ALMOST 22 MILLION VW Passats have been sold since the model’s launch in 1973, and this eighth-generation version looks set to become another firm favourite among those who collect Shell loyalty points for a living. In fact, the car maker predicts that 80% of 2-litre TDI Passats, in SE and SE Business trim, will be bought by UK fleets.
But that’s not to say this latest example of the company’s mid-range saloon is just another business tool aimed at people in suits. Take its styling, for a start. At the front, liberal use of chrome neatly accents razor-sharp LED lights; a flatter roof-line and a bold crease along the flanks make it appear more elongated; the sculpted rear, especially on saloon versions, gives it a more athletic road presence.
The interior was never intended to set pulses racing but it does feature a considered selection of premium-feel materials, and comfortable and cossetting seats. A longer and taller cabin ensures there’s plenty of head and legroom for all occupants. To cap it all, there’s a tantalising amount of new technology.
For example, the estate version equipped with the more powerful 187bhp BiTurbo 2-litre TDI engine will make a good family tow car, so Volkswagen offers it with Trailer Assist. This uses the car’s built-in camera system to guide car and trailer into a suitable parking spot, without steering input from the driver.
But this is just the start of the technology offensive. Park Assist offers the same kind of autonomous assistance as Trailer Assist. Rear Traffic Alert detects a vehicle approaching from the side, making reversing out of a tight spot safer. Traffic Jam Assist harnesses the power of Adaptive Cruise Control to autonomously enable the car to keep up with stop/start traffic.
A few months after launch there will be the option of a 12.3in Active Info Display. It is similar to the system in the new Audi TT and replaces the traditional analogue instruments with pin-sharp digital dials and multimedia information. In addition, customers can specify their car with a head-up display and connected services that allow news, weather and travel information to be downloaded from the web while on the move.
At the model’s launch early next year, UK customers will have a choice of three diesel engines: a 118bhp 1.6-litre TDI and a 2-litre TDI developing either 148bhp or, in the meatier BiTurbo unit, 187bhp. The lower-powered 2-litre diesel unit is likely to be the biggest seller. As it gracefully gathers speed with a pleasing rumble from somewhere under the bonnet, while returning an impressive 56mpg on the combined cycle, it’s easy to see why.
The manual gearbox is beautifully slick, although those racking up the miles in heavy traffic should consider the smooth, six-speed DSG automatic instead. The chassis does a brilliant job of cresting potholes and blemishes in the road surface. The new Passat may not excite but it’s a damn sight more engaging to drive than previous versions.
Volkswagen has also revealed that it will introduce the GTE badge to the Passat line-up later next year. Its hybrid drivetrain will be similar to the one found in the recently released, and highly regarded, Golf GTE, which itself offers impressive performance and even more remarkable fuel economy.
The new Passat may not be the most exciting car in the office car park but anyone looking to upgrade their company wheels or, indeed, their family car, should find this eighth-generation Passat gives them something to smile about.
An excellent all-rounder to rival more expensive offerings
VW Passat 148bhp 2.0 TDI SE Business saloon specifications
- Engine: 1968cc, four-cylinder diesel
- Power: 148bhp @ 3500rpm
- Torque: 250 lb ft @ 1500rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Acceleration: 0-62mph in 8.9sec
- Top speed: 135mph
- Fuel: 56mpg
- CO2: 109g/km (estimated)
- Road tax band: B
- Price: £25,135
- Release date: January 2015
VW Passat rivals
Audi A4 2.0 TDI S Line, £27,240
- For Very well built, attractively styled
- Against On-board tech isn’t as impressive, not cheap
BMW 325d SE, £30,575
- For A fantastic drive, superb interiors
- Against Cramped inside, options can be expensive