Volkswagen Passat Estate (2019 - ) review
The Passat is a mid-sized estate car that aims to offer a more premium option than cars like the Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia, but at a cheaper price than cars like the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.5
The Passat is one of the very best mid-size estates on sale, with a wide range of engines and trims to suit different requirements. It’s great for long motorway journeys and this updated version is packed with the latest technology to keep you informed and entertained. It will also suit families, thanks to its spacious interior and big boot.
- Good quality interior
- GTE plug-in hybrid is a great all-rounder
- Wide array of features
- Conservative styling won’t appeal to all
- Ride could be a bit better
- Unspectacular reliability record
Interested in buying a Volkswagen Passat?
How good does it look?
This version of the Passat is a facelifted version of the car released in 2014, and has a revised grille and lights and a few other bits and bobs to keep things fresh. It’s not a particularly flashy design, reflecting its main target market of professionals that cover long distances for work, but it is subtle and smart.
There’s a wide range of versions available, starting from the SE model and then rising in spec and price through SEL and R-Line. There’s also the Alltrack model, which has extra chunky bodywork and higher suspension for extra ground clearance, allowing some off-road potential, as well as two GTE plug-in hybrid versions: the GTE, and the GTE Advance.
All cars have roof rails, alloy wheels and full LED headlights. SE and SEL cars ride on 17-inch wheels while the R-Line model has larger 18-inch numbers, as well as lowered sportier suspension. The Alltrack also has 18-inch wheels, while the GTE models use 17s.
What's the interior like?
Volkswagen has a long history of making great-quality interiors, and the Passat is no different with impressive build quality and solid-feeling materials. The cabin has a premium feel, especially when compared to rivals like the Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia. It’s not quite as swanky as the BMW 3 Series Touring, Audi A4 Avant or Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but then the Passat is considerably cheaper. The seats and steering wheel have plenty of adjustment to give you your preferred driving position.
SE cars come with a 6.5-inch touchscreen housing VW's latest infotainment system, while SEL cars get a larger 8.0-inch screen, and GTE Advance customers get a a 9.2-inch version. All of them use a touchscreen to control information and entertainment features. The system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and also an array of internet features, from streaming services like Apple Music and Tidal to internet radio and real-time traffic information. We’ve only had a short time with it, but found it straightforward to use, although it could do with shortcut buttons to quickly jump between different screens.
Higher-end cars will also feature a digital instrument panel in place of traditional analogue dials, which not only looks smart but allows you to configure it to display your own preferences, whether that be speed, revs, fuel economy, navigation information or what’s playing on the radio.
How practical is it?
There’s lots of space inside the new Passat, and it’s been well thought out to make it easy to live with for both work and family life. It feels open and airy, with good visibility from the driver’s seat, and lots of space for three tall adults in the back, with impressive head- and legroom. Boot space is also very good, with 650 litres of space, and this compares really well with most rivals, although the boot is slightly smaller in the GTE versions due to the battery. There’s also a great selection of cupholders, door pockets, cubby holes and storage trays to hold odds and ends.
What's it like to drive?
The Passat has been designed with long distances in mind, so the focus is on comfort and, overall, VW has done a very decent job. If we’re being nit-picky then the ride is slightly less smooth than we’d hope, with lumps and bumps in the road not quite as ironed out as in some rivals, but it’s really not a major gripe. Overall it’s quiet and relaxed while also being very capable through corners, with minimal body roll and steering that weights up nicely in the bends to give a feeling of composure and solidity.
Impressively, this is also true in the Alltrack model, despite its raised suspension and higher centre of gravity. While we’ve yet to try it away from the tarmac, it would seem to offer a great option for those that want off-road ability without compromising on-road performance.
Cars with the optional adaptive suspension let you switch between Normal, Sport and Comfort settings. All are perfectly acceptable when it comes to ride quality, and while the Sport mode will mean you feel more of the imperfections in the road beneath you, it’s never uncomfortable and it further enhances the Passat’s body control through the bends. If you enjoy a good driving road, it’s an option to consider, especially on the more powerful models.
How powerful is it?
