First DriveCheapest diesel has all of the polish of its rangemates. A car of real class, although not such a rewarding one to drive.
First DriveThe all-new VW Passat has been given added polish to tempt buyers away from upmarket rivals, but the price is a bit more premium, too
What is it?
This is the fuel-saving champion of the Passat range, the BlueMotion 1.6 TDI. Volkswagen has muddied the azure waters of its BlueMotion ethos by adding BlueMotion Technology-badged vehicles to its line-up in recent months. These are cars which have adopted certain fuel-saving technologies without going the whole eco-hog, but it has perhaps made it less clear which versions of each car are in fact the most economical. Of the 24 variants in the current Passat line-up, 15 of them carry the BlueMotion Technology badge, but only one car – this one – is actually defined as a BlueMotion model.
And this 1.6-litre TDI-engined sub-premium mid-sized saloon comes with some pretty impressive headline numbers, with an official combined economy figure of 69mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km. Whether you’re a private buyer or choosing from a company car list, those numbers aren’t to be sniffed at.
What’s it like
Well, it’s certainly economical, and some of the numbers displayed on the trip computer beggar belief at times. How about a projected 915-mile range after a fill up? Or a claimed 71.8mpg at the end of a 36-mile motorway and urban commute? Most impressively, a genuine 58mpg on a drive from southwest London to Sheffield without even trying, with the gauge still reading well over half full with 440 miles’ worth of diesel left in the tank at the end of the 406-mile round trip. And our car only had 2000 miles showing on its odometer. There are without doubt even more impressive figures to come once the engine has more miles under its belt.
Even as it is, this is a refined and relaxed motorway cruiser. It’s not fast by any means – far from it – but the Passat BlueMotion is more than capable of keeping up with the motorway flow. And neither is its ride or refinement badly compromised in the name of frugality. The ride is a little lumpier and noisier over some surfaces than other Passats elsewhere in the range, but the difference is so minor as to be a perfectly acceptable trade-off.
This is, however, not a car entirely immune to criticism, and almost all of this can be pointed at the engine’s performance, or lack of it. For while VW’s 104bhp 1.6 TDI motor is clearly an economical powerplant, it’s asking a lot of it to haul a 1505kg saloon around in anything other than a sedate and orderly fashion.
Enthusiastic drivers will perhaps quickly tire of chasing ever-more improbable numbers on the dash display, and find themselves wanting just a little more in the way of straight-line performance and overtaking ability at least every now and then.
Should I buy one?
Possibly. This is without doubt an impressively refined, solidly well executed and astonishingly economical saloon. But you’ll need to be sure that the compromises you’re embracing in the name of saving fuel, money and the planet aren’t going to start to grate after a while, namely the absence of any significant punch from the engine.
If you regularly carry a car full of passengers and their luggage over any distance, then the Passat BlueMotion’s lack of performance might be an issue. By way of comparison, the £21,355 Passat 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Technology offers a more powerful and flexible 138bhp and 236lb ft, and yet still delivers an impressive official combined economy figure of 61.4mpg allied to 119g/km of CO2.
Alternatively, the smaller Golf BlueMotion 1.6 TDI five-door uses exactly the same engine as the Passat BlueMotion but weighs 191kg less (about the same as two passengers and their luggage). As a result, it offers better straight-line performance than the Passat BlueMotion, but it returns even better economy (74.3mpg combined) and emits even less CO2 (99g/km). And it’s cheaper, too, at just £19,430.
Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion 1.6 TDI 105
Price; £20,285 (price as tested £22,585); 0-62mph: 12.2sec; Top speed: 123mph; Kerb weight: 1505kg; Economy: 69mpg (combined); CO2: 109g/km; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Max power: 104bhp at 4400rpm; Max torque: 184lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual