REVIEW DATE: 20 Feb 2008
The Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion offers tiny fuel bills but will it makes sense to British buyers? Andy Enright reports
Offering a surprisingly low-tech approach to fuel saving, the Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion nevertheless gets the job done to great effect, averaging 54.3mpg. The promise is guilt free motoring and although it's liberating to drive such an economical large car, the bigger picture shows that cheaper but slightly less frugal rivals often prove less expensive to run.
Although it sounds intriguingly high-tech (think Bluetec, Bluetooth, Blu-Ray) there's not a whole lot of rocket science involved in the Passat Bluemotion. Instead, Volkswagen has gone back to basics in bringing to market a decently sized car that will eke over 54 miles from one gallon of diesel. We've seen the BlueMotion theme before in the Polo range and the smaller car is treated to a slightly more radical makeover than the Passat. Most would never spot that this family car is a BlueMotion model at all. It doesn't look like a jelly mould and doesn't wear tyres so unyielding they might as well be solid rubber.
Volkswagen may have kept it simple with this model but it still raises the question of whether this car is more about making an environmental statement than fulfilling an actual customer need. BlueMotion models will eventually be rolled out across the entire Volkswagen range. Blue, it would seem, is the new green.
Volkswagen has prided itself on offering some of the most sophisticated and refined diesel engines at any price. The 1.9-litre TDI unit fitted to the Passat BlueMotion isn't one of them. The pace of change in the technology of diesel engines is incredible. Only four or five years ago, this engine would have been a technical masterstroke. Now it all seems a bit Massey Ferguson. Managing a mere 105bhp at 4,000rpm, your Passat BlueMotion is not going to feel notably rapid off the line, getting to 60mph in 12.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 118mph.
"The BlueMotion wears its fuel miser uniform discreetly.."
A standard five-speed manual gearbox features very long gearing on the third, fourth and fifth ratios which, along with improving fuel consumption, makes the BlueMotion a very composed cruiser at motorway speeds. It's here that the Passat does its best work, the 249Nm of torque providing enough mid-range shove to keep up with traffic flow without stressing the engine. With peak torque coming at just 1,900rpm, it's a case of plugging it into fifth and letting the engine's long stroke and the intergalactic gearing do the work for you. Another plus is that Volkswagen has resisted fitting the sort of low rolling resistance tyres that have dismal lateral grip in the wet.
The BlueMotion wears its fuel miser uniform discreetly. There are BlueMotion badges front and rear and some very minor aerodynamic modifications 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, compared with the 1,600 litres of this car's predecessor. The newcomer is 1.9cm taller than before (at 1.52m), 9.2cm longer (at 4.77m) and 7.4cm wider (at 1.82m). 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. With prices pitched from £17,260 (a premium of around £700 over non-BlueMotion Passat models with the same engine), this is a serious investment for someone looking to save money on fuel bills. The maths only really start working in your favour if you're a high mileage driver but one can't escape the suspicion that this whole theme would work better with a Skoda than a Volkswagen, for instance.
The fuel consumption figure of 54.3mpg is certainly not to be sniffed at and the Passat BlueMotion also does extremely well in terms of residual value, retaining around 45 per cent of its value after three years. This means that the car will cost around 45 pence per mile to run which is on a par with something like a Vauxhall Astra 1.8 hatch or the base Mercedes A150 Classic. Most will agree that the Passat offers a lot more car for the money than either of this pair. It'll also be cheaper to run than almost all Vauxhall Vectras and Ford Mondeos. Group 7 insurance is unlikely to send you to the wall and spares prices have become a lot more reasonable of late. The emissions figure of 136g/km is also extremely competitive for a car of this class.
The Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion is an interesting proposition. Although it smacks of recycling outdated technology, the end result is impressive. The problem with this car is that despite its affordable ongoing running costs, the upfront price will be enough to put off those on a budget. More often than not, such customers will ignore the bigger picture of pence per mile over a three year ownership period and instead set themselves a notional price ceiling of maybe £15,000 or so.
Well built and modern in appearance, the BlueMotion's weak link is its rather rattly 1.9-litre diesel engine that now feels rather outdated with its peaky power delivery and elastic throttle response. This is one car that you're not going to fill with unleaded by mistake. The upside of this is that even when reminded of its presence, the fact that the engine's performing so frugally will win it a lot of credit.
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|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT PASSAT DEALS|
|For PASSAT BLUEMOTION|
|OVERALL||7.5 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
Let our car quote assistant help you configure your ideal new Passat - it's 100% free and easy to use...
Click below for more information: