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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The Passat has a classy, roomy and comfortable cabin and a wide choice of engines

Against It's dull to drive and expensive to run

Verdict You get an imposing family car that’s more upmarket than rivals

Go for… 1.9 TDI 130bhp SE

Avoid… 2.8 V6 4Motion

Volkswagen Passat Saloon
  • 1. Faults with the suspension and axles are the most common in the Passat
  • 2. Gearbox failures are common faults, and costly to fix
  • 3. Comfy cabin keeps out road and mechanical noise
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Volkswagen Passat Saloon full review with expert trade views

The Passat is big for a family car and its comfy cabin keeps out road and mechanical noise. Space up front is excellent, visibility is good and the seat and steering wheel adjust every which way for the driver.

The ride is set up to favour comfort over agility and it smothers bumps well, although the suspension on Sport models is stiffer. It’s better to drive than previous Passats, but nothing like as sharp as a Ford Mondeo.

The VW has four stars out of a possible five in Euro NCAP crash tests for occupants and a reasonable two for protecting pedestrians. Four airbags and anti-lock brakes are standard on all models, but the centre rear seatbelt is lap-only unless the cost-option upgrade to a three-point belt is fitted.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Everyone wants diesels and Trendline and Highline the sought-after models

James Ruppert
Used car guru

There’s a big choice of models, from a 1.8-litre petrol up to a 2.8 V6, plus 1.9 and 2.5 diesels. The 1.8, 1.8 turbo and 2.0 petrols are worth a look, with the 2.0 taking the laurels as the best petrol-powered Passat. There’s also a 2.3 V5 that’s smooth but thirsty, and finally the 2.8, which is worth buying only if the bills don’t matter much.

Our pick of the diesels - and our favourite engine overall - is the 130bhp 1.9. There’s also a 100bhp 1.9, which is too slow, and a 2.5 V6, which is a cracker, but returns only about 35mpg.

All are well equipped: the entry-level S gets a fully suite of safety kit, alloy wheels and air-con; SE gains climate control and a CD player, while Sport adds stiffer suspension and more supportive seats.

VW dealers have an excellent choice of Passats, especially younger cars. For older models and cheap-ish high-milers, try independent dealers.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

High failure rates but average repair costs - watch for suspension problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

Passats cost more than most to run, but strong second-hand values reduce the whole-life cost of ownership. Servicing is needed every year or 12,000 miles, although from 2004 the intervals became variable - sensors keep tabs on the oil and other essentials and tell the driver when work is needed. Bills aren’t too scary and can be reduced by using a knowledgeable local garage rather than a franchised dealer.

Spares are fairly priced and the car’s ranking has improved over successive JD Power customer surveys so that it’s now rated as above average for reliability.

Insurance range from group 8 to 17 (for the 2.8), but most models sit within groups 10-12, which is average for family cars.

Likewise, fuel economy isn't too bad. The smaller petrol engines will average 30mpg, the 1.9 diesels should better 40mpg, and only the 2.8 will dip into the 20s.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Everyone wants diesels and Trendline and Highline the sought-after models

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Problems with suspension, axles and electrics top the list of faults, but knocking from the front of the car is often just worn bushes, which are quick and fairly cheap to fix.

Of more concern are gearbox failures (which can hit even newish cars) and catalytic converter faults on diesels. Both will hit your wallet hard.

Ignition coils on the 1.8 turbo engines can fail, causing misfires, but most were replaced under warranty by stronger units. However, to head off trouble, check that all four were renewed and not just whichever one failed.

The What Car? Reliability Index shows Volkswagens are more dependable than average and, within the make, the Passat gives a middling performance. However, mechanically complex cars such as the 2.8 V6 4Motion, which has four-wheel drive, threaten expensive bills after a few years.

For the ultimate peace of mind, go for a 2004/5 car if you can, when VW upped the quality.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

High failure rates but average repair costs - watch for suspension problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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