What is it?
This is the first time we've tested the familiar 120bhp 1.4 turbocharged petrol motor in the new Passat, and our first steer in the saloon variant in the UK, and it delivers exactly the sort of experience you would expect; that is a very accomplished and predictably dull one.
But we all know that the Passat is not about engaging its driver. It's about carrying people around comfortably and with the minimum fuss, and this model does it admirably – even in this base 'S' trim.
What's it like?
Riding on the standard 16-inch alloys, the Passat can be slightly unsettled at lower speeds but it's not uncomfortable and generally it isolates occupants effectively, particularly at motorway speeds.
The cabin is underwhelming but feels solidly put together and entirely acceptable for this class, with enough space and usability to cater for the practicalities required of a family saloon. The base 'S' spec is equipped well, with air-con, leather multifunction wheel and USB input, which makes the Passat easy to live with even in entry-level guise.
The petrol motor also does the job required of it very well. It spins freely, is extremely quiet at idle, or with the standard stop-start on it restarts with noticeably less rattling and shuddering than a diesel motor will produce.
Whether it's around town or on the motorway the 1.4-litre engine continues to prove 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.
And the economy? We returned an indicated 34mpg over varied motorway and urban usage, but high 30s should be achievable.
Should I buy one?
When you realise that the equivalent 1.6 TDI model is less than £800 more and is significantly cheaper to run (in terms of tax and fuel) it's obvious why some still struggle to see the point in small petrol engines in big models like the Passat.
These are cars that are more than likely to cover many miles and see hard use, so where are the benefits over the more frugal diesel? Well, in a word, refinement. If you like the Passat and running costs are top of your priority list then the diesel model is still the best option. But if your miles are lower then don't discount the petrol motor as in some ways it's more pleasant to use and it shouldn't be costly to run by general class standards.
Even with all these objective merits, the Passat is tricky to recommend given that there are rivals from Ford and Skoda that offer a more interesting experience and are equally competent at meeting the essential requirements of the class. The VW is a decent, worthy competitor but there are better cars in the class.