REVIEW DATE: 04 Dec 2009
Volkswagen's second stab at producing an eco-friendly Passat is much more successful than the first. Jonathan Crouch reports on the BlueMotion version
Volkswagen isn't normally a company that does things by halves but the first version of their apparently eco-friendly Passat BlueMotion smacked of just that. The main problem was that it campaigned with the company's rumbly old 104bhp 1.9-litre TDI diesel engine. That meant feeble acceleration and disappointing refinement, which wouldn't have been so much of a problem if the car had delivered on its eco promises.
Unfortunately it didn't - or not to any great extent. A CO2 showing of 136g/km wasn't too much to write home about, nor was its combined 55mpg fuel consumption. You could get much the same from a quieter, much faster and similarly priced Ford Mondeo Econetic. But of course, it wouldn't be a Volkswagen, with all the high residual values and bullet-proof build quality that brings with it. All the Passat BlueMotion really needed was a more modern engine and a bit more thought. In BlueMotion2 guise, it got just that. First a 2.0-litre TDI and then the current unit, a 1.6-litre TDI unit that furthers the Passat's economy cause.
Today's 1.6-litre Passat Bluemotion is built around the same common-rail injection technology as the 2.0-litre unit it replaced. With a smaller capacity, buyers can expect an improvement in economy but does performance take a similar tumble? The 1.6 TDI boasts 104bhp which is around 5bhp less than the old 2.0-litre and it is slower but only a little. The 0-60mph sprint is taken care of in 12.5s and the top speed is 120mph, so although this eco-friendly Passat is no ball of fire, it will keep up with motorway traffic.
As well as its advanced fuel injection system, engine features special electronic mapping to reduce the idle speed and optimise the engine for economy. The five-speed manual gearbox is also heavily revised with longer ratios for third, fourth and fifth gears to reduce loading on the engine and improve efficiency.
".very few medium range family cars can live with its low running costs"
This apart, the eco-tweaks that enable this Passat to deliver such impressive economy and emission figures are based around a whole series of things that in theory might affect the driving experience but in practice really don't. The most important addition in this respect is the clever Start/Stop system. Volkswagen were one of the first manufacturers to come up with this idea - as far back as 1994 to be exact. As you'd expect, it's been refined a fair bit since then.
If you haven't come across this kind of set-up before, it operates through the clutch. When you depress it and select neutral, the engine cuts, illuminating 'Start/Stop' symbol on the multifunction display. Engage the clutch again and the engine re-starts automatically. You can also deactivate the system through a switch located on the centre console. Other fuel-savings come through optimisation of the aerodynamics through a 15mm reduction in ride height and the adoption of a unique grille element and front bumper with the usual air intakes blanked-off and relocated to the underside of the vehicle in order to reduce aerodynamic drag.
The BlueMotion wears its fuel miser uniform discreetly. There are BlueMotion badges front and rear but other than that, the BlueMotion models look much like any other Passat saloon or estate. The Passat's cabin, though smart, is rather functional, albeit in a clean, uncluttered fashion. Somewhat unusually for a Volkswagen, this could be where rivals will seek solace. There is a good deal more use of light tones than in the unremittingly dark dashboard of the previous generation Passat, but those looking for something that signally moves the game on in terms of design philosophy may well come away disappointed. There are a number of technical highlights featured, however, such as Bluetooth connectivity for the telephone unit, a superior quality stereo, an electronic handbrake and a 2Zone Climatronic air conditioning system.
The estate version of this car keeps the latest generation Passat's sharp looks, including the saloon's distinctive front design, which means it has the same imposing 'V' shaped chrome grille. From the B-pillar back however, the body is very different. In profile, the car has a more dynamic design than we've seen with previous Passat Estates, with a window line that rises towards the D-pillar. The angle of the tailgate is also less vertical, while fast-acting LED bulbs are used for the rear lights. Fortunately, the more streamlined appearance has not been achieved at the expense of luggage capacity. Maximum volume in the cargo area is 1,731 litres. Adding to the practical character of this model is optional self-levelling hydropneumatic rear suspension, while a rail system in the boot floor allows more flexible securing of heavy items.
Convincing customers that BlueMotion is worthwhile may well be Volkswagen most arduous task. Things get a little bit complicated as a result of Volkswagen offering the full BlueMotion Passat and less intensively modified models that still feature some of the key BlueMotion features dubbed BlueMotion Technology. The proper 'BlueMotion' model we look at here comes in at around £400 more than the less efficient 1.6 TDI S 'BlueMotion Technology' variant. Both cars have Start/Stop, battery regeneration technology and a gearchange indicator but the fully-fledged BlueMotion model alone has the aerodynamic modifications, including lowered suspension. It looks a bit more sporty as a result and with its lower running costs considered, the full BlueMotion premium is probably money well spent. There's also a 2.0 TDI 110 'BlueMotion Technology' model but it doesn't really offer significantly more performance. As usual with Passats, whatever engine you choose, there's the option of either saloon or estate bodystyles.
Economy on today's Passat BlueMotion is measured at 64mpg on the combined cycle. Carbon dioxide emissions meanwhile, come in at just 105g/km. This really is an achievement by Volkswagen and there are many vehicles far smaller than the Passat that will struggle to match its running costs. This obviously creates all kinds of advantages for private and business users as well as for fleet operators. By comparison, the 1.6 TDI S BlueMotion Technology model 'only' manages 118g/km, with the 2.0 TDI 110 'BlueMotion Technology' variant returning 128g/km, though it still manages 57.6mpg on the combined cycle.
The Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion is a car that has been developed and improved over recent years to the point where very few medium range family cars can live with its low running costs.
So frugal and clean is it that buyers can enjoy all the benefits of downsizing without actually having to move into a smaller car. Which will be exactly what many families and business users will be looking for. Overall, it isn't a cheap package but it is a very effective one. With Volkswagen, it was ever thus.
The results below show the top PASSAT deals on buyacar
|Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Tech S 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £21,016||Save £2,374|
|Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Tech Sport 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £22,987||Save £2,643|
|Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Tech Sport 4dr diesel saloon|
|Price £21,742||Save £2,473|
|Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI BlueMotion 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £20,021||Save £2,239|
|Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Tech Sport 5dr DSG diesel estate|
|Price £24,459||Save £2,896|
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|For PASSAT BLUEMOTION 2|
|OVERALL||7.5 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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