REVIEW DATE: 01 Nov 2010
Volkswagen's seventh generation Passat, which comes as a saloon and estate, is fresh from the roof down and is loaded with the very latest in hi-tech gadgetry. But can it do enough to tempt Mondeo Man? Jonathan Crouch reports
Think of a big-selling Volkswagen and almost inevitably your mind will drift to the Beetle or the Golf. But the ever youthful and newly invigorated Passat is doing a fair job of catching up and this seventh generation picks up the baton with its predecessors already having notched up 15million sales in 37 years and with Volkswagen intent on getting the Passat past the 20million barrier.
Today's Passat is a thoughtful kind of car. Though it may be one of those models that is all too easy to lose in a car park, you've got to love the Volkswagen designer who came up with the idea of a rear end you can open with your hands full. Walk towards the back of the car with the "smart" key fob in pocket, arms filled with shopping bags or two 24-packs of beer, wave your foot under the rear bumper and hey presto - the boot opens!
It's the sort of ingenuity that has helped Volkswagen sell millions and millions of Passats, in more than 100 countries, since the car was launched almost four decades ago. This model is jammed with such little bits of genius - like massaging seats and a system that warns you if you are about to nod off at the wheel. Or opt for the Park Assist and the car will even park itself. At heart, the car is about as solid a piece of reliable German engineering as you could ever hope to meet. As for the understated bit, well for this car's loyal followers, that's all part of its appeal.
Those with an eye on running costs will want the fuel-miserly 1.6 litre TDI diesel, but there's a wide choice of other engine options. The familiar 2.0-litre TDI, which comes with 140 PS or 170 PS, will doubtless be popular. And unlike other Mondeo-sized medium sector rivals, Volkswagen still thinks there's a future in this segment for petrol power, so there's a decent choice of petrol engines - a 122 PS 1.4-litre TSI, a 160 PS 1.8-litre TSI and a 210 PS 2.0-litre unit. Top of the petrol heap is the 300 PS 3.6-litre V6.
"This model is jammed little bits of genius."
For the most part, this is not the car for the adrenalin junkie. The 1.6 litre TDI for instance, takes around 12 seconds to get you to 62mph from a standing start, though the more sprightly 2.0 litre TSI will cut that to eight seconds. Except for the 105 PS 1.6 TDI diesel, this Passat can be specified with a choice either of manual transmission or the highly regarded DSG gearbox which can change gears faster than an Formula One pilot while also cutting fuel use and emissions.
Plus, if your growing family or your job as a sales rep has forced you into the Passat but you still yearn for the sprightliness of the Golf GTI, you can opt for the Volkswagen's XDS electronic transverse differential. The driving feel is far more responsive with XDS as it reduces understeer and gives greater traction in the wet. The feel of the drive is further enhanced by the rear suspension being isolated by subframes which cut noise levels in the cabin and make for a much more comfortable ride.
This seventh generation model has a more up-market look with trendy LED running lights, chrome to the rear on the bumper and a muted yet distinctively different look that reflects the fact that, except for the roof, every single body panel on the car is redesigned. Many lessons have been learnt in developing the luxury Phaeton saloon and these have been applied to this car. Things like sound deadening materials built into the dash and doors and special acoustic film embedded in the front windows.
Inside, the changes include new door trims and seats, high-end materials and ambience lighting for a plush, distinctly quality feel. The Passat is not just about cosseting comfort though. It is, as the engine range and mpg figures suggest, a very practical and sensible sort of chap and its cavernous carrying capacity underline this. The saloon version gives you 565 litres of boot space, but you can almost double that to 1,001 litres once the rear seats are folded down. For true space though, go for the estate which swallows as much as 1,731 litres of anything you want to throw in.
This Passat will be similarly priced to its predecessor, with most models priced in the £19,000 to £27,000 bracket. Volkswagen likes to think that this car's station is slightly above similarly-sized Ford Mondeos and Vauxhall Insignias and more in keeping with cars like Honda's Accord. Maybe even edging up towards compact executive saloon wannabes like Alfa Romeo's 159 or Saab's 9-3.
The Passat comes in various levels of trim: S, SE and Sport. Additional equipment added to this range over the outgoing model includes an iPod interface and leather multifunction steering wheel for the S model. All Passats are fitted with six airbags, ABS (anti-lock braking system), ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme) and WOKS (whiplash-optimised head restraints) as standard. A driver alert system fitted on plusher models uses sensors and warning beeps to tell you if you're beginning to feel drowsy and should stop for a break and a Red Bull. There's also a radar-guided city braking system that will automatically brake the car if it detects you are approaching a slowing or stopped vehicle too quickly.
For the more indulgent, there's the option of seats that offer a massage as you drive, plus the genius that is the arms-full boot opening system. And for motorists for whom the chore of dipping headlights only to then have to put them on full beam again is simply too onerous, the Passat will even do this for you with Light Assist. A far more practical option perhaps, is Park Assist so that parallel parking nightmares become a thing of the past.
It's a sobering thought: fill the car at John O'Groats at breakfast, then spend the day - and probably some of the night - motoring to Land's End for supper. If you're driving sensibly and are at the wheel of the 105 PS 1.6-litre TDI Passat in BlueMotion guise (which includes aero modifications to help it cut through the air and Stop/Start to turn the engine off automatically if you are stuck at traffic lights), you can do the trip without refuelling.
What makes this feat possible is fuel economy of over 65mpg (allied to carbon emissions of just 114g/km). The Passat may lack excitement but you can't knock the engineering (or the advantages of a 70 litre fuel tank). When even the 2.0 litre TDI Passat, a car the will top 130mph, is good for 60mpg, then you have to be impressed considering how much you can pile into the car, whether saloon or estate. It also helps that residual values are traditionally strong with this model.
The Passat name is a familiar one but in its seventh generation guise, the model shows no signs of relinquishing its position as a quality choice in the Mondeo-dominated medium range sector. Volkswagen has done a neat trick with this latest incarnation by loading it with hi-tech equipment and gadgetry until now only seen on their much more expensive models.
So as well as toys like the self-opening boot and the Blind Spot aid, there are touches like the revamped dash with its more up-market feel and lovely analogue clock. In other words, in true Volkswagen style, no detail, no matter how small, has been overlooked. Just as you would expect from a Passat.
The results below show the top PASSAT deals on buyacar
|Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Tech S 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £21,017||Save £2,443|
|Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Tech Sport 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £23,072||Save £2,723|
|Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Tech Sport 4dr diesel saloon|
|Price £21,827||Save £2,553|
|Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Tech Sport 5dr DSG diesel estate|
|Price £24,459||Save £3,061|
|Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Bluemotion Tech Sport 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £22,091||Save £2,589|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT PASSAT DEALS|
|For PASSAT RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.5 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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