What is it?
The eighth-generation Volkswagen Passat isn’t dead, and isn’t about to be killed off by the mercurial rise of the family SUV either, Volkswagen assures. It’s just been away for a bit, at least in some forms. And now that it’s back, its mid-life facelift coincides with the return of the version that must represent one of Wolfsburg’s better chances of commercial success in a business car market increasingly concerned with emissions reduction.
The Passat GTE plug-in hybrid was taken off sale last summer, when changing European emissions regulations rendered it obsolete. Now it’s returned with a bigger drive battery and 30 per cent more zero-emissions range, as well as some new driving mode functionality. It also benefits from the highlights of Wolfsburg’s wider update for the Passat range, which brings a new touchscreen infotainment system, some new engines and a few styling tweaks besides.
A five per-cent price slash is the sweetener expected to complete the hike in sales profile for the petrol-electric, ultra-low emissions derivative; the GTE accounted for only ten per cent of pre-facelift UK Passat sales at its height but should make up 25 per cent now. That won’t be enough to make it the UK’s biggest-selling Passat derivative: a couple of diesel-engined models will likely still outsell it, at least according to VW’s expectations – but that's mainly because the Passat remains a car very popular with company car drivers who haven't abandoned diesel in quite the same way that private buyers have.