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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The Passat is comfortable, spacious and well-built

Against It's dull to drive and the styling is conservative

Verdict A formidable all-round family load-lugger

Go for… 1.9 TDi 130 SE/1.8 T

Avoid… 1.9 TDI 100

Volkswagen Passat Estate
  • 1. Listen particularly carefully for noises from the suspension
  • 2. Failing electric windows is just one of several electrical faults to look out for
  • 3. Cabin is high quality, well equipped and spacious
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Volkswagen Passat Estate full review with expert trade views

The Passat is generally a refined, comfortable family car. It’s all bolted tightly together and the cabin is sound-proofed well against all sources of noise, whether it be the wind, road or engine.

So it's a quiet cruiser, then, and a pretty effortless one so long as you steer clear of the basic 98bhp 1.9 TDI 100 turbodiesel. The other engines all deliver fine performance, but this is no sporting car. It’s competent enough, but even with sports suspension or 4Motion four-wheel drive, the handling is no match for a Ford Mondeo’s.

The cabin is, though. High-quality materials and tight panel gaps shout class wherever you look. It’s also well equipped, full of useful storage areas and spacious.

The well shaped boot is easy to get at but not as roomy as some. The rear seats split and fold, and there are chrome hooks for lashing down cargo.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Solid built and a comfy drive. Nothing to look at, though

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

The 128bhp 1.9 TDI 130 is a good choice for economy and easy pulling power. And, although it can be rumbly even when working only moderately hard, it's our favourite engine in the range. A good alternative is the turbocharged 1.8 T petrol, which is strong, more refined and, while not as easy on fuel, should still give over 30mpg.

The 2.0 petrol is also good, although it can get boomy if it's worked very hard. You can up the performance with the 2.3 V5, 2.8 V6 and, frankly quite daft, 4.0 W8. There’s also a broad-shouldered, smooth 2.5 V6 TDI turbodiesel.

Four-wheel-drive 4Motion cars improve handling, but not enough to warrant the blunted economy, so choose one only if you really need all-wheel-drive traction.

In ascending order, trim levels are S, SE and Sport. Even the most basic car comes with plenty of creature comforts and safety kit. ESP stability control became standard in December 2001, but cars after May 2002 also have curtain airbags and Brake Assist, so it's best to buy one from after this date.

Trade view

John Owen

Great car, diesel especially sought after. Accommodation good, drives and wears well

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Everyday running costs are pretty reasonable, especially given the car’s superb all-round ability as a family motor. All but two of the engines will give you more than 30mpg and the diesels stretch that to over 40mpg. Of our two favoured models, the 1.9 TDI 130 is good for an official average of 47.9mpg and the 1.8 T petrol 32.8mpg.

Avoid the W8 and V6 petrol cars, which will hurt your wallet. You’ll get mid-20s to the gallon at best from the V6 and just over 20mpg (if you’re lucky) with the W8. Service costs will also be significantly higher.

For the lower-powered models, maintenance will set you back roughly the same as for a Mondeo and, in some cases, less. You can cut the labour bill by using an independent VW specialist.

Insurance is broadly comparable to a Mondeo’s, too. So all in all, a good result.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Solid built and a comfy drive. Nothing to look at, though

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

Any Passat should be rattle-free and feel comparatively fresh because of its rock-solid build quality. However, they do go wrong – perhaps more often than you might think – and (together with the saloon) didn’t fare that well in our reliability survey.

It was a mid-ranker in the JD Power customer satisfaction report, although owners rated quality and reliability as above average.

Even so, be especially vigilant for noises from the suspension, ensure the car cushions you well from bumps, and check that it tracks straight and feels secure in corners. As well as suspension problems, watch for electrical faults, which range from false warning lights on the dash to electric windows.

Gearboxes have been known to fail on later cars, but it’s rare and likely to have been sorted under VW’s three-year 60,000-mile warranty. Finally, catalytic converters can fail on diesels, so be suspicious of any car being sold with a short MoT.

Trade view

John Owen

Great car, diesel especially sought after. Accommodation good, drives and wears well

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford
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