There are three turbocharged petrol engines – the lively 120bhp 1.4 TSI, a muscular 158bhp 1.8 TSI and an even punchier 208bhp 2.0 TSI. The entry-level diesel is the 1.6 TDI, which has only 104bhp, but is impressively flexible and willing. There are also two strong 2.0 TDI units, with either 138- or 168bhp, but there’s no real need to buy the stronger unit, as even the less powerful unit will be more than enough for anyone’s everyday needs.
The Passat Estate is at its best on the motorway, where it’ll happily sit for hour after hour. It’s undemanding to drive everywhere else, with light steering and supple suspension. You still feel too much of big bumps, though – particularly in the Alltrack models. Don’t expect to have much fun in your Passat, either –the steering feels artificial and body control could be tighter, although it’s not worth spending the extra on the optional Adaptive Chassis Control system.
The Passat’s diesel engines are smooth and quiet, while the petrol units are easy on the ear unless they’re worked hard. Road noise is well contained on all but the roughest surfaces, and although some wind noise is noticeable, it’s not intrusive. However, things aren’t as impressive in the Alltrack models, which suffer from a lot of wind noise created by its wing mirrors and roof rails.
The Passat is pricier than some rivals – although the Alltrack models are generally cheaper than similarly sized SUVs – but generous discounts are available, and resale values are above average for the class. Insurance and contract hire rates are par for the course and the economy and emissions of most versions are better than average.
Volkswagen has a reputation for quality, and the Passat mostly lives up to this. It looks appealing and the switchgear operates with a precise action, but some hard plastics on the lower dashboard let the side down a bit. Volkswagen prides itself on its dependable reputation, and the Passat achieved an above average rating for reliability in the 2012 JD Power survey.
Every Passat has a comprehensive set of electronic systems to help you avoid a crash. Unlike many rivals, it has no driver’s knee airbag, but there are front, side and curtain ‘bags, and the front head restraints are designed to minimise whiplash injuries. A key that fits into the dashboard offers a degree of theft protection, and keyless entry and starting is optional.
An extensive range of seat and wheel adjustment means almost anyone can get comfortable at the wheel, but the front seats could do with a bit more side support. The control layout is clear and logical, but some drivers will find the electronic parking brake and starter system fiddly.
The Passat Estate can’t match a Ford Mondeo Estate for interior space, but it’s still huge. There’s lots of leg-, shoulder- and headroom for four, although the hefty central tunnel does make life a little uncomfortable for a middle rear passenger. The boot is well shaped and can cope with lots of family clutter, but folding the rear seats down is a faff - you have to remove the headrests and pull up the seat bases first.
Even entry-level S models have decent kit, including air-conditioning, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a USB port and four electric windows. However, we think it’s worth upgrading to Highline trim, which adds sat-nav, automatic headlights and wipers, climate and cruise controls, front and rear parking sensors and more chrome trim. Extras on Sport trim include sports front seats and lowered suspension.
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For us, this is the best version of the Passat, providing all the power and kit you want while keeping purchase prices and running costs reasonable.