First Drive

2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Bluemotion review

It's the most efficient Passat you can get, but there are cheaper and more practical alternatives whether you're buying privately or through work

Words ByVicky Parrott

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The Passat Bluemotion is the model that you’ll be considering if economy and emissions are a top priority. It gets the same 1.6-litre diesel engine as the standard 1.6 TDI Passat (which, confusingly, is badged Bluemotion Tech), complete with the same 118bhp. However, the Bluemotion is set apart by the longer gearing for its six-speed manual gearbox, a 15mm-lower ride height, unique aerodynamic bumpers and styling tweaks and low rolling resistance tyres.

This all adds up to a CO2 figure of 95g/km, which will afford low company car BIK tax of Β£149 per month for 40% taxpayers, although the Ford Mondeo 1.5 TDCi Econetic and Skoda Superb Greenline SE Business models do undercut it. The Ford costs Β£128 in BIK tax, while the Skoda will set you back Β£141 and comes better equipped with sat-nav included. Both are usefully cheaper to buy privately, too.

What’s the 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Bluemotion like to drive?

The defining characteristic of this car is its gearing. Those long ratios mean that you’re doing very low revs at high speeds, but they also mean that you often have to change down a gear or two if you want to get a decent burst of acceleration. It's quite easy to stall the car, too, since even first gear is quite long. This can make it feel like hard work in the usual ebb and flow of town traffic, although if you’re willing to live with very sedate acceleration it’s not likely to bother you too much.

Once you’re up to speed the Passat makes for a relaxed cruiser that feels at home in fast motorway traffic, and the 1.6 diesel engine’s gruff note dies down to a distant and easily ignored thrum. Unfortunately that coarse engine noise can be quite intrusive when you’re accelerating, and there are vibrations through the steering wheel at lower speeds; certainly the 2.0 diesel Passat is noticeably better for refinement.

Ride comfort is slightly affected by the lower ride height, although the Bluemotion is still a comfortable car even by the high class standards. It’s a touch firmer over expansion joints or potholes than the standard Passat and the Ford Mondeo, but it’s settled most of the time, and you do get less body float over fast undulations than you do in the standard Passat models.

Those low-grip tyres don’t help with handling, but the Passat still turns in to corners with enough precision and confidence that you can enjoy driving it vigorously if the fancy takes you. Still, the Ford Mondeo remains the benchmark for ride and handling finesse if that’s a priority.

What’s 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Bluemotion like inside?

Much the same as other low-end Passat models, which is no bad thing since the quality of the cabin is one of this car's biggest selling points. The Bluemotion is based on base S trim in the Passat range, but you still get classy-feeling materials, adjustable lumbar support, a 6.5in colour touchscreen with USB, DAB, CD player and Bluetooth, air-con, and all-round electric windows. Most buyers will want to add sat-nav, at Β£675, and the Β£450 front and rear parking sensors will be another popular extra.

Rear passengers have masses of space in the Passat, although they don’t get a central armrest. As with all Passat models, the letterbox-shaped boot opening afforded by the saloon bodystyle makes this less practical as family transport than you’ll enjoy with the huge hatchback openings of the Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb.

Should I buy one?

Our money would be going on the Skoda, given that it's more practical, better equipped, cheaper for business or private buyers and virtually as inviting to sit in and drive.

Or, if you're set on the classy feel of the Passat, do the maths and you’ll find that a standard 1.6 TDI SE – which, in addition to the Bluemotion spec, gets auto lights and wipers, parking sensors, partial electric driver’s seat adjustment, cruise control and automatic emergency braking – costs only Β£15 more per month in company car tax, or is actually Β£70 cheaper to buy privately.

While the SE won’t reach quite the efficiency heights of the Bluemotion, it will certainly come close, and given the added comfort you’re getting for not much more money, we’d settle for this instead. Alternatively, the Ford Mondeo – while not as classy inside – is a cheaper and more practical alternative.

Overall, while the less economy-focussed Passat models remain among the most recommendable cars in this class, look past the fuel efficiency and the Bluemotion has less going for it, financially or otherwise.

What Car? says

Rivals:

Ford Mondeo 1.5 TDCi Econetic

Skoda Superb 1.6 TDI 120 Greenline SE Business

Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Bluemotion Engine size 1.6-litre diesel Price Β£23,530 Power 118bhp Torque 184lb ft 0-62mph 10.8sec Top speed 130mph Fuel economy 76.3mpg CO2 95g/km