VW Passat BlueMotion estate is still jazzing it up


Spacious and economical, this big car is a great all-rounder.

Perfect for jazz musicians and families, KEITH WARD reviews the versatile VW Passat estate.

IN its six generations and 15-million sales over the last 38 years, VW’s Passat Estate has long enjoyed a revered status, at times outselling the saloon and sought after used as well as new.
Jobbing jazz and pop musicians I know, especially drummers and double bass players shopping very much in the used market, prize it as a reliable and economical instrument carrier, comfortable to drive long distances between gigs. And big enough to doss down in.
There’s a guy they know whose speciality is replacing the standard canvas roll-out luggage cover with a hefty wooden locker for extra security when parked in downtown clubland areas. Or anywhere, for that matter.
The Passat Estate looks, neat but plain, will not turn many heads. In the current model, fresh in every body panel but the roof and introduced last year to the UK, three levels of trim provide smart but sober interiors with discreet “matt chrome” inserts, admirably clear instruments and – to please traditionalists – an analogue clock. Much work has been done on sound insulation, including thicker window glass, which shows.
Practical attributes? Space, for passengers and cargo. The already good-sized boot extends to a cavernous 1,700 litres-plus. Reached from the rear of the car,  handy catches either side of the boot release the split rear seatbacks, but you still have to walk around to the rear doors to lift and tumble the seat squabs to form a flat extended floor nearly six feet (1,770 mm) long on our tape.
Extra storage is found below the rear floor in the deep well vacated by the redundant spare wheel (there’s a repair kit in lieu) and at either side in large bucket-pockets moulded inside the wings. A high-opening tailgate and low rear sill ease loading.
An extensive options list includes a sliding platform on rails to transfer heavy loads to the back of the boot, a push-button setting for the height to which the tailgate rises, so as not to collide with a low roof, and a retractable towing bracket with bike carrier neatly concealed below the rear bumper.
In its pretty well standard trim as sampled here, the 105 PS 1.6 diesel comes with manual air-con rather than digital climate control, steel wheels not alloys and lacks useful extras in a long vehicle such as parking sensors (a £425 option).
What was fitted at a hefty £2,135  extra was VW’s undoubtedly impressive RNS 510 navigation-DVD audio package with touch-screen and voice control.
All diesel versions of the Passat now come with VW’s Blue Motion eco package for enhanced fuel economy and emissions, comprising stop-start, battery feedback during braking, tyres of low rolling resistance, slightly lowered suspension to help minimise drag and – unwanted and often unwarranted – a visual prompt to change gear.
The benefits are impressive. During a week’s varied driving and cargo loads, including a spell of furniture-shifting, our test vehicle returned a tad over 50 mpg, while its lowly CO2 figure of 113 warrants no road tax in its first year and just £30 a year thereafter.
On the road, performance is adequate. You find yourself at times stirring the excellent six-speed gearbox to maintain progress and exploit the Passat’s impressive agility, beyond the expectations of a load-lugger. Sure handling and a quiet, glide-along ride add pleasure to practicality.

Model: VW Passat Estate BlueMotion 1.6 TDI
Body: 5-door, 5-seat estate; length 4,771 mm; width 1,820; height 1,516
Boot: Length 1,120 to 1,770 mm; width 1,000; rear sill 630; vol 603 to 1,731 litres
Engine: Diesel; 1,598 cc; 4-cyl; 16-valve; 6-speed manual; stop-start
Power: 103 bhp @ 4,400 rpm; max torque 185 lb ft @ 1,500 rpm
Pace: 122 mph; 0-62 in 12.5 secs
MPG: On test 50.1 mpg; official combined 65.7; tank 15.4 gallons
CO2: 113 g/km; tax band C; VED Nil then £30 a year; BIK 13 %
Tyres: 205/55 R16; low rolling resistance; tyre repair kit
Insurance: Group 16E
Warranty: 36 mths/60,000 miles; 36 mths paint; 12 yrs rust; 12 mths breakdown
PRICE: £21,620; as tested with sat-nav pack plus metallic paint, £24,225

Better styled than some, the Passat estate is a good looking car.