With plenty of space for a family on the move, wheelworldreviews editor DAVID HOOPER puts one of the latest VW Passats to the test.
THE Volkswagen Passat is hardly the new kid on the block, but after spending a few days at the wheel of this car, I have been reminded that it is still one of the best you can buy in its class.
We are now into the sixth generation of a model which first graced our roads way back in 1973. This latest incarnation of one of VW’s biggest sellers joined the fray in 2005, but looks as fresh today as it did when it first went on sale.
It’s an imposing car which looks and feels substantial, and echoes its big sister, the Phaeton, in some areas, most notably with its big shiny grille at the front and smart, circular LED tail lights at the rear.
Between its two extremities you find a typically well built Volkswagen, which offers levels of luxury inside that blur the boundaries between its class and the one above. The black Vienna leather upholstery manages to look sporty and classy at the same time, while the leather-trimmed three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and gear knob give the car an endearingly tactile feel. The centre console, with its silver finish and chrome detailing all add to the quality ambience. Admittedly, the touchscreen DVD navigation and entertainment system on this particular model was a £1,575 optional extra, as were the parking sensors and a few other little “luxuries”, but there’s no getting away from the in-built quality of this car, which, when you consider its £21,740 asking price makes it a compelling value for money proposition.
There is a choice of bodystyles, too. As well as the four-door saloon I’ve been driving, there is also a spacious estate and beautifully sleek coupe called the Passat CC, which is now available with five seats, instead of the original four. Sitting at the top of the range is the stunning R36, which, with its 3.6-litre V6 engine, 4Motion four-wheel-drive and around 300bhp on tap, is the most powerful Passat to be made so far and comes in saloon and estate bodystyles.
One feature worthy of particular note on this car is its electronic parking brake, which is basically a push-button switch on the right hand side of the dashboard. Standard across the range, it is the first time this system has been employed in this class of car, until now being the exclusive reserve of more expensive models. On the car I tested, it was combined with an auto-hold system, which prevents the car from rolling back on slopes, and releases as soon as the car moves off.
There is ample room inside for five adults, and the huge boot will swallow generous amounts of luggage. The rear seat backs will also fold down if further space is required.
There is a good choice of petrol and diesel engines to pick from and you can even have a DSG gearbox on some models, instead of the standard manual.
We had planned a trip to visit relatives in the South West over Easter, and my original plan was to put a BlueMotion version of the car, VW’s sub-brand for its super-economical models, to a good real-life test, and find out just how frugal it really is with a family and boot full of luggage on board. All the BlueMotion models were already booked out though, so Volkswagen sent me its 140bhp two-litre common rail diesel model, in the smart Highline trim. In addition to the leather trim, the Highline specification adds some chrome trim to the outside, of the car, more comfortable seats which include a lumbar support and the smart 17in Macau alloy wheels, complete with anti-theft bolts.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the car. It provides an impressive blend of performance and economy while managing to keep C02 emissions to a reasonable 146g/km. With its particulate filter, the engine meets Euro 5 emissions standards.
From a standstill, the Passat passes the 62mph benchmark in just 9.8 seconds on its way to a potential top speed of 130mph. With plenty of torque on tap from its well-tuned diesel powerplant, its mid-range punch is also good, even with a full load, which means despatching dawdling A-road traffic is never a problem, yet it will cruise at motorway speeds effortlessly and quietly.
During my trip, the car returned an overall average of 50.2mpg which I thought was very good. I’m also sure a slightly slower driver would be able to improve on that figure without trying too hard.
The Passat then, is a stylish and comfortable car with an air of class about it. It not only competes with its obvious rivals, but also gives the traditional BMW, Mercedes C-Class and Volvo S60 buyers in the class above something else to think about.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Volkswagen Passat Highline 2.0 TDI (140) 4-door.
RANGE: From S 1.4 TSI 4dr saloon (£17,745) to R36 4MOTION (£35,275).
ENGINE: 1968cc, 140PS four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 6-speed manual gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 146g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 130mph. 0-62mph in 9.8 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 39.2mpg.
Fuel tank: 70 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 10.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.