Road Test: Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI Elegance
Alex Grant finds out if Volkswagen’s four-door fastback has substance to match the seductive styling.
SECTOR Compact Executive PRICE £33,600 FUEL 47.1mpg CO2 135g/km
In an upturned UK market, ‘premium’ is a bit of a blurred line these days. The traditional fleet stalwarts are now outsold – significantly – by the once-exclusive compact executives, still just as aspirational, but affordable with it. And Volkswagen, which arguably straddles the line anyway, is blurring the boundaries even further with the Arteon.
It’s a new name, but it’s not really new territory. The Passat CC – or the CC, as it later became – put a little frameless-windowed coupe curviness on the table for would-be Passat buyers ten years ago. What the Arteon does is position that four-door coupe proposition a bit further away from its more conservative sibling. The two cars still share a production line and, with fleets expected to take over half of UK cars, this remains an attractive business machine.
Volkswagen is aiming high; the Arteon has the likes of the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe in its sights, and the format is pretty similar here. It’s longer and lower than the equivalent saloon, over a slightly extended wheelbase, lower roofline and – unlike the CC – a liftback tailgate. It also gets five seats as standard.
Considering it’s essentially a style upgrade compared to the Passat, there’s a lot of space on board. It offers enough legroom to stretch out and, though the boot capacity is slightly reduced, it’s accessed via a larger tailgate and much easier to get large items into than a saloon, and has enough floor space for metre-long loads. That said, the sculpted outer seats of the rear bench combined with the low roofline mean sitting in the middle is a short-straw-draw.
Most UK sales are expected to be R-Line versions, but the much subtler Elegance is a genuine head-turner with its precisely creased bodywork and three-dimensional headlights that blend into the grille slats. Even in what is the entry-level spec, Volkswagen has ticked most options already; including adaptive cruise control, parking assistance, connected navigation with Android/Apple app streaming, and heated leather upholstery among the highlights.
However, most of the dashboard and switchgear seems to have been lifted from the Passat. That’s not a bad thing per se, as it’s one of the best-finished cabins in its class, but Nappa leather, digital instruments and fine accents of aluminium don’t lift it enough to draw a line between the two cars. Which is a shame, as that’s the bit of the car drivers will spend most time looking at.
That’s also true of the driving experience. It’s adopted the weight of controls, and confidence in cornering that you get in the Passat, without making the saloon’s already quite firm ride quality any rougher in the name of sportiness. The Arteon will cover long distances with as much comfort on offer as you’d get in any of its key rivals – and the 188bhp 2.0-litre petrol tested here adds the advantage of reduced noice and vibration compared to Volkswagen’s already well-hushed diesel engines.
With the new surcharge for diesel engines, the petrol offers slightly cheaper Benefit-in-Kind and National Insurance contributions too. However, at 38-40mpg over long distances, even with the ability to freewheel at motorway speeds when it’s not working hard, it’s still no substitute for an oil burner for those covering any distance. For all the blurred lines in this segment, that’s still a black-and-white argument.
What We Think:
The Arteon is a stylish alternative to both the mainstream fleet saloons and their premium rivals, with the advantage that it’ll be more exclusive than either. It’s also as easy to live with as a Passat, though arguably it’s also a shame there’s not more to separate the two when you’re driving.