What is it?
For sensible, straightlaced folk, the Passat is a dream car. It’s likely to ignite passion in nobody, but is still a top choice for many more people than care to admit it, thanks to its sheer, er, common sense. Spacious, economical, comfortable, refined, very tax-friendly and with just a smidgen of extra class over a Mondeo or Insignia, it’s easy to see why being a bit dull is no hindrance. Besides, if you want something sexy and interesting (well, relatively), there’s always the VW CC…
The model line-up is fleet-focused and naturally centred around diesel: the Bluemotion variant is one of the most economical family saloons on sale. There are petrol alternatives, including one with the 2.0-litre turbo from the Golf GTI, but these motors make little sense in a car like the Passat. Diesel does it for most.
The Passat is actually a pretty sophisticated thing on the road. The latest model is a heavily facelifted version of the 2005 car but it’s not just the styling that apes a Phaeton limo: rolling refinement, ride quality and general feelings of substance all seem like they’re from something much larger and more expensive. The diesel engines are surging too and even the 1.6-litre TDI, while no fire-breather, is more able than you may think in such a large car.
On the flipside, it doesn’t have the vibrancy of a Ford Mondeo. It’s pretty dull through the bends – accomplished, yes, but given the choice, you’ll stick to the motorways on which the Passat truly excels. There are few better long-distance expresses in this sector.
On the inside
The interior is, as you’d expect, absolutely bombproof, and its magnificent inbuilt quality has been enhanced in this facelifted car with, again, plenty of classy detailing from the Phaeton. The silver strips and chrome flashes dotted throughout give it a cut-above feel and are backed up by much better equipment levels than you’d expect, too.
It’s very spacious, the saloon boot (complete with clever hands-free ‘kick’ opening system) is vast and, all told, it’s hard to see why anyone would want more. The Passat really does have the blend of premium appeal, mainstream space and value-capped pricing spot on. A plain old three-box saloon, yes, but one of the best out there.
All Passats come with DAB and Bluetooth, with both Sport and new fleet-friendly Highline trims boasting a standard sat nav system too. Fuel economy is fine and that classy image helps strong retained values. As for CO2 levels, Volkswagen has its eye fully on the ball: there’s a Passat that dips under all the key UK tax barriers – another key to its appeal...