What is it?
The only car in the world that can make buying a Volkswagen Passat seem like a rash decision is the Passat Estate. Simply because it’s even more ‘Sensible Middle England’ and, with the benefit of that substantial bootspace, actually a far better choice. This latest version of a car that has been around since roughly the birth of Christ is the most desirable yet, too, with more effort made on both interior and exterior styling and a fantastic range of engines. There’s also an intriguing new cross-country Audi Allroad-style version – called, well, Alltrack…
Despite being as strait-laced as a country vicar, the Passat Estate is a bit of a Q-car, given the right engine. That extended, Golf-related chassis is excellent at coping with bumpy B-roads or on the motorway. The inevitable trade-off for this is that the steering isn’t very communicative or quick, but the clever balance here is that it’s accurate enough on the fast hack while never allowing the car to feel twitchy at high speeds.
The best engines are diesel. The 2.0-litre TDI will get you to 60mph in under 10 seconds while still being capable of returning over 60mpg. But its real attributes are high-speed refinement – best in class here we’d say – and acres of in-gear grunt. Matched to VW’s slick twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox, this is one of the smoothest, most relaxed and capable load luggers on the market. The Alltrack complements the TDI’s drive with good traction and a modicum of beaten track-dodging ability. It’s no Land Rover but is well up to scrabbling across a muddy field: posh car booters will love it.
On the inside
The previous-generation Passat has a sense of imperviousness about it that the current one has forgone just a fraction in favour of traces of design gimmickry. It’s still well put together, with soft-touch plastics and sturdy, logical switchgear, but the Audi-lite centre console and metallic detailing around the instruments loses that simplicity that made the Passat what it was.
Still, everything feels like it’ll outlive us all and it’s a spacious, comfortable, refined environment to spend time in, with an average amount of bootspace at 513-litre made much more useful thanks to genuinely flat-folding rear seats.
Don’t worry about longevity. VW takes its reputation for reliability and quality very seriously and this car is immensely well built. The engines, both petrol and diesel, are strong and frugal, with CO2 levels competitively low on all. SE trim is replaced by the Highline for 2013: it has standard sat nav, electric driver’s seat and parking sensors. It’s now the choice pick.