First launched in 1973, the Volkswagen Passat has sold over 22 million models in over a 100 markets worldwide since then. Through each incarnation, VW has tweaked the car a little here and a little there, but essentially it retains many of the hallmarks and traditions of that original model. It is reasonable to say that Volkswagen plays safe with its past & with its future sales. Perhaps Volkswagen knows that its average customer isn’t necessarily dazzled by gizmos, nor tempted by excess, but wants to drive a well crafted, elegant car & with the latest Passat Volkswagen have most definitely achieved that.
Volkswagen offers the Passat with three petrol, four diesel & a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, the GTE. And, there are eight variants; SE, SE Nav, SEL, R-Line, estate only R-Line Edition, plus the Alltrack, GTE & GTE Advance. In the UK the estate is the bigger seller 2:1 over the saloon, with sales of Passat being split 78% in the fleet sector, to 22% retail. So, the new model then, is a big deal for UK company car drivers.
We were testing the Passat estate SEL powered by the 2.0 TDI 190 PS engine, with the 7-speed DSG gear box . As far as estates go & I like them, it’s a real good looker. Volkswagen have taken the blueprint for the latest model & have without appearing to change too much, sculpted a better looking car than before, which is no mean achievement. They’ve tweaked the bumpers front & rear, added a retouched grille, with new paint & alloy wheel’s, plus new tail-lights & new Passat lettering.
Inside, the Passat feel’s more modern. There’s some new trim & finish, a new steering wheel, the analogue clock mounted on the dashboard has been removed, there’s PASSAT letting in the centre of the dash, the infotainment has been updated with a new 8″ screen standard across all models. All in all, it feels better than before, which I’m sure is what VW were aiming for.
I parked my test car next to an older Passat, a Mk7 & at a glance, the Passat Mk8 looks well, like a Passat & let’s face that’s no bad thing. Break through the skin however & you’ll discover the major changes.
Everything in the latest Passat is new; it’s design, technologies & engines. This model is 85 kg lighter, the wheelbase is 79 mm longer, it’s 14 mm lower & 12 mm wider. Despite being slightly smaller on the outside, it’s larger on the inside, with more leg & head room & increased luggage space over the Mk7.
Standard across the range is an Auto Hold brake, which meant I didn’t have to use the foot brake when stopped at lights, etc. There are some nice touches in the boot including two large storage pockets & a couple of quick rear seat release levers which are easy to locate & extremely effective. The space on offer in an estate is usually the reason customers want one in the first place & the Passat doesn’t disappoint with 520 litres available with all seats in use & 1780 litres if you fold the three rear seats down.
The cabin is Scandinavian-cool & the latest model is another step-up in quality & to my mind is now more than a match for that found in an Audi A4. As a bonus it’s also very easy to understand- we own a T-Roc so the infotainment & settings are very familiar – . Some might say that it still looks quite safe, but in my opinion that’s no bad thing.
Delve a little deeper though & this new model is packed with new technology for “Generation Y” to play with. Bluetooth is now offered as standard on all models. There’s a new optional Active Info Display which replaces the instrument cluster with a fully interactive 12.3 inch TFT display & a head up display, mirroring much of the Passat’s competition. The latest Modular Infotainment System including Car-Net Guide & Inform, the latest generation Park Assist including the option for the car to park itself forwards into perpendicular spaces & a worlds first, Vokswagen’s Trailer Assist system, great for festival goers, caravanner’s, motorcycle & bike owners. Safety systems on the new model also include Side Assist, with Rear Traffic Alert, Traffic Jam Assist, Emergency Assist & a Front Assist system with City Emergency Braking as well as predictive pedestrian protection. New Travel Assist is also standard across the range.
The 190PS diesel is a joy to drive. I selected Eco , you can also choose from Sport, Normal & Comfort, or select your own settings & set off for a spin. Around town, the 190PS engine is quiet & the StopStart unobtrusive. The 8” colour touchscreen with Discover Nav DVD DAB radio with integrated voice action works really well & it features one of the best maps I’ve encountered & is ever so easy to use. Bluetooth connect’s literally in seconds & I came away extremely impressed. I was also able to utilise Apple CarPlay. Yet again, it’s simple & easy to connect via a mini USB connector, although the new model does feature a Wireless App Connect, negating the cable connection for Apps.
On the motorway, the Adaptive Cruise Control is superb, removing the hassle from motorway driving with all of it’s foibles.The beauty of the 190 version, is that if you need power, it’s there if you need it, especially useful for getting past & around slow moving traffic on the motorway in bad Winter weather. The suspension is typically VAG, quite hard & little unforgiving, whilst the steering is light & precise. Point & go & the Passat will do a sit’s told. This version feels sporty to drive & is set up accordingly.
The Passat may not increase your heart rate, but it’s definitely a car that’s easy to live with. The seats are comfortable, with plenty of adjustment in the seats & steering wheel. The 187bhp 2.0 litre diesel offers up pretty decent form & will hit 62mph in just 8.2 seconds & will go on to reach a top speed of 144 mph. Claimed combined fuel economy is 47.7 mpg, with CO2 emissions of 120g/km. But I think you’d need to drive in Eco to achieve this as the Sport mode encourages you to go faster ! A 66-litre fuel tank means the Passat is capable of 720 miles between fills, in Eco mode only of course, so we reckon 600 miles between trips to the pumps is probably more accurate. And, that’s three times what an electric car & almost twice what a petrol car would offer you, a sobering thought for anti-diesel local councils & Government ministers.
Talking of alternatives, current BIK which penalises diesel’s, ignoring the newer cleaner versions now offered, mans that if you select our test model as your car of choice, our test car’s 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel attracts a year one BIK of 31%. Comparing this to the plug-in petrol hybrid GTE Passat is an interesting proposition. The GTE carries a £4,000 premium on list price, but offers a lower BIK of 16% BIK. It also offers more spec, more power & the clincher, if you can plug-in every day to take advantage of it’s 30+ mile electric range, better fuel economy too. In our experience, the GTE is great but only if you or your company car drivers are disciplined enough it plug-in regularly. Drive a GTE in Sport mode, don’t plug-in & you’ll be looking at sub-30mpg feel economy, when the diesel Passat offers almost double that.
Ultimately, when you have a car like the Passat which has been successful in the fleet market for many years, is it any wonder that VW has not moved the new model far from its predecessors ? With a plethora of alternatives to the four-door saloon or ‘rep’s car’, looks-wise, it is not a radical overhaul by any means, but it is very elegant and comfortable to drive & ups the ante in its sector in terms of its quality. It does though, still lag behind the ” German Big Boys, ” A4, C-Class & 3 Series, for sheer quality & desirability.
If you’re still weighing it up, what the new Passat will do brilliantly, is to combine everything you want of a fleet car, whilst also doubling up successfully as a family car, with the added bonus of being bullet proof, modern & luxurious. It also ticks all of the boxes for comfort, technology & in our test car, diesel frugality.
Don’t write off the diesel just yet 4/5