This is the one that’ll have the competition worried. Not just the traditional competition, either. The Volkswagen Passat has been troubling the large family car market for years, but this time Volkswagen isn’t just targeting the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia.

Not when the wider Volkswagen Group has a new Skoda Superb that will muscle its way farther into that market. No, this time, as well as competing against high-end large family cars, VW is ever more serious about pitching the Passat against compact executives such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The truth is that it’s one of the few mainstream manufacturers with a sufficiently carefully nurtured brand cachet to do it.

In reality, though, the Passat has been on the way to this position for years. The new version is its eighth generation, and more than 22 million have been sold worldwide since the original was launched in 1973 (and even then it was a development of 
the Audi 80, Volkswagen having 
just acquired the brand).

Almost half a million of those sales have been in the UK, and with good reason. The Passat hasn’t often led the class outright – at least, not for those who like their saloon cars to come with a modicum of driver enjoyment and involvement – but if you are a buyer who puts interior 
feel and refinement at the top of your list of priorities, the big Volkswagen has been as good a buy as you’ll 
find at this level.

The latest iteration of the Passat arrives in five trim levels, from S through to R-Line, and priced from £22,680 in saloon form. Almost the whole range is diesel except for a the petrol-hybrid GTE that tops the range. Estates carry a £1530 premium, while there is also the inclusion of a rugged 4x4 Alltrack estate, while the coupé-like four-door CC, due in 2017, is a different proposition again.

Our test car is a 2.0 TDI 190 GT saloon with the optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Porsche 911 GT3 manual 2017 review
    First Drive
    28 April 2017
    The new 911 GT3 is an excellent machine; does the addition of a manual gearbox make it even better?
  • Skoda Karoq
    First Drive
    28 April 2017
    The Yeti has morphed into the Karoq for its second generation, and this early drive reveals a solid, practical small SUV that could challenge the class best
  • Opel Ampera-e
    First Drive
    27 April 2017
    Opel's second-generation Ampera is smaller than the first, and now purely electric. It's also very capable with a remarkable range
  • Lotus Elise Sprint
    First Drive
    27 April 2017
    The latest incarnation of the Elise may be out of its depth on track, but on the public road it is probably the purest version since the original
  • First Drive
    26 April 2017
    The compromises of adding a plug-in hybrid drivetrain to the 5 Series make the new 530e iPerformance tough to recommend