Volkswagen Passat Saloon (2014 - ) review
The Passat is a family saloon that competes with the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia, and it makes its case with a desirable image, a high-quality cabin and a sophisticated driving experience. It’s one of the best cars of its type.
- Elegant looks and classy cabin
- Excellent comfort and refinement
- Spacious cabin
- Not as sharp to drive as some rivals
- Rear seats don’t fold down flat
- Some versions look very pricey
At a glance
This type of car is extremely popular with business users – indeed Volkswagen reckons that well over three quarters of Passats will go to the fleet market – and there can be little doubt that this is a car that will look very distinguished in any company car park. The lines may be simple, but the car’s long bonnet and elegant lines mean it looks very classy. Every model comes with alloy wheels – in increasingly large sizes as you go up the trim levels – with SE Business models getting front fog lights and tinted rear lights, and a unique sporty look on top R-Line models.
Inside, the Passat is a step above what you might expect from a family car. Never mind Mondeo Man; the quality in the VW is so high that it’s clearly after BMW Bloke. The dash is dominated by a neat touch-screen system that helps to reduce the clutter on the dashboard, while the materials used – and the way in which they’re assembled – set the VW apart from its rivals such as the Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia, and stand comparison with what you’ll find in the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. The driving position is excellent, too, with plenty of adjustment on the driver’s seat and steering wheel, while the optional ergoComfort driver’s seat with extra thigh support means you won’t require any extended service station breaks.
The Passat provides almost unrivalled space inside. Not only does it have masses of room for a couple of six-footers in the front seats, there’s more than enough space for a couple more in the back seats. What’s more, the large rear doors make it really easy for anyone to get in and out and, to cap it all, the boot is also extremely impressive and bigger than you’ll find in any of the Passat’s rivals. However, there’s an awkward lip that will make it tricky to get heavy bags in and out, and when you fold down the rear seats, they don’t sit anywhere near flat, leaving a large step in the loadbay.
Ride and handling
From the word go, when you turn the light steering, it’s clear that the Passat is a car that trades sharp responses for an altogether smoother drive - even in sportier trims such as R-Line models - which is no bad thing, given the kind of task the Passat will be asked to perform. After just a few miles, you settle back into a more relaxed driving style, as the car feels much more rewarding and enjoyable like that, with the suspension clearly set up to focus on a comfortable ride. Overall, the Passat inspires words such as ‘sure-footed’ and ‘dependable’ rather than ‘exciting’, so if you’re after a more involving or invigorating drive, then the likes of the Mondeo and 3 Series will be more your scene. For all that, though, the Passat is still a very good car to drive.
Where family cars are concerned, diesel is the automatic choice, and the Passat range offers plenty of choices. Most buyers will need not look past the 118bhp 1.6 unit. It’s no ball of fire, but it’s perky enough to keep you going at a decent lick without having to do too much work with the manual gearbox. It’s also impressively smooth and quiet, and if you fancy pairing it with the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, it’s a combination that works well. The bigger 2.0-litre diesels – which give 148bhp, 187bhp and 237bhp - give a predictable amount of extra punch, which will help if you regularly fill your car up with people or stuff, and they major on easy, refined performance. However, they cost a fair bit more than the 1.6, so make sure you really need the extra muscle before parting with your cash. Company car drivers who routinely only cover short distances might also want to consider the GTE model, which is a plug-in hybrid that uses an electric motor and a 1.4-litre petrol engine to deliver 215bhp, but that can also run for up to 31 miles on battery power alone. Whatever format the car runs in, it’s brisk to pick up, both away from the mark and on the move, and it does so in a smooth, quiet way that really complements the rest of the Passat’s easy-going driving experience.
The Passat looks quite dear next to family car rivals like the Insignia, but its stronger residual values will help to keep down whole-life costs, along with the all-important company car lease rates. Most of the diesel engines provide impressively low CO2 emissions – less than 110g/km in most cases – and that’ll help minimise monthly company car tax bills. Correspondingly low fuel consumption will be kind on your pocket, too. The really eco-friendly versions do even better, with figures 95g/km and 76mpg for the Bluemotion diesel, and 39g/km and 166mpg for the GTE plug-in hybrid. Remember, though, that these versions – the GTE especially – are comparatively expensive to buy, and you’ve virtually no chance of getting anywhere near these figures in real life. You do get some pretty appealing tax benefits, though.
It’s hard to predict just how reliable this eighth-generation Passat will be, and even if you look at data on previous generations of the car, there are mixed messages. According to Warranty Direct, Volkswagen’s (and the Passat’s) reliability is below average, while the car hasn’t performed well in customer satisfaction surveys; but, on the other hand, owners on our website are almost universal in their praise.
Safety kit is excellent across the range, with even the most basic S-trimmed models having knee- and rear side airbags, a Driver Alert System and a Post-collision Braking System. From SE trim upwards, you also get Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Assist and a Pre-Crash system, while there’s also an extensive list of safety-related options, including Predictive Pedestrian, Emergency Assist Protection and Traffic Jam Assist which automatically brakes, accelerates and steers the car in heavy traffic. It all proved very effective, too, with the Passat earning the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.
The Passat’s relatively high price is justified to some extent by the amount of equipment that comes as standard. As well as the safety kit listed above, every model also comes with alloy wheels, DAB radio, remote locking and four electric windows. Impressive as that is, we reckon it’s worth upgrading to SE Business, which adds all-round parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, the ergoComfort driver’s seat, sat-nav and Car-Net (which allows connection to the internet via a smartphone hotspot). GT and R-Line versions, meanwhile, give the car a luxury and sporty makeover, respectively.