First Drive: Volkswagen Passat
Sector: Upper Medium Price: £22,215–£37,035 Fuel: 52.3–68.9mpg CO2: 103–140g/km
Step out of the new Passat after a few hours behind the wheel and you’re left with the over-riding impression that Volkswagen has thrown the kitchen sink at this model.
It’s been a long time since I’ve driven a car that is not only as comfortable as the Passat, but also as refined – the lack of wind and engine noise into the cabin is quite extraordinary for a car in this sector. You can imagine covering hefty mileage in this car. And that’s before you bring the improved handling into the equation.
The new Passat is a shining example of the modular chassis architecture Volkswagen has developed, enabling it to make not only huge strides in comfort and handling, but also liberating more room.
While 12mm wider than the previous Passat, this new model is 2mm shorter and 14mm less tall. However, the MQB architecture has allowed a 79mm improvement in the wheelbase which gives more room for all occupants, as well as increased boot space (up 21 litres in the saloon and 47 litres in the estate).
This stretching of the wheelbase has also helped with the styling – with the wheels pushed further into the corners of the car, a much more muscular look is enabled. In fact it’s a very handsome car, and one that wouldn’t look out of place in an Audi showroom.
Inside is a familiar Volkswagen experience but the level of quality and refinement has been taken up a notch – aside from some diesel engine noise at start-up and idle, there is little cabin noise intrusion at all when on the move, while wind noise is all but non-existent.
For the fleet-centric UK market, Volkswagen will only sell diesel models, offering a 1.6 TDI in 118bhp guise and three versions of the ubiquitous 2.0 TDI in 148, 187 and 237bhp guises. The latter, a twin-turbo unit mated to a DSG gearbox and with four-wheel drive, powers the range-topping model, but with prices starting at around £35,000 it won’t make much of a dent on the sales charts. It’s a very accomplished car, but for this sort of money the siren call of a premium badge is hard to ignore.
Reign in the power and price and you’re left with the sweetspot of the range in 2.0 TDI 150 guise, which will fuel the vast majority of sales. With CO2 emissions of 106g/km and claimed average fuel economy of just over 60mpg it’s an ideal vehicle for blending on-road and pay-slip performance. The TDI 190 version is also intriguing, but none were available to test at the car’s launch.
Come January and first deliveries, the Passat range will stretch from £22,215 to £37,035 (yes, really) and with a choice of S, SE, SE Business, GT and R-Line trim. SE Business is a UK-specific trim to reflect that fact than more than 80% of Passats are bought through companies, adding satellite navigation as standard on top of SE grade niceties.
Basic S models offer DAB radio, a touchscreen system, Bluetooth and USB ports as well as mis-fuelling prevention and post-collision braking, while SE gains adaptive cruise control, comfort seats and parking sensors front and rear.
By mid-way through 2015 Volkswagen will add a GTE plug-in hybrid model (costing around £32,000 after the £5,000 Government green grant), plus the option on SE models and above of a head-up display and the impressive TFT screen which replaces all the dials in the instrument binnacle with a multi-view screen. Expect a jacked-up and body-clad 4×4 Alltrack variant of the estate towards the end of the year.
Sharper styling, more room inside and increased specification make the Passat a hard act to beat in the volume market. Add in improved driving dynamics and excellent refinement and Volkswagen’s latest offering is a company car star. Plug-in hybrid and BlueMotion models will be key additions mid-2015.