The 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?

It’s no longer enough for the Volkswagen Passat to be ‘merely’ fit for purpose. Big, comfortable, well equipped, safe and affordable are all old hat, judging by the dwindling sales of traditional mainstream family cars, and the soaring popularity of smaller, more expensive saloons such as the BMW 3-series.

VW has evidently taken the hint, which is why this new model has scrubbed up and put on its best cufflinks to take on the more premium end of the market. 

The problem is that the Passat has also gone up in price, so even this mid-spec GT model, complete with the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine, will set you back more than £26,000. That’s still usefully cheaper than a BMW 320d but a fair bit more expensive than the new Ford Mondeo.

What's it like?

It’s no 3-series to drive, unfortunately. The Passat is a big car, and despite having a Sport setting for the steering (and the optional £700 adaptive dampers fitted to our test car), it still feels stoic and relaxing rather than exciting.

There’s a fair bit of body roll and pitch under braking, but at least ride comfort is decent even over the worst British roads. Speed bumps and broad undulations are shrugged off easily, and motorways are schlepped down in a stable and unflustered fashion. Only over high-frequency road scarring do you notice a bit of patter, unless you stick those adaptive dampers into Sport mode, at which point things get a bit more jarring. 

Still, while there's not enough feedback to inject much sense of fun into the handling, the steering is light and weights up predictably, which makes it easy to place the Passat precisely on the road and gives the car a well sorted if not particularly scintillating feel. 

There's little evidence of sporting intent from the engine, either. Once you’ve spun it up to about 1400rpm, the turbo kicks in progressively and delivers enough mid-range vigour for reasonable overtaking ability, although this Passat never feels fast. That said, the light, slick six-speed gearbox and well judged pedal responses make it easy to hustle the car along smoothly and at a decent pace. 

The most dramatic change is in the cabin. Swathes of varying textures and soft-touch materials make the Passat feel a notch or two above its predecessor, and the standard 6.5-inch colour touchscreen complete with sat nav is the finishing, high-tech flourish (the car pictured has an optional 8.0-inch upgrade). Even better, the broad, cushy driver’s seat is heated and gets lumbar and thigh support adjustment, as well as variable tilt and height adjustment to the base and an electrically adjusted backrest. 

Other than that, you get all the kit you could want. Adaptive cruise control features, as does climate control not only in the front but also in the back, where you’ll enjoy loads of legroom and enough headroom for all but the very lanky. The boot is vast enough for most families’ needs and benefits from levers to allow you to drop the 60/40 split, spring-loaded folding rear seats easily from the boot. 

Should I buy one?

Overall, the Passat feels polished and precisely executed. It’s certainly inching closer in general aura and perceived quality to the prestige marques, and this, along with impressive emissions and equipment, makes it one of the best big saloons available as a company or private buy. We would, however, suggest looking at cheaper trims for even better value. 

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It’s just a shame that Volkswagen hasn’t injected a little more flair into the Passat’s dynamics; a glimmer of enjoyment to make the odd corner on the way home something to look forward to. If that matters to you, the new Ford Mondeo could well be better suited to your needs, and it’s also more refined. But if high-end feel and comfort are more important, the faultlessly composed if slightly dull Passat is an outstanding proposition.

Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI 150 GT

Price £26,430; 0-62mph 8.7sec; Top speed 137mph; Economy 68.9mpg (combined); CO2 109g/km; Kerb weight 1475kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Power 148bhp at 3500-4000rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 1750-3000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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AddyT 8 January 2015


Andrew Lee you say a Passat is pretentious?! LOL! I really don't think it is - it's always been perceived by customers to be in the same bracket as a Mondeo (which isn't a pretentious choice) and it's certainly not a 3 series/A4 etc and the points Rich Boy Spanners makes are spot on. Also, I did notice that in the recent Autocar review of the Mondeo estate it says it's lost some of its infamous handling prowess...yet this is still far behind it? This will drive like a larger Golf MK7 and I should think due to the Mondeo's perceived transgression away from relatively "pin sharp" handling, I should think they are closer than ever to drive.
xxxx 7 January 2015

first page

The above comment holds true on Windows browsers too. A cock-up in the first place and the IT crowd don't have the ability to fix it either. Re-boot.
Aussierob 6 January 2015

Autocar website

Just in case any Autocar staff ever look at these blogs, could I point out that not only are all comments after the first page inaccessible, you can no longer double tap the screen of an iPad to enlarge the text.
As far as I know, this is unique (obviously I haven't looked at every website on the interweb, but I've never found another as bad as this.)
May I respectful suggest Autocar sacks whoever put this disaster zone together and revamps it pronto?