From £22,0259
A credit to VW’s reputation for peerless engineering and attention to detail. Conventional, predictable, rational – but very accomplished

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI 190 GT DSG
The new Volkswagen Passat is now in its eighth generation

The Passat wants to head upmarket. Does it have the substance?

What is it?

The new, eighth-generation VW Passat – which has quietly become a very important model for Volkswagen. Only a handful of cars have ever had the lasting popularity to break through the 20 million mark on cumulative worldwide sales. Volkswagen’s made three all on its own.

In Europe, we’d recognise two of those three as genuine automotive institutions: the Golf and the original Beetle

If you’d pick the Passat as Wolfsburg’s third sales titan, you’re smarter than me. In China, they would; North America, perhaps. Us Europeans may not realise it but, on the back of huge success in those markets in particular, the Passat (and its derivatives) has now become the fastest-selling VW on the planet.

Success breeds confidence – and the new eighth-generation Passat, which is coming to UK showrooms early next year, though orders open this month - reeks of it. This is still a deeply conventional, conservative, evolutionary car, as you’d expect of something so established – but it’s ambitious.

VW’s intent is clearly to present the mature European markets with a genuine alternative to a fully-fledged, premium-branded compact executive option; something that asks them to trade just a touch of brand cachet for the sort of quality, refinement, comfort, technology and space that better sets a car apart.

This time around, VW’s versatile MQB platform forms the basis of the car – and brings with it some telling gains. On average, 85kg has been saved from each version of the Passat in the jump between generations, while the car’s interior and exterior designers benefitted from the opportunity to stretch the wheelbase while simultaneously making the car shorter, lower and wider.

Cabin length is up by 33mm, and rear headroom by almost as much, and available boot space grows too. 

What's it like?

The car feels as spacious as almost anything in the class now – and yet it’s actually shrunk. And, as ever, it’s as solidly constructed, generously appointed and meticulously finished as even the best premium saloons.

The Passat’s cabin isn’t one to delight you with colour or a theatrical flourish, but instead to gently soothe with its simplicity and substance. From the climate control knobs to the trip computer and multimedia buttons, every rotor and switch feels solid, intuitively placed. 

The boldest feature is a grille-aping spar running the full width of the dashboard that turns the air vents into a unifying styling theme.

Elsewhere, the satin chrome trims are tastefully deployed and every single above-the-knee moulding is soft and tactile. Every storage cubby is flock-lined. The doors close with the kind of ‘whump’ that could seal a space shuttle’s airlock. This is a Passat alright – done with even greater commitment to the car’s familiar ideals.

All versions come as standard with conventional instruments, but a few months after launch VW will offer the optional 12.3-inch Active Info Display of our test car, with its configurable dials and handy multimedia screen nestling between them. A head-up display is also optional, while the upper-trim 8-inch Discover Pro infotainment system atop of the centre stack carries plenty of new functionality such as app-mirroring for Android smartphones, and live traffic and Google Earth functionality.

This is a car fitted with every active safety system VW has, that’ll actually reverse-park a caravan or trailer for you if you option it up appropriately. VW’s taking it to the premium brands on technological sophistication as much as anything here, in some style.

The Passat has been a diesel-only range for UK buyers since 2012, and with the exception of the Passat GTE plug-in hybrid and the Passat R performance version, it’ll continue to be. Engines will span from a 118bhp 1.6-litre TDI, through 2.0-litre TDIs in 148bhp and 187bhp outputs, up to the brand new 237bhp twin-turbo diesel we sampled. A Bluemotion comes later.

The car’s MacPherson strut front, four-link rear suspension has been adapted and developed from what you’ll find in a Golf; new control arms, pivot bearings and anti-roll bars feature, while you get ride-isolating fluid-filled bushings at the rear if you opt for the headline diesel model. Also standard on the BiTDI is Haldex-based four-wheel drive and VW’s wet-clutched seven-speed DSG gearbox.

This engine’s only offered in upper-level ‘GT’ and ‘R-Design’ trim levels, positioning it head-to-head on price with cars from the richer end of the BMW 3-series and Audi A4 line-up. In lots of ways, it’s more than worthy of the comparison; on fuel-efficiency and cabin isolation, particularly so.

Though you expect a diesel with this kind of specific output to be fairly vociferous, the Passat’s pleasingly quiet throughout most of the rev range. But the character of the powerplant, which uses parallel low- and high-pressure turbos, isn’t much different from that of a normal four-pot turbodiesel.

Pedal response is clean, the torque comes on thick and strong through the lower-middle of the rev range and, though the crankshaft spins willingly up to 4000rpm and beyond for overtaking, it delivers little by way of a sporting climax. The car’s fast enough when roused – but seldom do you feel sufficiently excited to gee it up.

