From £19,620
Refined motor is a pleasure to use, but the Passat lacks flair in a class that now offers practicality and character with no compromises

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Passat 2011-2014
15 million VW Passats have been sold in 100 countries since its launch in 1973

The VW Passat is a competent family car - but does it show any flair?

What is it?

This is the first time we've tested the familiar 120bhp 1.4 turbocharged petrol motor in the new Passat, and our first steer in the saloon variant in the UK, and it delivers exactly the sort of experience you would expect; that is a very accomplished and predictably dull one.

But we all know that the Passat is not about engaging its driver. It's about carrying people around comfortably and with the minimum fuss, and this model does it admirably – even in this base 'S' trim.

See pics of the Volkswagen Passat in action

What's it like?

Riding on the standard 16-inch alloys, the Passat can be slightly unsettled at lower speeds but it's not uncomfortable and generally it isolates occupants effectively, particularly at motorway speeds.

The cabin is underwhelming but feels solidly put together and entirely acceptable for this class, with enough space and usability to cater for the practicalities required of a family saloon. The base 'S' spec is equipped well, with air-con, leather multifunction wheel and USB input, which makes the Passat easy to live with even in entry-level guise.

The petrol motor also does the job required of it very well. It spins freely, is extremely quiet at idle, or with the standard stop-start on it restarts with noticeably less rattling and shuddering than a diesel motor will produce.

Whether it's around town or on the motorway the 1.4-litre engine continues to prove that (provided you don't push it into the upper rev ranges) it is more refined still than the already hushed diesel equivalent, and flexible enough that it doesn't feel strained as some might expect of a small petrol engine in a heavy car. In fact, mated to the standard six-speed gearbox it really is a very effective powertrain - usable, quiet and responsive.

And the economy? We returned an indicated 34mpg over varied motorway and urban usage, but high 30s should be achievable.

Should I buy one?

When you realise that the equivalent 1.6 TDI model is less than £800 more and is significantly cheaper to run (in terms of tax and fuel) it's obvious why some still struggle to see the point in small petrol engines in big models like the Passat.

These are cars that are more than likely to cover many miles and see hard use, so where are the benefits over the more frugal diesel? Well, in a word, refinement. If you like the Passat and running costs are top of your priority list then the diesel model is still the best option. But if your miles are lower then don't discount the petrol motor as in some ways it's more pleasant to use and it shouldn't be costly to run by general class standards.

Even with all these objective merits, the Passat is tricky to recommend given that there are rivals from Ford and Skoda that offer a more interesting experience and are equally competent at meeting the essential requirements of the class. The VW is a decent, worthy competitor but there are better cars in the class.

Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI

Factfile: Price: £18,875; Top speed: 127mph; 0-62mph: 10.3sec; Economy: 47.9mpg; Co2: 138g/km; Kerb weight; 1451kg; Engine type: 1390cc, 4cyl, turbocharged petrol; Power: 120bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 148lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox: 6spd manual

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Comments
18

10 January 2011

Fantastic value at under £19k though.

10 January 2011

£19k does sound good, although this engine sounds ok for non motorway use I think the 2.0 TDI is a wiser choice for longer distance motorway work.

10 January 2011

At least the last Passat had some visual details to hold the interest (few, but they were there). This just looks boring, derivative, boring, dull and cheap. Awfully cheap. Not a chance you'd catch me in one of these and I am all of the above, I just don't like looking like I am!

10 January 2011

VW's 1.4TSI engine seems to have cracked the performance/economy trade-off, with: "Top speed: 127mph; 0-62mph: 10.3sec; Economy: 47.9mpg; Co2: 138g/km", But what it really like in a large car with four people and a boot load of luggage?

10 January 2011

I can tell it is very slow with a 4 people and luggage, my friend has the 2010 with 120 hp motor and it is a piece of crap on the autobahn, you have to rev the hell out of it and it is noisy at high revs.

11 January 2011

It looks like the most boring car in the world.

11 January 2011

Wonder what's the power to weight ratio on one of these? 82hp/ton?

11 January 2011

[quote frankpcb]I can tell it is very slow with a 4 people and luggage, my friend has the 2010 with 120 hp motor and it is a piece of crap on the autobahn, you have to rev the hell out of it and it is noisy at high revs.[/quote]

I'm not really surprised as it is a base model. Think back a couple of years and if you went for a base model Vauxhall Cavalier or the like then you would be driving a 1.6 petrol with 90bhp and I am sure that would have been pretty much the same experience.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

11 January 2011

The 1.4 T engine is a great unit but its better suited to a size of car such as the A3/Golf/Scirroco its perfect for these type of cars.

VW should have made the 1.4 twincharger the base model with 158bhp in the bigger Passat would have been much better.

11 January 2011

[quote TegTypeR]

[quote frankpcb]I can tell it is very slow with a 4 people and luggage, my friend has the 2010 with 120 hp motor and it is a piece of crap on the autobahn, you have to rev the hell out of it and it is noisy at high revs.[/quote]

I'm not really surprised as it is a base model. Think back a couple of years and if you went for a base model Vauxhall Cavalier or the like then you would be driving a 1.6 petrol with 90bhp and I am sure that would have been pretty much the same experience.

[/quote] The last "small" VW that I drove was my 1985 Jetta 75 bhp 1.6 auto and in the 1980s I don't remember it being underpowered. Indeed I towed a caravan down to the South of France with it. Having said that, the Jetta was smaller, lighter and did not have the alphabet soup of gizmos and safety gear than a modern car to sap power.

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