The petrol range starts with a 1.5-litre with 150 horsepower, and continues through to a 2.0-litre with 190 horsepower or 272 horsepower. We’ve tried the latter in an Alltrack and found it strong, although it doesn’t feel quite as dramatic at the power figures would suggest. In fairness, that could be because the Alltrack is heavier than other models, but it still makes for brisk progress. In the UK, though, the Alltrack will only be available with the 2.0-litre, 190-horsepower diesel.
We’ve yet to try a diesel in the revised Passat, but the range starts with a 120-horsepower 1.6, and also includes 2.0-litre engines with 150, 190 or 240 horsepower. The most powerful engines come with all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard, which we’ve found to be quick and smooth.
We have tried the revised GTE plug-in hybrid, which now promises an improved electric-only mode of up to 34 miles (based on WLTP measurements). It’s a really solid all-rounder, able to play the green card and run emissions-free on battery power, courtesy of an electric motor. At the other end of the scale, you can hit the GTE button next to the gearstick and harness the power of both electric motor and 1.4-litre petrol engine, which combined give 218 horsepower. With the electric motor giving lots of low-down grunt, it feels very brisk and engaging to drive.
There are various hybrid settings that allow you, for example, to prioritise electric power in town, but change modes to harvest that power back while on the motorway. And of course, you can plug it into a charging point either at home or at a public charger, meaning that if you mostly do shorter distances, you could get away with using hardly any petrol at all.
How much will it cost me?
Generally, the Passat is a few thousand pounds more than Ford’s Mondeo but several thousand pounds cheaper than Audi’s A4. We haven't yet seen industry estimates for running costs, but we do know Volkswagen resale values are usually pretty good, and their engines are economical, too, which in theory should mean it’s a pretty decent performer when it comes to overall running costs. But we’ll know more once more details have been announced.
How reliable is it?
Volkswagen has had a solid, if unspectacular record for reliability in recent years. JD Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study placed it in the mid-field of manufacturer rankings for 2017, 2018 and 2019, but it did have a score ahead of the industry average, which is good news. By-and-large, our Owner Reviews show very few reported problems, so we’d be reasonably confident that the Passat Estate shouldn’t give you too much trouble. But should anything go wrong, Volkswagen offers a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.
How safe is it?
The Passat was crash-tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP back in 2014 and scored the maximum five stars. Although standards have moved on since then, VW has introduced more safety technology into the car to try and ensure it keeps up with newer competition. All cars come with features including automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist (which helps prevent you inadvertently straying out of your lane). There are front, side and curtain airbags and two Isofix child seat mounting points in the outer rear seats.
How much equipment do I get?
All Passats come with a decent level of equipment, with even the entry-level car boasting alloy wheels, LED headlights and an infortainment system with DAB radio and Bluetooth. All cars also come with a wireless App Connect system that lets you sync your smartphone with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or Mirrorlink via Bluetooth, meaning you don'ty have to plug it in via USB.
All cars also get a feature called Travel Assist, which uses various features like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist to provide a semi-autonomous driving experience. The system will help guide the steering and keep a constant gap to traffic in front, adjusting its speed when the speed limit changes. Based on our short experience of it so far, it works very well, and if you’ve got a route programmed into the sat-nav, it’ll adjust its speed for bends and turns, too.
Upgrade from SE to SEL and you'll get leather seats, a larger infotainment system and voice control, as well as tinted rear windows and silver roof rails. The Sportier R-line has some extra styling bits on the outside and sports seats in the front with the R-Line logo embroidered on. There's also three-zone climate control and keyless entry.
The GTE plug-in hybrid comes with blue brake calipers and different LED running lights, as well as the larger infotainment system and a charging point in tyhe front grille. Opt for the GTE Advance, and that'll get high-tech matrix headlights - which allow you to keep high beam on without dazzling oncoming drivers - and keyless entry.
Meanwhile the Alltrack has cloth seats, chrome bits on the outside and raise suspensions.
Options are plentiful and include a panoramic sunroof, a Dynaudio sound system and a head-up display.
The Passat is one of the best mid-sized estate cars on the market today and will appeal both to professionals that need a dependable, comfortable long-distance car, and to families looking for a premium feel without straying into Audi, BMW or Mercedes money. It’s a really solid all-rounder that drives well and has plenty of features. If you’re in the market for a car of this type, it should be one of the first on your shortlist.