Volkswagen Passat

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Volkswagen Passat Sport 1.8 Turbo Car Review | March 1, 1998

Driven March 1998

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Come with me on a trip forwards in time, to the used car lot of the future. It's ten years from now and we're looking for a sturdy, affordable used car. After regretting stopping for a McNasty syntho-beefburger, we join the perpetual traffic jam that passes Honest Ernie's Used Car Emporium where, amongst the gently crumbling offerings sits this VW Passat - very conspicuously still in one piece.

"You won't find a finer family car than this", advises honest Ernie, earnestly. "They don't build 'em like this any more 'cos it's a classic piece of pre-Millennium engineering."

As we sink into the cabin it becomes clear that this Passat is, as Ernie attempted to persuade us, a solid old thing. It's spacious and still stylish, too, with understated aluminium trim and a tastefully sculpted dash looking as 'right' now as it did in '98. Turn the ignition key, the instruments light up a peculiar indigo hue and then there's the rare purr of a proper petrol engine - instead of the hum of a hybrid, the whir of a fuel cell or, er, the nothing of the solar-powered systems common in 2008.

We test-drive the car on the nearest highway, paying a huge toll along the way, and once again enjoy the heady thrill of driving at over eco-friendly pace. With a turbo and 20 valves to help the 1.8-litre motor do its job, this Passat's 150bhp lends a near-140mph capability. Didn't the government ban that sort of thing after the last election? There's just a little red V on the 20v badge and a set of 16-inch five-spoke alloys to let on that we're in the quicker Passat. And, with a quoted 34.9mpg, the green police shouldn't be too hard on us.

Inside, there's a swish chrome gate for the five-speed Tiptronic auto gearbox. Bang the lever backwards and it makes a smooth downshift; forwards and it moves up a gear - thus retaining the 'fun' of manual shifting. There's also the Drive option, to allow the gearbox do all the work, which, on busy roads, is where it's likely to stay most of the time.

With the car handling its share of the driving chores there's time to appreciate the Passat's '90s-style interior. Not only is the driving position near-perfect with an in-out/up-down adjustable steering wheel, there's an efficient climate control system, an easy to use (but costing £1,700 back then) satellite navigation system along with controls and build that offer a sense of muted style and solidity on a par with a comparable, but dearer, Audi A4.

Returning to that dodgy car lot of the future, it's time to haggle. "This is a very affordable car," advises honest Ernie, "it more than justified its cost of around 20 grand when it was new." So, as you happily part with your wedge, he asks you: "What car offers that sort of quality for the money?" Even in ten year's time, I bet you'll agree with him.

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