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Passat shows its eco-credentials
Ever since 1973 the British have had fond feelings for the Passat.
To some, it’s an anachronism, an old-fashioned saloon and estate in a people-carrier world.
But don’t be fooled. For every trendy Wendy in a multi-purpose carry-anything vehicle there are quite a few straightforward types who are more than happy in a traditional car. There is nothing wrong with SUVs and MPVs, or SAVs for that matter, but don’t write off the evergreen saloon so quickly, particularly when it’s as well assembled as the Passat.
It isn’t perfect. I’m disappointed that the styling isn’t a little more adventurous and I think the man who designed the finger-operated parking brake is bonkers (It must be a man. I can’t imagine any woman would think it better than a traditional handbrake).
That said, it is a fine car to drive, sharper and smoother than any people-carrier. It feels like it will never fail and being a Volkswagen it probably won’t. And while the styling is a touch anonymous I’m sure a lot of traditional Passat fans will be more than happy with it.
What’s more, this is a Bluemotion model which means it’s greener than a lot of much-heralded hybrids. More than 60mpg on average for a 1.6 litre diesel which never feels underpowered is astonishing.
Style-wise, there is a question mark over Passat, especially considering the 1990s models were so good that Ford were inspired to make Mondeo look similar.
Today’s Passat isn’t as clean or neat. In fact, it could be said to be bland. But as ever with VW it’s a fantastic package with stunning ride and handling and cheap running costs which make it a stand-out choice as a company car.
I know official figures are hard to replicate but this car managed 50mpg on a combination of motorways and minor roads. VW say you’ll get more than 70mpg if you have a lighter right foot than mine.
It has all the usual Passat benefits like space, solidity and impressive residual values, and on a 100-mile motorway-only run I hit 60mpg at an average of 62mph, which is brilliant. Although it’s a small engine for a car of this size and its output won’t set the world alight, it nevertheless feels swifter than you might imagine.
As with all Volkswagen’s latest diesel engines it fires up easily and settles into a quiet idle. It’s refined and smooth and is a credit to its makers.
It comes in saloon and estate versions with the saloon slightly the more frugal and clean, dipping to 109g/km of CO2 compared with the estate’s 113g/km. Its trump card is that thanks to its lowered suspension and low-friction tyres it sits a little lower on the company car tax scale than the 1.6-litre TDI with BlueMotion Technology – a car that has the engine mods but not the aerodynamic ones. The seats are on the firm side, as is normal for Volkswagen, but they do offer good long distance comfort. The driving position is fantastic, too.
It’s an excellent cruiser but lacks cruise control among other things; more like a tool for a job compared to some more luxurious models in the range. Safety and security equipment is in no short supply though, including a key that differs from the usual Volkswagen style in that it pushes into the dashboard and interfaces with the car entirely electronically, making the car almost impossible to steal without the key.
Plenty of airbags and electronic traction and stability control systems are standard, including an electronic handbrake that won’t release if you’re not wearing your seat belt. With BlueMotion, VW is striking at the company car market. Its low emissions make it tax-friendly and its efficient diesel engine make it cheaper to fuel.