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Volkswagen Passat review

The Good

  • Looks great
  • All engines are economical
  • Class-leading interior

The Bad

  • Not exactly sporty
  • Ford Mondeo could be better value for money
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Andy Goodwin reviews the new 2015 Volkswagen Passat, a more powerful, more economical and roomier proposition than its predecessor.

With the arrival of the all-new Volkswagen Passat, the delayed Ford Mondeo and facelifted Vauxhall Insignia and Peugeot 508, life suddenly looks a bit rosier for company car drivers. Assuming, of course, they haven’t already upped and left the ‘large car’ market and plumped for an ultra-fashionable crossover.

Big family saloons and estates are hardly flying out of showrooms at the moment, but perhaps this latest crop can help their case. The Passat will vie for your attention with its ability to offer more of the good things in life, and less of the bad, from £22,215 up to £37,035.

Design

The eighth Passat is meant to be the most ’emotional’. While Keith the company fleet manager might not be swayed by design flourishes, we can all agree it does look more athletic than before. Making a car shorter, wider and lower are all sure-fire ways of improving its stance, while the 76mm longer gap between the front and rear wheels has also trimmed down front and rear overhangs.

The new Passat has one of the widest grills in the business, with a chrome blade continuing all the way through the headlights. Its razor-sharp shoulder line stands out more on the saloon than the estate, but gives both a stocky rear profile.

The interior is, just as before, arguably the Passat’s strongest feature, with a simple but attractive layout and materials sumptuous enough to shame some cars from the class above. Close any of the doors and VW’s characteristic air-lock shutting thud seems stronger than ever. The continuation of the air-vent grilles across the entire dashboard is a classy new touch, even if the traditional analogue clock reminds us just how conservative the Passat is and forms part of VW’s bid to create ‘timeless’ designs.

Practicality

By making the gap between the axles larger, Volkswagen has cleverly found more space in a smaller car. If can find a shop selling foam one-litre cubes, you will fit 586 in the saloon’s boot (up 21 litres on the outgoing model) and 650 in the estate (up by 47 litres) before you fold the rear seats down. Sadly they don’t fold completely flat, but the small ski-ramp effect shouldn’t prove too troubling, unless you bake very long cakes for a living.“Interior space for five adults is excellent…”

Interior space for five adults is excellent, with 40mm more rear legroom than before. During our test a six-foot two inch passenger was able to sit behind his own seating position with room to spare.

Performance and handling

Bad luck if you love petrol – you will have to wait for the hybrid model next year. With diesel engines representing 97 per cent of 2014 Passat sales, VW has given up trying to sell them here and instead offers a 1.6TDI (118bhp), 2.0TDI (148bhp or 187bhp) and a range-topping 2.0BiTDI with twin turbochargers and a healthy 237bhp and four-wheel drive.“…it feels slower than its 6.1 second 0-62mph and 150mph top speed suggest.”

We drove the hottest version first. While it undoubtedly behaves more like a larger engine than a 2.0-litre, it feels slower than its 6.1 second 0-62mph and 150mph top speed suggest. The Passat majors on comfort, and with the seven-speed DSG automatic (standard with the BiTDI) shuffling through the gears nonchalantly, it is better suited to painless motorway overtakes than B-road blasts.

More surprising is the 2.0TDI with 148bhp and a six-speed ‘box, which feels perfectly quick enough (0-62mph in 8.7 seconds) and happy to rev in a rather petrol-like fashion. This engine is expected to account for 80 per cent of UK sales and could be the sweet-spot of the range. We’re very keen to try the 187bhp model, because we suspect it won’t feel much slower than the expensive and heavier four-wheel drive BiTDI.

Both cars we drove were fitted with Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), stiffening the suspension as you cycle through ‘Comfort’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ modes and increasing the willingness of the gearbox (with DSG fitted) and heft of the steering. VW has increased the effect here, so the ‘Comfort’ mode is softer than before, allowing it to really soak up motorway lumps and bumps. Turn into a corner, however, and the estate in particular, leans more than you might expect. In ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ the chassis is sharper, but we suspect the Mondeo will prove to be the more involving steer.

Economy and environment

The 2.0TDI 148bhp saloon S model returns 68.9mpg and emits 106g/km of CO2, making this a big family car costing £20 each year to tax, with figures sure to impress Keith. The 1.6TDI 118bhp is even better with 105g/km, but we would rather have more power than just a 1g/km of CO2 benefit.

The powerful BiTDI returns 53.3mpg and emits 139g/km, so it’s more costly to run but still fairly economical. The BiTDI is rather pricey to buy, though, starting from £34,510 (compared with £29,380 for the equivalent 2.0TDI 187bhp), but that does include four-wheel drive and a seven-speed DSG gearbox.

Equipment and value

The Passat ushers in some exciting new tech for Volkswagen, with an optional £750 12.3-inch TFT screen available from June to replace the main instrument cluster. Several display options are available, from ‘Classic’ which simply mimics a conventional set of VW dials, to screens with economy readouts at the centre of each gauge and the sat-nav displayed between them. Mirrorlink technology is also being finalised to allow you to ‘throw’ permitted Android apps to the touchscreen and VW also promises Apple compatibility.“Car Net is also introduced in the 2015 Passat.”

‘Car Net’ is also introduced in the 2015 Passat. This clever feature lets the car use your smartphone’s internet connection to get the latest traffic reports, weather, news, parking information and petrol prices. Then there’s Trailer Assist (a world first), which uses the reversing camera and clever software to help you to easily control the angle of your trailer using the door-mirror selector as a joystick instead of touching the steering wheel.

Trim levels are S, SE, SE Business, GT and R-Line, with even S trim getting Bluetooth, DAB radio, alloy wheels and a leather multi-function steering wheel, making it better equipped than most competitors. SE adds parking sensors, auto headlights and wipers, adaptive cruise control and better ‘Ergo Comfort’ seats, while SE Business adds sat-nav, fog lights, tinted glass and folding door mirrors. GT and R-Line trims are aimed at private buyers and add styling and trim embellishments.

Safety

The Passat is yet to be tested by Euro NCAP yet, but with similar underpinnings and safety equipment to the latest Golf, we would be shocked if it managed anything less than the full five stars. The Passat not only has a full array of airbags and electronics to prevent skids, SE versions and above also get ‘Front Assist’, a safety feature that uses a radar to detect a possible front collision or pedestrian in the road and warn the driver – and can even apply the brakes autonomously if you fail to do so.

Verdict

While the Passat has always been a solid choice, it’s now even better to drive, cleaner, has a superior interior and introduces some welcome new technologies. We will have to wait and see if the latest Ford Mondeo can drive even better for less money, but we doubt the cabin will be quite as relaxing to spend time in. For a model likely to spend most of its life pounding the motorway network, the Passat’s comfort will be hard to beat.

Specification

Engine2.0TDI 150 6-spd man
Power148bhp
Torque250ft/lb (340Nm)
Acceleration0-62 in 8.9 seconds
Emissions110g/km CO2
Economy67mpg
Price£27,960

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