Volkswagen says 88% of all Passats sold in the UK are fitted with a diesel engine of some description, so these are the meat of the range. New for the update Passat is a 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 104bhp that offers 65.7mpg and 114g/km carbon dioxide emissions, which makes this model very attractive to company drivers looking to minimise their contribution to HMís tax inspectors. This is a decent engine, but a BlueMotion version is on the way that will further reduce emissions to 109g/km, bringing it under the magic 110g/km mark to qualify for full write down of company car tax in its first year of ownership. The BlueMotion will also offer improved economy of 68.8mpg, but it will come at the expense of the current 1.6 TDIís already marginal performance that sees 0-62mph covered in 12.2 seconds. Much better, and the most popular Passat engine choice, is the 138bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel that gives a respectable 61.4mpg and 119g/km to still keep it in the low road tax band for private and business users. This engine delivers 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds and feels strong at any speed and in any gear. The manual gearbox is light and easy to use, so there seems little advantage in opting for the seven-speed DSG twin-clutch íbox that adds to the price of the Passat. The more potent 167bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel shares the 138bhpís economy of 61.4mpg but emits more CO2 at 125g/km. It also doesnít feel much swifter on the road, though 0-62mph is taken care of in 8.6 seconds. On the petrol front, the quickest is the 207bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol that offers 0-62mph in less than eight seconds along with middling economy of 39.2mpg and 169g/km. This makes the 1.8 turbo petrol more attractive with its 158bhp, 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, economy of 40.9mpg and 160g/km emissions. Both of these engines pull clean, quiet and hard when pressed, but they still donít feel especially muscular. Bizarrely, that is left to the smallest petrol and latest addition to the Passat range in the form of the 1.4-litre turbo petrol. It sprouts 121bhp and shows that small engines can make a great choice in larger cars thanks to its strong mid-rev pull and refined manners on the motorway. Itís also decent on economy thanks to 48.7mpg and 142g/km are reasonable with the manual gearbox (138g/km is on offer with the DSG version). For private buyers not as concerned with economy and emissions, the 1.4 TSI is the pick of the petrols on cost and fun factor as it manages to feel more alert and involving than the larger petrol-powered models.
You wonít be surprised to find us using words like competent, able, confident and capable when talking about the new Passat. Weíve been using words like these for generations of Passat and they apply just as much to the new model. The difference is VW isnít really bothered about being the most dynamic in this class, it would rather offer comfort and refinement. The other point to bear in mind is the Passat carries on providing all of the noble, though perhaps less exciting, attributes it always has even though the competition is even more brilliant than ever. This means the Passat has moved with the times to keep pace and so it proves on the road. More sound proofing material in the cabin and thicker windscreen glass help shut out noise more effectively from the cabin, and the Passat is one of the quietest cars in its sector. It also copes admirably with bumpy roads, corners in a stable, undramatic fashion and feels planted on the motorway. Donít bother with VWís optional Adaptive Chassis Control as the standard suspension set-up is spot on. The steering misses some of the feel found in a Mondeo or Mazda6, but the Passat is easy to drive and park, helped by VWís optional Park Assist that can now also help it into supermarket-style parking bays as well as making parallel parking a cinch.
The new Passat has all the solid feel of previous generations of Passat, and the new dash style is simple and uncluttered. Some may not like the look of the new dash, but thereís no denying the Passatís cabin is faultlessly built from tough materials. Itís the same story for the body and other fittings, where an excellent finish is visible in every detail. The engines are strong and mostly proven units, but the Passat misses out on a fifth star in this section as it has not performed as well in reliability and satisfaction surveys as we might have expected. This could partly be down to so many Passats earning their keep as company cars where their drivers expect a lot. Even so, a four-star score should give any potential Passat purchaser peace of mind.
As the new Passat still uses the same superstructure as its predecessor, there are six airbags instead of the increasingly common seven that includes a driverís knee airbag. Even so, the Passat scores heavily here as it comes with ESP traction and stability control on all models, ABD anti-lock brakes and all but the most basic models also come with VWís new fatigue detection system that sounds and flashes a warning if it thinks the driver is becoming drowsy behind the wheel. Thereís also the City Emergency Braking system that stops the car if it detects a stationary car in front and no reaction from the driver. It works at up to 18mph to avoid collisions completely, while at higher speeds it can help lessen the impact of an accident. Deadlocks, an alarm, immobiliser and ignition key barrel set into the dash rather than the steering column all help deter thieves.
No hatchback model is a drawback with the Passat for UK buyers who love their five-door models. Even so, the Passat saloon has a large boot and plenty of space for passengers. The Estate model has the same generous room for people but its boot is notably bigger and easier to access thanks to the large tailgate. Folding the rear seats in the estate model is now easier thanks to remote releases in the sides of the boot just inside of the tailgate. However, these only release the 60/40 split and fold rear seats rather pushing them flat. Also, if you want a completely flat load floor, you need to tip the rear seat base to allow the backs to drop flat. Itís good, but a Mazda 6 Estate is better. The Passat regains ground with its well thought out cabin that has plenty of storage spaces all around, easy vision out, wide-opening doors and controls that are simple and clear to read and use. Only the slightly too firm seat bases marred the cabin for us, though the pews were supportive on long trips.
Volkswagen has worked hard to reduce the emissions of its engine range and improve economy. We applaud them for this, but the competition has also achieved these feats, so the Passat simply retains its place among the best in class for running costs. However, VW has also added Start/Stop as standard to its diesel models, which means most Passats sold in the UK, so a big thumbs up there. Insurance, servicing and repairs are all on a par with the Passatís rivalsí, though the VW does cost more than an equivalent Mondeo or Mazda 6. However, when the Vauxhall Insignia costs more than a Passat, the VW can be classed as good value as itís a better car overall than the Vauxhall. With stronger residual values than most of the competition, the Passat helps offset its list price, while some models now qualify for low-rate road tax thanks to emissions of less than 120g/km. Volkswagen has stuck with its S, SE and Sport trims, with the S including air conditioning, CD stereo with MP3 connector, electric front windows and alloy wheels. The SE gains a digital radio, Bluetooth connection and the fatigue detection system, while the Sport has touch screen satellite navigation included.