From £19,620
Bargain US and Chinese spec VW Passat forces you to make remarkably few 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?

14 November 2011

What is it?

This is the US-spec VW Passat, which in America costs from around £13,000. But before you phone your nearest dealer and accuse them of ripping you off, bear in mind that, despite its name and similar visual appearance, the car is significantly different from the Euro-spec VW Passat.

The US-market Passat sits on an extended version of the European car’s platform, which makes it 10cm longer, 1.3cm wider and therefore more spacious. Every body panel is different and it has a bespoke interior. However, despite its low price, VW hasn’t followed the example of its US-spec Jetta and fitted less sophisticated suspension to the American Passat; instead, it keeps the same advanced multi-link suspension of the European car.

Much of the cost saving comes from the fact it is built in the US, at a $1 billion plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, using 80% US sourced parts – and, perhaps, because VW isn’t chasing profits aggressively as it seeks to triple its US sales to 800,000 cars a year by 2018, thereby challenging the likes of Honda and Toyota.

It is sold with a range-topping 276bhp 3.6-litre V6, along with a 168bhp 2.5-litre petrol –the predicted best-seller – and a 138bhp 2.0 litre diesel. Here we test the two extremes of the range.

A lightly modified version of this car is also on sale in China.

What’s it like?

Critics say it’s bland to look at, VW claims it’s a timeless and sophisticated design – and you can be the judge.

Certainly the interior loses little to its European counterpart. The quality of the materials is a match for the best, and all of the equipment is pretty familiar, save for some larger cup holders in the door pockets and the slightly low rent analogue clock in the centre of the dash.

It’s spacious too, those extra centimeters sitting within the wheelbase and adding welcome shoulder and leg room in the front and back. The only oddity is that the rear seats don't run to the edges of the cabin, leaving hard plastic filling out the resultant gap. It’s not a major problem, but nor is it the last word in sophistication.

On the road, the impression was positive. Road and wind noise were ever-present, especially on the poorly surfaced roads we tested on. The steering is sluggish at all speeds, and the ride on the firm side. But none of these issues were overwhelming; always that asking price, which remains competitive as you move up the range, loomed as a positive.

Inevitably, the diesel felt the better of the two motors, both of which were linked to six-speed DSG gearboxes. That’s in part was down to familiarity, the four-cylinder 2.0-litre VW unit needing to be more modern than its petrol counterparts to meet diesel emissions regulations. In contrast, the old school V6 petrol felt fun but indulgent, refined but a bit of a hoodlum in the modern world.

Should I buy one?

Unless you live in the US, or VW changes its marketing plans, you won’t be able to. If you are in the market, then it makes an intriguing and good value alternative to the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry or Hyundai Sonata.

Price from: £13,000; Engine: 3.6-litre V6 petrol/2.0-litre diesel; Power: 276bhp/138bhp; Torque: 258lb ft/236lb ft; Gearbox: Six-speed DSG.

Join the debate

Comments
27

15 November 2011

I'd rather that for £13K, Than our version for whatever they carge for it.

£13K? Thats like Polo money.

15 November 2011

[quote fhp11]

I'd rather that for £13K, Than our version for whatever they carge for it.

£13K? Thats like Polo money.

[/quote]

Unfortunately that price doesn't include VAT and all the other additions we'd have to pay to put it on the road here... Would probably end up over £16k, which in fact is probably still cheaper than an equivalent Euro model.

15 November 2011

It may be called the Passat and may be slightly larger than a Passat but it looks just like a European Jetta. And regarding the interior, same applies - isn't it more European Jetta than Passat? IMO it's also better looking than our Passat and like Jetta, it has a proper handbrake, none of this button nonsense which when it first appeared, really had to be specified with optional 'Hill Hold'.

15 November 2011

[quote ronmcdonald]It may be called the Passat and may be slightly larger than a Passat but it looks just like a European Jetta.[/quote]

You can tell the difference between a Euro Passat and a Jetta? Wow.

15 November 2011

[quote supermanuel]

[quote ronmcdonald]It may be called the Passat and may be slightly larger than a Passat but it looks just like a European Jetta.[/quote]

You can tell the difference between a Euro Passat and a Jetta? Wow.

[/quote]

That's how sad I am.

Another thing is regarding price. A 2.0tdi SE over here will cost you a tad over £22k list the USA model $26k but then you have to add all the various taxes and you're up to over $30k. But VW USA have decided to follow the Japanese route and specify their cars with lots of equipment that's optional over here. They get the touchscreen radio as std, they get 8-way powered seats, they get (mock) leather, they get heated seats and full climate control etc.

On a like-for-like basis the USA model is even better value than first appears.

15 November 2011

But the question still remains......what's the real reason for a different version for the US and Europe (including the UK)?

Peter Cavellini.

15 November 2011

[quote Peter Cavellini]

But the question still remains......what's the real reason for a different version for the US and Europe (including the UK)? [/quote]

Americans have completely different car expectations to Europeans, hence this car is bigger and has bigger cupholders. Handling, ride finesse and even build quality fall below space, floating-wafting ride and the ability to hold a quart cup of coca-cola.

Culturally Europeans don't like American engineering firms like Bechtel and Fluor and even if you're British you'd have to admit they're horrible to work for. The same applies to American cars which universally bomb when they release them in Europe. They're built for Americans. Lots of Americans like to think they have European roots but they are merely Americans and as such their car culture (driving round in circles is called "racing") is anathema to Europeans.

15 November 2011

I have said it in another context as well, but am really worked up about this idea that Europeans do not want space inside their car. Cars have grown and grown, and still you cannot seat three teenagers or adults comfortably in the back of cars as big as the BMW 5, Audi A6 or Mercedes E class. I like driving and want a car that drives and corners well but why oh why can this not be combined with spacious, cleverly designed interiors?

Faustcar

Myk

15 November 2011

You'd have to think though that there must be plenty of people in Europe who'd like a big wafty car with generous equipment, instead of something honed at the Nurburgring.

Interesting also how it highlights the difference in the way the Accord is marketed over here, where Honda regard it as a "premium" (shudder) product.

15 November 2011

Faustcar, I completely agree. I cannot understand why European car manufacturers (with the honourable exception of Skoda) reserve the most spacious versions of their cars for the Chinese, who are not noted for being particularly long-limbed. Come on VAG, BMW and Mercedes, in an "executive" car nudging 5 metres in length, there's no excuse for failing to provide rear legroom adequate for adults and teenagers of northern European dimensions to sit in comfort for long journeys. And for God's sake, while you're at it, pitch the height of the seat cushion far enough off the floor to ensure that tall passengers aren't forced into an uncomfortable "knees under chin" position - the latest BMW 5 series is a perfect example of how not to do it.

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