What Car? says...
The Volkswagen Arteon was designed to inspire temptation. Imagine the scene; you’re in the showroom, enjoying the company of a salesperson with a broad smile and ivory teeth who’s busy trying to close the deal on your next new family car. Just as you’re about to sign on the dotted line, out of the corner of your eye you spy something that makes your pen pause. It looks a bit like a normal executive saloon, yet it’s glitzier, sleeker and altogether more desirable. That’s the Arteon.
It’s based on the Passat, and, as well as being a bit more expensive, it's slightly longer, lower and wider, with a distinctive coupé-like roofline that tapers smoothly into the boot. That gives it a more upmarket appearance, which is exactly the way Volkswagen pitches it: an upmarket car to rival the likes of the Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé and the Jaguar XE.
Like all three of those models (bar the XE), the Arteon retains the practical four-door layout of the saloon on which it’s based, so it’s something that can be justified on more than image alone. It also offers a range of engines to satisfy those looking for fuel economy at one end of the scale and fast acceleration at the other.
Fans of the latter may appreciate the bolder styling that comes with the R-Line trim level, or, should you need a dash more practicality than the regular Gran Turismo model, there’s the Arteon Shooting Brake (read estate). You can read about that by clicking the link. There’s even a plug-in hybrid version of both, should seriously cheap company car bills or zero-emissions running appeal.
But let’s return to that showroom scenario. Should you go with your head and sign up for the Passat, or your heart and swap to the Arteon? Or, indeed, one of its rivals? Read on and we’ll guide you through all the details. And if you are persuaded that the Volkswagen Arteon is the car for you, remember to check out our New Car Buying pages for a hefty saving with absolutely no hassle.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The 148bhp 1.5 TSI 150 petrol is the obvious engine option. We'll look at costs later but, suffice to say, it's the cheapest version to buy but can power the big Arteon from 0-62mph in 8.9sec, which is plenty quick enough. It makes light work of motorway jaunts or fast, flowing country roads and proves flexible when you don't rev it hard and free-revving when you do. If you want something with more oomph then there's also the 2.0 TSI 190.
Most people will shy away from the 2.0 TDI 150 on the grounds that it's a diesel, and diesels aren’t popular anymore, but it does have the advantage of gutsy mid-range shove if you're someone with something to tow. There's also a 197bhp TDI 200 diesel that'll get from 0-62mph in 7.9sec and has the option of 4Motion four-wheel drive, but, at the time of writing, it wasn't available.
The other option that's even faster (0-62mph in 7.8sec) is the 215bhp (combined) plug-in 1.4 TSI eHybrid, which uses the same petrol engine and electric motor set-up that you get in the Skoda Octavia iV. It has an official electric range of 39 miles if you opt for an Elegance model or 35 as an R-Line, and there’s reasonable poke in electric mode and pleasingly strong performance with both power sources singing. It switches between power sources smoothly and is very quiet in electric mode, making it a tempting choice – especially if you’re a company car driver.
The last engine on the list is the 316bhp R model. That's coming soon, too.
Is the Arteon driving experience a match for its premium-badged rivals? Well, all the engines are pretty quiet and, once you're up to speed on the motorway, wind and road noise are as well contained as they are in the Audi A5 Sportback and Jaguar XE.
Add in soft suspension and the Arteon’s a very comfortable mile-muncher as well as an adept car around town – it might thud occasionally over potholes but an M Sport-spec BMW 3 Series or 4 Series is noticeably less forgiving. EHybrid models have adaptive suspension (DCC) that’s even waftier, although you can tighten up their slightly loose body control on undulating country roads by popping the suspension into Sport mode.
Squidgy springs allow more body lean than you get in most of its rivals, but once you get past this you’ll find tonnes of grip that you can easily exploit thanks to precise and well-weighted steering. The Arteon’s variable-ratio steering setup requires only two turns to get from lock to lock, getting faster the more you turn the wheel so that you can negotiate multi-storey car parks with minimal effort.
Having said all that, as capable as the Arteon is, keener drivers will be better served by the extra dynamic sparkle of the BMW 3 or 4 Series and Jaguar XE. Four-wheel drive is available, but only on the most potent diesel and the hot R performance model.
The interior layout, fit and finish
If you'll be spending hours behind the wheel you'll not regret doing so in an Arteon. Fundamentally the driving position is great, with lots of adjustment to help you get nicely set up, including for the height and reach adjustable steering wheel. Entry-level Elegance trim gives you electric adjustment for the driver's seat backrest as well as four-way lumbar adjustment, with the rest of the seat adjusted manually, including its height. If you want power adjustment and memory settings, it's standard on R models and appears on the options list, along with a massage and cooling function, for lesser models. A front centre armrest is standard.
You sit higher in the Arteon than you do in the Audi A5 Sportback or BMW 4 Series, so it doesn’t quite have the same sporty feel from behind the wheel, but that does mean better forward visibility. The rear view in the Gran Turismo coupé is slightly worse than in the Arteon Shooting Brake (see our separate review by clicking the link) on account of the coupé's smaller rear side windows and heavily raked roofline. Standard front and rear parking sensors help mitigate this, while Elegance (but not R-Line) trim gets a rear-view camera, too. If you need more reassurance, a 360-degree camera is an option on all trims. To help at night, all models get bright, LED headlights as standard.
