From £19,620
The new Passat is high on refinement, albeit short on interest and involvement

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?

Volkswagen set the tone for the new Passat at a group preview event, which took place on the night before the Paris motor show opened last October. Through varying degrees of pizzazz involving flames, exploding crates and mock pit garages emerged Lamborghinis, Skodas, Bentleys and Audis.

Then, accompanied by nothing more than a puff of dry ice, out pootled the 'new' Passat. "Look," they said. "Waft your foot beneath the bootlid and it automatically opens." Woo.

See pics of the Volkswagen Passat in action

The implication was pretty clear. This is a new Passat, rather than a new car; no shocks, no surprises. It'll do the same as it ever has: be a faithful companion to those people (and there are more than 15 million to date) who like the fuss-free way the Passat accompanies their life.

Volkswagen calls this Passat the seventh-generation car, but really it's a reskin (every panel save the roof is changed) and rework of the sixth-generation 2005 Passat. There are a few manufacturers who figure that modern platforms are so advanced now that, significant material changes aside (and they’ll eventually come, to reduce weight), honing will do.

Every major component has been tweaked on the Passat, though. Most significantly, suspension components are lighter and refinement is said to be improved.

What's it like?

Our test Passat, a 138bhp diesel, was pretty representative of a UK fleet car. We're pretty familiar with Volkswagen's 2.0-litre turbodiesel, but there are new engine mounts and the promise of smoother and quieter performance.

That's true enough, too. The Passat idles quietly and its drivetrain engages and operates with slickness and efficiency. The shift is light and positive, the controls deftly and progressively weighted.

It also rides. Whatever changes have been worked to the suspension have left the Passat supple yet well controlled, and with a surprisingly good level of crash-free bump absorption, so you hear but don't feel most imperfections.

Whatever you think of the Phaeton luxury car, it's pretty clear to me that the lessons haven’t been wasted. The Passat feels like a mature, sophisticated car, with a high-quality feel to the interior.

Both saloon and estate go on sale this month, and both are more or less the same size as before. In estate form, as tested, that means a sizeable 603-litre boot with the rear seats in place. They can be unlatched by switches just inside the tailgate, then dropped by nudging them forward with your long luggage. Handy.

What the Passat isn't, though, is particularly engaging. Your perch is wide, flat and firmly comfortable, the environment ergonomically sound and exceptionally quiet. There's a clock within easy read. All admirable qualities in a bedroom, but the enthusiast will be left wanting more from a car. The chassis proves capable at stopping, going and turning, but there's no reward to be gained by doing any of them.

Should I buy one?

Volkswagen has the ability and resources to make a car entertaining if it chooses to, so it's clear that it doesn't expect or want those qualities of the Passat. For those whose interest in driving extends no further than it being a requirement of their job or family life, the Passat will prove close to class leading. If it were the equivalent of a fridge or a lawn mower, we'd have no hesitation in recommending one.

The enthusiast, though, will also want something else in the garage to be satisfied.

Volkswagen Passat Estate 2.0 TDI SE BlueMotion

Price: £22,875; Top speed: 132mph; 0-62mph: 10.0sec; Economy: 61.4mpg (combined); CO2: 120g/km; Kerb weight: 1571kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Installation: front, transverse, FWD; Power: 138bhp at 4200rpm; Torque: 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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Comments
27

4 January 2011

"For those whose interest in driving extends no further than it being a requirement of their job or family life, the Passat will prove close to class leading. If it were the equivalent of a fridge or a lawn mower, we'd have no hesitation in recommending one.

The enthusiast, though, will also want something else in the garage to be satisfied."

A enthusiastic drive is never what the Passat has been about. In this day and age of manufacturers trying to make ever more multi tallented cars (and often failing to do anything well), to me a car as single minded as the Passat should be applauded as loudly as something like a Porsche 911 GT3RS.


 

 

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

4 January 2011

All very worthy but what's the point when a Skoda Superb does the job just as well and with far more interior space for considerably less money?

4 January 2011

I've always quite liked the way passats looked and they have always driven reasonably well. This however is nothing short of disgusting

4 January 2011

[quote Devonboy]

All very worthy but what's the point when a Skoda Superb does the job just as well and with far more interior space for considerably less money?

[/quote] Passat no chance! I'd have the Superb - it's a better car for the money.

5 January 2011

Uncanny echos of Peugeot 406 styling, though doubtless [even] better engineered. And if VW's suspension values are starting to match Peugeots of yesteryear such as 504 and 404 then that's good too. Even better if Peugeot themselves went back to those particular roots.

5 January 2011

As my mother would say "it's as plain as Pyrex dear"

5 January 2011

Devonboy ,

Exactly the point I was trying to make but the system crashed on me . Seems Skoda is VWs tail wagging the dog .

5 January 2011

[quote Devonboy]All very worthy but what's the point when a Skoda Superb does the job just as well and with far more interior space for considerably less money?[/quote]

I think we all know the Skoda is probably a better car, however away from car forums and enthusiasts websites its a different story

The Passatt has built a reputation over many years (rightly or wrongly) as being a dependable comfy car with the right badge, The Skoda doesnt have this, and i bet most people dont even know what a Superb is. It will take a few more years for the Superb to have the credible name the Passatt does.

Oh and by the way yes the car does look a bit dull but who ever bought a Passat for its striking looks anyway?

5 January 2011

[quote TegTypeR]to me a car as single minded as the Passat should be applauded as loudly as something like a Porsche 911 GT3RS[/quote]

Don't worry, 'What Car' will love it...

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