Getting the adaptive dampers of VW’s Dynamic Chassis Control system and the progressive steering rack from the Golf GTI as standard, the BiTDi has the familiar ‘Comfort’, ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Individual’ modes to its handling repertoire.

Each of the first three serve up what it says on the tin, broadly speaking. The car’s outright body control ranges from respectable to tight-and-tetchy as you ramp up the settings. 

Grip levels are ample; the variable-rate steering’s decent, with increasing weight to correspond with directness as you add lock, but little contact patch feel.

As is the norm with VW Group machines, you arrive at the best compromise of ride comfort and fluency, transmission response and steering centre-feel by mixing settings on the ‘Individual’ mode. The end result is perfectly satisfactory, but more refined and pliant than it is poised or engaging.

Should I buy one?

You should, but the question is whether you want one. Ordinary family saloons aren’t exactly flavour of the month, after all.

Even without the dynamism of a true sports saloon, the Passat’s good enough to top the volume-brand saloon class – new Ford Mondeo notwithstanding. But that doesn’t earn it an unqualified recommendation any more. 

It’ll be a particularly level-headed customer who can shun the allure of an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz to buy one – or the pull of a compact SUV or crossover for that matter.

You wouldn’t bet on a great many doing it. But with so much apparent quality, refinement, efficiency, practicality and convenience on its side, this is a very accomplished car that certainly deserves to do well.

VW Passat 2.0 BiTDi GT 4Motion

Price £34,510; 0-62mph 6.1sec; Top speed 149mph; Economy 53.3mpg; CO2 139g/km; Kerbweight 1721kg; Engine 4cyls, 1968cc, twin-turbocharged diesel; Power 237bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 369lb ft between 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

6 October 2014
Matt - it's brand "cachet" not "cache" which has something to do with computers. Good solid article, though. Much like the car, presumably.

6 October 2014
Afternoon Norma. Consider that revised. Many thanks for the heads-up.

6 October 2014
This new Passat may have 4WD, but take that away (say 100kg) and it' still a very heavy car for the class, around 1600kg. And Jaguar's XE is around 1400kg. Just further evidence of Jaguar's industry leading engineering and technical prowess, they went for aluminium and for their car in this class and it's paid off handsomely. 2 cars in the same car launched more or less at the same time and already one of them has old school engineering and it's not the Jaguar. As for the price of this variant of the Passat, that's a complete and utter joke. Who said the Germans don't have a sense of humour. Not only are many of their cars average on ability, cheap feeling, low tech and unreliable, they charge a premium for them. Jaguar must be laughing.

6 October 2014
Roadster wrote:
This new Passat may have 4WD, but take that away (say 100kg) and it' still a very heavy car for the class, around 1600kg. And Jaguar's XE is around 1400kg. Just further evidence of Jaguar's industry leading engineering and technical prowess, they went for aluminium and for their car in this class and it's paid off handsomely. 2 cars in the same car launched more or less at the same time and already one of them has old school engineering and it's not the Jaguar. As for the price of this variant of the Passat, that's a complete and utter joke. Who said the Germans don't have a sense of humour. Not only are many of their cars average on ability, cheap feeling, low tech and unreliable, they charge a premium for them. Jaguar must be laughing.
The old 2wd 2.0Tdi Passat saloon was 1530kg. With an average of 85kg drop across the range (between 70 and 105kg according to the german press) that means the 2.0tdi must be around 1450kg give or take 10kg. The Jag is in fact (according to Autocar) around 1470kg. Perhaps it's a British thing to round up and round down so as to make things look a little better than reality. Maybe we should take after the Germans and stop with the jokes and just get on with making great products and doing the job right the first time.

6 October 2014
Roadster wrote:
This new Passat may have 4WD, but take that away (say 100kg) and it' still a very heavy car for the class, around 1600kg. And Jaguar's XE is around 1400kg. Just further evidence of Jaguar's industry leading engineering and technical prowess, they went for aluminium and for their car in this class and it's paid off handsomely. 2 cars in the same car launched more or less at the same time and already one of them has old school engineering and it's not the Jaguar. As for the price of this variant of the Passat, that's a complete and utter joke. Who said the Germans don't have a sense of humour. Not only are many of their cars average on ability, cheap feeling, low tech and unreliable, they charge a premium for them. Jaguar must be laughing.
Are you kidding ? Jag have used ally and its made bugger all difference compared to the 3 series and the C class, hardly "industry leading" and "technical prowess", more like a total waste of time and money (theyre charging more for it cos its made of ally but its hardly lighter at all). The MQB platform is hardly "old school" either. Wait til weights are quoted for non 4wd single turbo Passats and compare them then. As for your comments about German cars being "average on ability, cheap feeling, low tech and unreliable, they charge a premium for them", cant see many people agreeing with any of that, apart from the last bit and Jag is charging a premium for the XE cos its made of ally, even though its so heavy it may as well be made of steel ! And on top of that its clear from the look of the XE (BMW and Audi styling cues everywhere) that Jag have just copied the looks of their rivals. Are you a JLR press officer by chance ?

