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Volkswagen Passat saloon (2005 – 2011) expert review

By Adrian Higgins, 9th March 2007

The verdict

The Volkswagen Passat impresses in lots of ways. It’s quiet and comfortable to drive and be driven in. It’s well specced and spacious, too.

Expert rating:

3.8

Pros

  • Broad range of engines
  • Comfortable ride
  • Spacious interior

Cons

  • Lacks driver involvement of rivals
  • Conservative styling
  • Plain interior

Full Review

1. Exterior

VW’s claim ‘the minute you set eyes on the Volkswagen Passat, your heart will beat faster’ might be over-egging it a bit but the German manufacturer’s medium-sized car has some nice touches. The sixth incarnation of the saloon which made its debut in 1973 is longer, wider and taller than the model it replaced and borrows styling cues first introduced for the luxury Phaeton, including LED tail lights a chrome-plated radiator grille and a more contemporary coupe style appearance.
Our rating: 3

2. Interior

The first thing which catches your eye is the absence of a traditional hand brake. Instead the Passat features a dashboard-mounted electronic parking brake which complements an uncluttered instrument panel and minimalist central console. This simplifies the area between the driver and front passenger so only the gears and generous storage area sit between. The leather-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel and gear knob have a good quality feel while the pale upper interior gives the car a light feel.
Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

Need to shift five people in comfort and shunt a fair amount of luggage too? The Passat will serve you well. VW have added another ten litres of space to the boot which now accommodates an impressive 485 litres. Inside, increases in size over this model’s predecessor will keep the passengers happy while interior storage solutions include a four-litre capacity compartment between the driver and front passenger plus front door compartments big enough to hold large drink bottles. Covered storage areas can benefit from the car’s air conditioning capabilities to keel drinks cool. We liked being able to open the boot fully with the remote-control key – useful when you’ve got handfuls of shopping.
Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

The new Passat’s body is 57 per cent stiffer than the outgoing model’s – and it is responsive while coping well with corners. Buying a Passat delivers a good driving experience while owners will still enjoy a high quality ride which is comfortable and quiet.
Our rating: 4

5. Performance

We drove the 2-litre diesel model which hits 62mph after 10.2 seconds and can achieve a top speed of 127mph. However, buyers can choose from an extensive range which boasts plenty of choice for petrol and diesel fans alike, It starts with a 1.6-litre petrol model which takes 11.4 seconds to hit 62mph before topping out at 124mph – and goes up to the 3.2-litre V6 model which slashes the 0-62mph time to 6.9 seconds and raises the top speed to 153 mph while more than doubling the maximum available power.
Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

The model we drove returns a frugal average 42.2 mpg and with a low insurance group and economical tax banding VW have done a good job of keeping the Passat’s motoring costs down. Obviously, choosing a different version will see costs swing up or down with the 1.9-litre diesel model returning an average 48.7mpg, sinking to 33.6mpg for the 2-litre FSI model. Volkswagen in general and the Passat in particular have a good reputation and hold their value well. Models come with a three year warranty, servicing varies according to use, while buyers will benefit from a year’s recovery assistance.
Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

Once again both Volkswagen’s overall reputation for reliability and the Passat’s in particular are borne out by Auto Trader’s Reliability Index which reveals the model has few problems, they are usually cheap to repair and do not occur until the car has clocked up 60,000 miles.
Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The Passat’s stiffer body combined with six airbags plus a huge array of safety features under the umbrella of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and electronic stabilisation programmes (ESP) adds up to the maximum five stars from Euro NCAP.
Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

Buy the entry-level Passat S and you will get a decent bundle of features including 16-inch alloy wheels as well as front electric windows and radio/CD player. We drove the SE version which also featured cruise control, electrically adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support and an extra four speakers for the stereo. There are also Sport and SEL trim Levels. Other features available include a DVD satellite navigation/radio system, Dynaudio sound system plus parking sensors.
Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

The Passat boasts many good qualities. It’s good to drive, good to travel in. quiet and safe too. But during our week with the car we were particularly impressed with its space and storage capabilities – especially that whopping great boot. The Passat is a sensible saloon which isn’t boring.
Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.8stars

  • Exterior3
  • Interior4
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:
Passat 1.4 TSI 122 S
1.4 TSI makes this Passat the budget choice.
Best-seller:
Passat 2.0 TDI CR 140 S
Best selling diesel enjoys six airbags and 16-inch alloys.
Blow the budget:
Passat 3.6 V6 R36
Enthusiasts will love the V6 growl.

The Passat boasts many good qualities. It’s good to drive, good to travel in. quiet and safe too