Ask anyone to name a Volkswagen car. The ‘Golf’ ! Will always be the answer.
Of course: Golfs have been around since 1974.
But don’t forget the Volkswagen Passat. Passat actually beats the Golf by a year. Today, in its umpteenth generation it continues to do very well as the U.K.’s best-selling estate car in its class.
Driving some of the latest models for 2020 underlines that this is not in the least surprising. The main feature of the latest Passat is the impressive upgraded and new technology across the range.
Although VW says it’s simplified the Passat range, it’s still comprehensive enough to cover every customer demand, with eight trim and equipment variants and a choice of four diesels (120-240PS) , three petrols (150-272PS) and a PHEV (plug-in Hybrid).
This last is around 5% cheaper than the previous GTE Hybrid, starting at £39,780.
At the Passat launch, this is the estate I drove first. A bit of a mistake, possibly, like the others I tried were all very good and impressive, but I just LOVED the Hybrid. Its optional extras brought the price up to £43,550.
Its engine is the remarkable 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged unit that develops 150 PS; add in the electrics, up to 116 PS, and the car surges forward to 62 mph in only 7.6 seconds. There’s something a bit different about sitting in an estate car with that sort of performance. The combined torque figure is a fat 400Nm, which gives that special secure feeling for confidently safe overtaking.
The rest of the performance matches up: the braking is well up to hauling this Passat back down from high speed. A practice emergency stop was faultless.
The handling is as good as you can expect within the laws of physics — and all the new Passats are well-endowed with the company’s latest safety technology that aim to help unwary drivers out of dodgy situations. There is New Travel Assist, combining version 3.0 of Volkswagen’s Adaptive Cruise Control and version 2.0 of Lane Assist. This claims levels of sophistication in automatic predictive recognition of potentially hazardous road conditions. For example, automatically slowing down for corners and junctions and it doesn’t just recognise road signs, but such features as kerbs and grass verges…just one helpful capability. Automated? Partly, if you want, right up to 130 mph.
For connectivity, there’s Wireless App-Connect, meaning no more need for a USB for your mobile in the car.
The PHEV Passat now has its electric-only range increased by around a third, so, depending on which official fuel consumption range you follow, you might get up to 43 miles (the old NEDC), which is 34 miles (WLTP). Given the fact that this is a hybrid, there are no less than five official WLTP consumption figures to study: as a hybrid, it’s 180.8 mpg; purely on petrol, it’s 29.1 (low), 46.3 (medium), 50.4 (high), and 39.2 (extra high). And how can ‘extra high’ be lower even than ‘medium’? Because it is carried out at speeds up to 81 mph.
Comparing these returns with the diesel 2.0 190 PS 4Motion is interesting, as the diesel wins only at ‘low’ with 35.4 mpg.
Among the options on the test PHEV were that delight of caravanners and many Passat-owning trailer-towers, VW’s Trailer Assist (£500). It’s a brilliant feature that controls reverse guidance and, with Park Assist, is so helpful getting the tow into precisely the right place. £930 gets you an electrically-released swivelling towbar, £800 more for Area View and a rear-view camera costs £335. With that lot, the whole caravan parking business becomes a doddle (doesn’t it?).
The test 190 PS TDI, also with the DSG auto box, and Alltrack, was very fully loaded with high-tech stuff approaching £ 8000’ worth. However, if it’s true that VW Passat owners consider their cars to be as ‘premium’ as estate cars from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, then perhaps they, and new buyers, will not be reluctant to part with that much to get top-quality equipment. This means highly sophisticated lighting, dynamic chassis control, a 9.2-inch touchscreen with both voice and gesture control, and a 10.25-inch dash display-screen that you can customise. Also, the Trailer Assist, a must-have option!
Apart from these new Passat range-toppers, the 150PS diesel will probably be the best-seller, in SEL guise, third up the line from the most basic S version. This Passat can shut down two of the four-cylinders if appropriate in order to save fuel. I didn’t try this model, but such systems work very well and are seamless in operation.
The new Passat, available as both estate and saloon, starts at £25,370 and will no doubt continue its success.
Car reviewed: Passat Estate Alltrack 2.0-litre TDI SCR 4MOTION 190 PS 7spd DSG, on the road price £39,185 0-62mph 8.0secs Top speed 133mph Engine 2.0-litre 4 cylinder TDI diesel Euro 6 Fuel Economy WLTP Combined 43.6mpg CO2 emissions 133g/km Max Power 190PS Torque 400Nm@1900-3300rpm Transmission 7-speed DSG
Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.
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