VW Passat Estate 1.6 TDI Bluemotion

* Super-efficient Passat wagon driven * Price 21,605; on sale now * 65.7mpg; 113g/km CO2...

VW Passat Estate 1.6 TDI Bluemotion

What is it? The most economical and tax-friendly version of the Passat Estate. Not to be confused with the Bluemotion Technology models, which get engine stop-start and other efficiency measures, this Bluemotion adds lowered suspension and low-rolling-resistance tyres to boost its green credentials even further.

It has a 1.6-litre diesel engine and returns 1.5mpg more than the 1.6 Bluemotion Technology, while also emitting 3g/km less CO2.

Hardly big differences, especially when it costs 220 more to buy, but from April next year this Bluemotion will sit in the 16% company car tax bracket, whereas the Bluemotion Tech will be a 17% car. Until then, they're both in the 13% bracket.

What's it like to drive? Unlike many eco-specials, it hardly feels different to the standard model.

The ride is a little firm at low speeds (not helped by our test car's 17-inch alloy wheels; 16-inch steel ones are standard), but otherwise the Passat is relaxing to drive.

Performance is perfectly acceptable. It's not quick, but the six-speed gearbox's well spaced ratios mean there's no big drop off in pace when you change gear. You also don't have the rev the engine as high before changing gear to avoid the engine bogging down, as you do in the Skoda Superb Estate Greenline.

The engine is smooth and quiet when you're cruising, with only a slightly gruff note around town or when accelerating. The door mirrors kick up a little too much wind noise, but it doesn't stop the Passat being a fine way to travel the length of the country.

What's it like inside? Spacious, practical and comfortable in short, everything you want an estate to be.

There's lots of room in the front and rear seats, and the large boot is well shaped. There are also plenty of storage cubbies dotted around the cabin, and because the Bluemotion has a tyre repair kit instead of a spare tyre, there's a big storage area under the boot floor.

As with the rest of the range, it's a bit of a faff to get the rear seats to lie flat. You have to remove the headrests, flip up the bases, then lower the seatbacks. It's not a deal-breaker, but you simply pull a lever in a Mazda 6 to do the same thing.

There's little excitement to be had from looking at your surroundings, but it's easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and most of the materials are suitably plush.

Just don't expect a huge amount of standard kit. You get air-conditioning, Bluetooth, USB and aux inputs, and plenty of safety equipment, but little else.

Should I buy one? If your or your company's budget will stretch, we'd still recommend the 2.0-litre diesel Bluemotion Technology model. It's almost as economical, while its punchier engine makes it slightly more relaxing to drive and better when loaded with people and bags.

Still, the Bluemotion isn't overly compromised. Buy one and you won't feel short-changed.

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What Car? says