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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

It’s Bluemotion tech to the fore in the latest Volkswagen Passat. The 1.6-litre 103bhp diesel that does such sterling service elsewhere in the VW group line-up may sound a bit weedy for a Passat. In fact, it does an okay job of propelling such a large car. It’s not going to set the world alight as a 0-62mph time of 12.2secs shows, but if gentle progress, impressive refinement and incredible economy is what you’re after, it’s an easy choice.

VW Group’s ubiquitous 2.0-litre diesel engine will be most popular in 138bhp form, although it is also offered in a 168bhp output. Our general feeling is that, coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox, the lower-powered version is its most appealing guise, as it offers decent performance and economy is reasonably refined.

Every engine produces impressively low noise levels

Certainly, it delivers enough thrust to propel the Passat with adequate verve. A 0-60mph sprint of 10.0sec is not the kind of time that has anybody writing home these days but is entirely sufficient. It’s a flexible delivery, too, once you’ve passed the lag that afflicts most small-capacity turbodiesels below 1500rpm.

With the diesels providing such a tempting combination of performance and economy, the only petrol really worth considering is the 1.4TSI. Whether it's around town or on the motorway the 1.4-litre engine proves that (provided you don't push it into the upper rev ranges) it is more refined still than the already hushed diesel equivalent, and flexible enough that it doesn't feel strained as some might expect of a small petrol engine in a heavy car. In fact, mated to the standard six-speed gearbox it really is a very effective powertrain - usable, quiet and responsive.

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The gearshift itself is light, largely notch-free and positive. The clutch is similarly light and progressive. It suggests an easy-going nature to the drive, which is backed up by low noise levels.

Our experience of a DSG-equipped Passat unfortunately ran counter to the manual's easy-going nature. The transmission was hesitant and jerky when pulling away from junctions and the marriage between it and the stop-start system was not a happy one. The latter is frustratingly slow to react, which often results in the engine cutting out just as you are hoping to pull away.