Our cars: Volkswagen Passat Estate - August
Week ending August 24
Current mileage 24,020
Driven this week: 333 miles
Volkswagen Passat Estate review
The Passat Estate's auto-hold function is almost the ideal labour-saving device. Almost.
It's linked to the electronic parking brake and is supposed to automatically hold the car while it's stationary. Sounds ideal, and it's particularly useful during hill starts, which can be tricky without a traditional handbrake.
The system doesn't always engage and disengage, though, which has caused the odd alarming moment. It also doesn't release the brakes the instant you press the accelerator sufficiently, so there's a slight jerkiness as you pull away.
When the system works it makes the Passat easier to drive; when it doesn't it's a pain.
On balance I'd rather have a conventional handbrake.
Barnaby's VW Passat on video
Week ending August 24
Current mileage 23,687
Driven this week: 173 miles
Look back over the updates on the Passat over its time on the What Car? fleet and you get a picture of a grown-up and business-like estate.
The one thing that really feels out of place is the satellite-navigation system. It works perfectly well (most of the time), but to me it seems too cartoony for such an otherwise sensible car.
The screen is that bit too small to see road names and shapes easily, and it's all rather blocky in style. Given that there are cars that boast screens larger than 10 inches wide, and others that use real satellite images of the roads you are driving on, the Passat's system is starting to look distinctly outdated.
Week ending August 17
Current mileage 23,514
Driven this week: 246 miles
I borrowed the Passat this week and a return trip to Brighton provided an interesting comparison with the Honda Civic I usually drive.
The biggest difference is in engine refinement. The Passat's engine is smooth and quiet at all times, whereas the Civic's is noisy when you work it hard, and there's more wheezing and rattling under the bonnet around town.
Overall, the Passat is a very civilised car. The controls all have a solid, reassuring feel and the interior is comfortable and stylish, albeit rather dull.
What struck me most was how fresh our Passat feels. It has nearly 25,000 miles on the clock, but you'd never guess. The interior and exterior look like new, and all of the controls and switches feel impressively tight.
Week ending August 10
Current mileage 23,268
Driven this week: 380 miles
With the British summer making another brief appearance this week, I’m grateful for the Passat’s effective climate control system.
The dual-zone set-up is a fairly pricey £500 option (basic air-con is standard), but it quickly cools the cabin and then keeps it at my preferred temperature.
It also includes automatic air recirculation. This cuts off the air from outside when too much pollution is detected, which is especially useful on traffic-clogged urban roads.
The system pretty much sums up the Passat: you hardly have to think about it because it simply does the job.
Week ending August 3
Current mileage 22,888
Driven this week: 574 miles
I recently borrowed the VW Passat to travel to a new car launch in North Wales – a 350-mile round trip – and it proved a near-perfect choice for the job.
The vast majority of the journey was spent on the motorway, where the car's rock-solid straight-line stability helped me stay relaxed. What's more, refinement was good and the supportive driver's seat meant I emerged without any backache.
I didn't even have to stop for fuel until I got back to London, despite having only half a tank of diesel when I set off.
The only disappointment was the ride, which turned out to be surprisingly unsettled, even at speed.