6 October 2014
typos1 wrote:
Roadster wrote:
This new Passat may have 4WD, but take that away (say 100kg) and it' still a very heavy car for the class, around 1600kg. And Jaguar's XE is around 1400kg. Just further evidence of Jaguar's industry leading engineering and technical prowess, they went for aluminium and for their car in this class and it's paid off handsomely. 2 cars in the same car launched more or less at the same time and already one of them has old school engineering and it's not the Jaguar. As for the price of this variant of the Passat, that's a complete and utter joke. Who said the Germans don't have a sense of humour. Not only are many of their cars average on ability, cheap feeling, low tech and unreliable, they charge a premium for them. Jaguar must be laughing.
Are you kidding ? Jag have used ally and its made bugger all difference compared to the 3 series and the C class, hardly "industry leading" and "technical prowess", more like a total waste of time and money (theyre charging more for it cos its made of ally but its hardly lighter at all). The MQB platform is hardly "old school" either. Wait til weights are quoted for non 4wd single turbo Passats and compare them then. As for your comments about German cars being "average on ability, cheap feeling, low tech and unreliable, they charge a premium for them", cant see many people agreeing with any of that, apart from the last bit and Jag is charging a premium for the XE cos its made of ally, even though its so heavy it may as well be made of steel ! And on top of that its clear from the look of the XE (BMW and Audi styling cues everywhere) that Jag have just copied the looks of their rivals. Are you a JLR press officer by chance ?
Have to agree with the reliability of VAG products in general. The latest Golf 7 is getting awful reviews from customers for reliability. They really need to start concentrating on 'old school' values of solid engineering and cast iron reliability instead of fancy finishes and shut lines as a 9 month old Golf breaking down twice with major build quality issues are not the right direction for VW. Especially at £27,000!! The comment by AC "If you’d pick the Passat as Wolfsburg’s third sales titan, you’re smarter than me. In China, they would; North America, perhaps." The Americans are steering well clear of VWs after the latest JD Power reviews. They are now regarded and overpriced, underpowered and unreliable over there. VW sales of the GTI and Jetta are under real strain.

7 October 2014
...the weight difference is probably balanced out by the larger dimensions and cabin space -they've clearly used the most stretched of the MQB rear sections for this application. It wouldn't stop me getting the Jag instead, of course.

8 October 2014
Roadster wrote:
This new Passat may have 4WD, but take that away (say 100kg) and it' still a very heavy car for the class, around 1600kg. And Jaguar's XE is around 1400kg. Just further evidence of Jaguar's industry leading engineering and technical prowess, they went for aluminium and for their car in this class and it's paid off handsomely. 2 cars in the same car launched more or less at the same time and already one of them has old school engineering and it's not the Jaguar. As for the price of this variant of the Passat, that's a complete and utter joke. Who said the Germans don't have a sense of humour. Not only are many of their cars average on ability, cheap feeling, low tech and unreliable, they charge a premium for them. Jaguar must be laughing.
Figure for the fwd TDI estate is 1430kgs, estates are always heavier, so looks like the saloon will be lighter than part ally XE, so no, Jag's tech is most certainly NOT clas leading, when a steel car is lighter !!

9 October 2014
The Jaguar XE 2.0 i4 Diesel weighs in at 1,474 kg. Here are all the potential rivals in weight-ascending order (all models listed are closest equivalent saloons in price, performance and economy): Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI (1,475 kg), BMW 320d (1,495 kg), Audi A4 2.0 TDI Ultra (1,540 kg), Volvo S60 D4 181 (1,542 kg), Mercedes-Benz C200 BlueTEC (1,550 kg), Volkswagen CC 2.0 TDI 177 (1,565 kg), Honda Accord 2.2 i-DTEC 180 (1,575 kg), Lexus IS 300h (1,680 kg), Infiniti Q50 2.2D (1,736 kg) and Peugeot 508 2.0 HDi Hybrid4 (1,815 kg). So yes, the Jaguar XE is the lightest by either a little or a massive amount, depending on what you compare it to!

9 October 2014
Jaguar is CD-Premium segment, where Passat is C-Non Premium off a golf MQB platform. The Jaguar is substantially better equipped than a Passat. So, Jaguar have done a premium CD-Premium, at the same weight as a poorly equipped non-premium in the size segment below. Please could you explain where you think my reasoning is incorrect?

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