractive ambient lighting.
R-Line Edition models come with the slick digital Active Info Display instead of a traditional instrument cluster and a larger touchscreen as standard, while the GTE is only distinguished by some subtle blue highlights, hybrid driving modes and a power distribution readout on the dashboard.
New for 2019 is a GTE Advance model, which adds extra technology like the bigger screens, keyless entry, LED matrix headlights and an electric tailgate.
SEL trim and above feature intuitive sat nav as standard but if you really want to impress your passengers, it’s worth going for the optional 12.3-inch Active Info Display. This replaces the familiar dials in front of the driver and can perform two functions – displaying digital dials or transforming into a huge, highly detailed sat-nav display at the touch of a button. You can configure it all too, so you can have as much or as little information as you like on the display, and it's available as an option on all Passat models.
R-Line adds an exterior styling pack for a sportier look, along with stainless steel pedals, Nappa leather upholstery, ambient interior lighting and a black headliner. Comfort and convenience is also bolstered with triple-zone climate control, a powered hands-free boot, heated windscreen and keyless entry.
Even the basic Passat has a decent amount of equipment, but there are plenty of options to choose from that can make the car better suited to your requirements. These include everything from an electric bootlid (£600) to a heated steering wheel (£200) and a head-up display that shows information on the windscreen (£550).
If you do choose to raid the options list, you can specify a VW Passat with impressive tech credentials, but there's one big caveat: getting carried away with the options list can send the price of a top-spec Passat well into Audi A4 territory.
Much of the technology available in the Passat centres around its responsive touchscreen infotainment system. While the standard screen will be good enough for most, going for the impressive £2,200 Discover Navigation Pro system (or order the R-Line Edition model, which comes with it as standard) and you get a larger 9.2-inch screen that incorporates online navigation software updates and the ability to control the infotainment from a tablet. This also features MirrorLink and the option to add other apps to help you find a parking space, for example.
All of these systems mean there is a wide range of options if you want to connect your phone or other devices to the car - there are also USB ports, SD card slots and a hard-drive to store music on, as well as a CD player located in the glovebox.
As we've already mentioned, all of this technology is controlled via the Passat's touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard. It's easy to use and features buttons at the side to quickly access a particular menu, as well as a rotary knob to use when it's not as easy to use the touchscreen - perhaps on the move. The screen could do with being a bit brighter, but it's still easy to read.
If that's not enough, you can add a rear-view camera (£350) and a head-up display (£550) to any model, meaning you can control most of the car's functions and features and barely take your eyes away from the road.
For music fans, you can opt for an upgraded Harman Kardon system for around £1,200, which we think is a very impressive sound system, although the standard speakers are perfectly good enough if you're not an audio expert. That money could be spent on other options, such as safety kit - VW offers a Driver Assistance Pack Plus which features traffic jam assist, pedestrian detection, autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beam control for the lights and lane-keeping assistance. You can also add systems to help you park – the car will even park itself – and very effectively, too.
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