First Drive: Volkswagen Passat
Revised plug-in hybrid model, plus other innovations, bring the Passat back into contention, says Martyn Collins.
SECTOR D-segment PRICE £25,500 (from) FUEL N/A CO2 N/A
With over 30 million sold since 1973 – plus the fact 85% of the 12,450 sold in the UK last year went to fleet – a facelifted Volkswagen Passat is a big deal.
Outside on first inspection, you’ll think the changes are minimal but look closer and you’ll spot the latest Passat by the new headlights, grille, bumpers, alloy wheel designs, LED rear lights and bold, central ‘PASSAT’ badging, and new colours.
Inside, changes are more obvious with digital instruments standard on range-topping GTE and R-Line models, and optional on other trims. Where fitted, this new Passat benefits from the latest MIB 3.0 infotainment system, something that Volkswagen were keen to tell us would also be fitted to the forthcoming ID.3 all-electric hatch, plus the new Golf.
Other than that, there are also changes to the Passat’s adaptive cruise and lane-keeping systems. The adaptive cruise is now able to recognise and adjust speed automatically, matching permanent and temporary speed limits in a semi-autonomous way. The lane-keeping system is now also able to recognise kerbs and grass verges, on top of lane markers and borders.
A new 150hp 2.0-litre TDI Evo engine – ‘Evo’ because of its Active Cylinder Technology – has been added to the line-up too. Like other Evo engines in Volkswagen’s repertoire, this engine can shut down two of the four-cylinders under certain conditions to save fuel – although sadly this engine wasn’t available to drive at the international launch.
Instead, we started out driving a 190hp version of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel, in a spec similar to SEL trim. Unfortunately, Volkswagen had not released emissions or fuel consumption data at the time of writing. However, provisional NEDC data for the 2.0 TDI 190 shows combined values for the front-wheel drive Saloon of 62.8mpg and 117g/km CO2, and for the Estate 61.4mpg and 120g/km CO2.
There’s the usual diesel thrum at idle, although it’s a smooth, torquey and willing performer on the move, with a 0-62mph acceleration time of 8.1 seconds. A slow seller in the UK market, the four-wheel drive pseudo off-road Alltrack has the same 190hp diesel, but 0-62 mph acceleration is slightly quicker, at 8.0 seconds.
More interesting to fleets, is the newly reintroduced GTE hybrid, which was last on UK price lists just before WLTP emissions regulation changes. GTE models are expected to account for 25% of total UK Passat sales.
The formula remains largely the same, although the engine is now the newer 1.5 TSI Evo petrol, combined with an electric motor, totalling 218hp. Other changes include a bigger battery (up from 9.9kWh of gross capacity to 13kWh), a longer 34-mile WLTP electric-only range and perhaps most importantly, a predicted 5% price cut.
Quieter and more refined sums up the GTE, plus it blends the different drivetrains well. Although, despite the extra performance it doesn’t feel much quicker on the road – and as previously stated all other figures are missing for now.
Finally, there’s the distinctly un-fleety, 240hp, 2.0-litre TDI with four-wheel drive range-topper. Finished in the limited R Line Edition trim, performance was effortless and smooth.
On the road, each new Passat can be summed up as being competent rather than the last word in excitement. All are impressively refined (especially the GTE), steering is reasonably responsive and precise, plus there’s plenty of grip and body roll is kept well in check – except for the taller Alltrack. Ride is also composed and comfortable, although again the Alltrack’s differences make it more crashy.
The Passat’s high quality but restrained image with added technology will keep fleets happy. Plus, the potential company car and fuel savings from the GTE should attract new customers.
Star rating: 4/5