The Arteon's dashboard is taken from the Volkswagen Passat, which is no bad thing because it shares many of the same logical patterns. It's just a shame that the climate controls are touch-sensitive buttons (as are the steering wheel buttons) and aren't as easy to use as proper switches while you're driving.
Elsewhere, Volkswagen has made an effort to jazz up the Arteon's interior with ritzy inserts and contrasting stitching on the seats. It looks and feels good but it's not enough to outdo the feeling of quality you get in an Audi and BMW, but certainly doesn’t feel flimsy. In fact, its interior is better made than the Mercedes CLA's.
The Arteon's infotainment system is pretty decent by class standards; all trims get an 8.0in touchscreen and the option of a larger 9.2in screen with online services. Both are responsive with easy-going menus, but the rotary controllers, like BMW’s iDrive in the 3 and 4 Series, offer an easier interface that's less distracting to use. At least the Arteon's screen is crystal clear and you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard, along with in-built sat-nav and an eight-speaker sound system regardless of trim. A 10-speaker Harman Kardon system is optional.
Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit Pro is standard on all trims, with a 10.3in screen taking the place of analogue instrument dials. These digital representations can be configured to show lots of additional information in a way that remains clear, including sat-nav maps and phone contacts. You can also specify a head-up display, but as this reflects onto a piece of plastic at the top of the dashboard rather than the windscreen itself, it isn’t particularly sharp in use.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Is there a coupé that's as roomy as the Volkswagen Arteon? It's hard to think of one. It has loads of space up front, with at least as much head and leg room as you’ll find in rivals such as the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé. And the interior is wide enough to provide plenty of elbow room and has lots of storage solutions thrown in.
But it’s in the rear where the Arteon really scores over its rivals. Admittedly, as is the case with all of these four-door coupés, the sloping roofline takes its toll on rear head room but this is relative – taller rear passengers will find their heads not far from the headlining but it still has enough. The amount of rear leg room offered is vast – much more than you get in any of its rivals, especially the Jaguar XE. You can easily fit three adults abreast in the back of the Arteon, too.
Then there's the boot. It’s almost as big as the Passat’s and arguably more practical; rather than the narrow opening of the saloon, the Arteon has a wide-opening hatchback, which is powered on Elegance and R-Line trims. We managed to fit in eight carry-on suitcases – that’s more than the Jaguar XE, A5 Sportback or 4 Series Gran Coupé can manage – and fold-up pushchairs or a large load of supermarket shopping will be no problem at all. Just bear in mind that the eHybrid’s big battery occupies the space below the boot floor, knocking roughly two carry-on suitcases off the carrying capacity.
For those rare occasions when you require even more carrying capacity, you can also fold flat the 60/40-split rear seats to create more than two metres of load length between the front seats and boot lip. And should you need to seat four and carry a long load, a ski flap is standard.
Need more space? Then read our review of the Arteon Shooting Brake by clicking the link.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Volkswagen Arteon doesn’t have the cachet of its Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé and Mercedes CLA rivals, but it does undercut the Audi and BMW on price and at least matches the smaller Mercedes at the lower end of its model range. It is predicted to depreciate far quicker than anything with a premium badge, though, especially the pricey R-Line trim, so bear in mind the whole-life costs if you're a private cash buyer.
If you're a company car user then our favourite 1.5 TSI 150 petrol is a sound option with competitive official CO2 emissions and a palatable P11D price. It's also pretty fuel efficient with an official 45mpg average, but if you do lots of miles the RDE2-compliant diesels may suit you better. The best version for tax breaks, though, is the 1.4 TSI Plug-in Hybrid; it’s hefty electric-only range results in CO2 emissions from just 26g/km, putting it in one of the lowest company car tax bands. It also returns diesel-like economy even with a flat battery.
There are two trim levels to choose from (not including the high-performance R model), all of which are well-equipped. We’d stick with entry-level Elegance because it keeps the price down but still has a long list of goodies including adaptive cruise control, 18in alloy wheels, power-folding door mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, part leather seats that are heated up front, keyless entry and front and rear climate control. R-Line substitutes some of Elegance’s useful features for sportier styling, so we’d avoid it.
Euro NCAP awarded the Arteon its maximum five-star safety rating. We've poked into the finer details of those tests and found the Arteon scored very well in each individual category – easily outdoing the Skoda Superb, for instance, and matching the adult and child occupancy protection offered by the BMW 3 Series.
Standard safety kit includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian sensing, traffic sign recognition, eCall emergency response and lane-departure warning. You can add blind spot and a feature called Emergency Assist, which will bring the car to a controlled stop, including steering it, if the driver becomes unresponsive. This is standard on Elegance and optional on other trims.
A three-year or 60,000-mile warranty comes with every Arteon, which is the bare minimum you’d expect with a new car. In our 2020 Reliability Survey, Volkswagen finished in 20th place out of 31 manufacturers. That's above Audi and Mercedes, and, while the Arteon didn’t feature specifically, the closely related Passat finished mid-table for reliability in the executive car class.
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|RRP price range||£41,890 - £59,405|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||6|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, hybrid, diesel|
|MPG range across all versions||217.3 - 58.9|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,020 / £4,276|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,040 / £8,552|