The 2.0 TDI 150 offers the best balance of performance and value
There are no petrol offerings in the Passat Estate range, which kicks off with an efficient 1.6-litre diesel that’s adequate even at a high-speed cruise, but you do have to work it hard through the six-speed gearbox if you want decent acceleration; you’re conscious that it’s a low-powered engine in a big car. Plus, in the normal ebb and flow of town traffic, it can feel as if the engine is revving a touch too high in third gear and a bit too low in fourth, so you may be changing gear quite a bit.
We’d recommend the more flexible 148bhp 2.0 diesel. It’s punchy enough to offer satisfying pace and easy overtaking if you want it, and it pulls willingly from low revs, so it’s not worth paying the extra for the 188bhp version of this engine unless you really value strong acceleration.
All Passat Estate models bar the 1.6 Bluemotion can be had with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox – a six-speeder on the 148bhp and 188bhp models, or a seven-speed option on the non-Bluemotion 1.6. The seven-speed auto is standard on the twin-turbo 237bhp 2.0 TDI. This top-end 2.0-litre diesel comes with four-wheel drive and has performance that’s verging on hot-hatch fast, helped by the quick-shifting gearbox.
There is another four-wheel drive Passat Estate model, called the Alltrack, which is available with a manual-only 2.0 TDI 150 or auto-only 2.0 TDI 190 engine, and offers a higher ride height, off-road specific driver aids and more rugged look.
All the 2.0-litre diesel models, including the automatics, can tow up to 2.0 tonnes, while the four-wheel drive models can pull a healthy 2.2 tonnes.
Volkswagen Passat Estate ride comfort
Serene on the motorway and over big bumps, but a bit unsettled around town
We’ve driven cars fitted with the optional adaptive dampers, which offer three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport. Even Comfort doesn’t quite iron out scruffy town roads, but it does keep things smooth and wafty over bigger bumps and at higher speeds. The ride is still mostly comfortable in Normal, although Sport is the firmest and is best reserved for the smoothest roads.
The four-wheel-drive Alltrack and BiTDI models are heavier, so you get a bit more thump on initial bump absorption - particularly in the BiTDI that gets bigger alloys. It’s still a settled cruiser, though, whatever model you choose.
Volkswagen Passat Estate handling
Stable, precise and relaxed
All models from SE trim and up have driving modes that alter the weight of the steering, the responsiveness of the accelerator, the adaptive shock absorbers and automatic gearbox. Regardless of setting, the Passat’s steering is consistently weighted and accurate, and there’s lots of front-end grip and fairly tight body control, so the Passat feels composed on any road.
You can add a variable-ratio steering rack, which means you don’t have to turn the steering wheel so much in tight corners, although we’d say it’s not necessary given how effective the standard steering is.
There’s also also the option of an ‘XDS’ electronic differential on front-wheel drive models, which works in conjunction with the ESP to brake an inside wheel through fast corners, improving grip and reducing the car’s tendency to wash wide in fast, tight bends. It’s not an expensive option, and it does make the Passat feel a bit wieldier in fast use, so if you’re a keen driver who likes the occasional vigorous back-road drive then it could be worth adding. Even the four-wheel drive models are stable and relaxed; no Passat is a really invigorating driver’s car, and you’ll have more fun in a BMW 3 Series Touring or Ford Mondeo Estate.
Volkswagen Passat Estate refinement
Great motorway cruiser
The manual gearshift and clutch pedal are light and precise, and there’s not too much mechanical vibration despite the engines being a touch gruff at low revs. The automatic gearboxes are generally smooth, although the six-speed version can be a bit jerky when it kicks down for a burst of acceleration.
The BiTDI is noisier than the lower-powered versions when revved hard, but otherwise the Passat is quite refined.
Engine, wind and road noise all fade into the background at motorway speeds, which leaves you nicely cocooned from the outside world. True, models on 18in wheels generate some road noise over rough surfaces, but it’s not bad enough to become really intrusive.
This engine is smooth and promises good economy, but it has to be worked quite hard if you want decent pace because it’s a fairly low-powered engine in a big car. The optional seven-speed automatic ’box (a six-speed manual is standard) goes some way to concealing the relative shortage of power, and actually reduces CO2 emissions, so could well be the better bet.
1.6 TDI 120 Bluemotion
Available with only a six-speed manual gearbox, this engine’s low CO2 emissions and impressive claimed fuel economy aim it squarely at company car drivers. Like the non-Bluemotion 1.6-litre version, it has to be revved hard at times.
Our pick 2.0 TDI 150
Our pick of the range in manual guise, this engine is punchy and flexible enough to offer easy overtaking when you want it, and is low-revving and quiet enough at a motorway cruise. Avoid the six-speed automatic gearbox if you can – it’s an older ’box than the seven-speed auto in other Passats, and is a bit slow to respond at times and doesn’t help economy. Also available in the jacked-up, four-wheel drive Alltrack model, as a manual only; well worth considering given that it's remarkably capable off-road, while also being classier and bigger inside than most of the SUVs it competes with.
2.0 TDI 190
Offers good performance, but the 2.0 TDI 150 feels almost as quick, and because this engine is available only on high-end trims, it makes the Passat fairly expensive. It’s not really worth the extra. Also available on the jacked-up, four-wheel drive Alltrack model, albeit only as an automatic.
2.0 BiTDI 240
The expensive choice. However, it is verging on hot-hatch fast, and while a bit gruff under acceleration, this engine is refined enough in most situations.