BMW teams up with Italian styling gurus at Pininfarina for slick new coupe
Volkswagen Passat review (2010 onwards)
What - Volkswagen Passat
Where - Barcelona, Spain
Date - October 2010
Price - £18,470 - £25,623 (saloon), £19,744 - £26,955 (estate)
Available - On sale now
Key rivals -Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Toyota Avensis, Honda Accord, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, SEAT Exeo, Citroën C5
Summary - New Volkswagen Passat same as the old Volkswagen Passat? Almost - but with extra refinement, lower emissions and some very clever toys.
We like: Strong clean engines, impressive refinement, lots of clever technology...
We don't like: ...not all of which is standard, needs a serious shot of excitement
This is the officially the seventh-generation Volkswagen Passat - which we feel is cheating slightly, since really this model is a heavily revised version of the previous car.
The exterior update adds stronger lines and extra chrome front and rear - making the Passat much more of a mini Phaeton than before, if arguably also less elegant.
The Phaeton comparison is no accident. VW has spent the time, money and effort that didn't go into making this new Passat look sexy on substantially improving the refinement and introducing a series of high-end toys.
To this end there is now thicker glass for the side windows, a laminated, noise-isolating windscreen and improved bulkhead sound deadening. Wake up at the back there.
The risk of falling asleep is apparently no longer an issue, actually, since amongst the new gadgets VW is now offering a driver fatigue detection system, which aims to intervene before you nod off at the wheel.
Volkswagen's Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) is available for the first time on the Passat, alongside Lane Assist and a new accident-avoiding city braking system similar to that recently introduced by Volvo.
Park Assist is upgraded to deal with supermarket parking spaces, and - best of all - VW has been innovating in the boot department, with something called Easy Access representing an entirely new development.
No, revolutionary isn't exactly the word with this latest Passat. It's essentially the same car it was before, just with extra thrills. But is that really such a bad thing?
UK buyers get a choice of three petrol and three diesel engines at launch, all complete with turbochargers. Every diesel is now badged 'BlueMotion Technology', meaning they incorporate start-stop and brake energy regeneration as standard.
As a result the entry-level 1.6-litre TDI with 105hp is now more efficient than the outgoing full effort BlueMotion model (and a new one of these is coming early next year with even greater economy).
If you're undemanding, this 1.6 could be all the Passat you really need - 184lb ft of torque shuffles it along perfectly acceptably. The 140hp and 170hp 2.0-litre TDI variants provide more punch as required.
We only sampled one of the petrols. This 160hp 1.8-litre TSI felt livelier still, providing you're prepared to give it a bit of stick, though a less relaxed motorway cruiser. A 122hp 1.4 and 210hp 2.0 are also offered.
Regardless of engine the refinement is impressive, the new Passat exuding the cocoon-like calm we usually associate with much more expensive, executive-class transport.
Six-speed manual gearboxes are standard all round, with six- or seven-speed DSG automatics available on all but the 1.6 TDI. As ever DSG is effective, if occasionally reluctant to downshift when under manual control.
Ride and handling
When it comes to ride and handling the new Passat is like the old Passat: safe, secure and generally comfortable, but with little chance of ever becoming genuinely entertaining.
Even the addition of DCC almost totally fails to enliven the experience. How the Sport setting - as opposed to Comfort or Normal - will damage the ride quality remains to be seen; Spanish roads are very smooth.
Where fitted, Lane Assist - first seen in this car's more glamorous Passat CC cousin - will keep you firmly in your own lane, nudging the steering as required, and now only requiring one physical white line to track along.
However, it does get a touch confused by twisty tarmac, feeding back through the steering in the manner of strangely inconsistent resistance levels when making small inputs. Switch it off to make this go away.
Interior and equipment
Unusually both saloon and estate versions of the new Passat are being released simultaneous - and for the first time the estate is expected to be the bigger seller.
This is partly down to the Passat CC, which is almost as practical as the saloon but much more dramatic to look at (and a great car, too). The estate caters to those needing even more functionality.
So, this now has a tonneau cover that you simply tap to retract; you can spec a removable sliding shelf that skims over the boot floor to help shift heavy items back and forth; and a power-closing tailgate.
Both saloon and estate benefit from a new single-action rear-seat-folding mechanism, operated via levers in the luggage compartment. But only the Saloon is available with Easy Access.
Easy Access solves the age-old problem of opening the boot when your hands are full; approach the back of the car with the key in your pocket, deliver a sharp kicking motion in the direction of the rear bumper and - as if by magic - the bootlid opens.
It's a small slice of genius in an otherwise slightly uninspiring car...
Economy and safety
However, Volkswagen has also gone gadget-tastic in the safety department. There's new 'Front Assist with city emergency braking' available, upgraded Park Assist II and new driver fatigue monitoring.
Front Assist works with the adaptive cruise control, and in addition to warning you the traffic in front is getting too close, and priming the brakes accordingly, it can stop the car completely below 19mph in order to avoid urban fender-benders.
Park Assist II can now manoeuvre you into a wider range of parking spaces - and get you out again; the driver fatigue monitor is exactly what it sounds like, and works by analysing your steering inputs.
As for economy, the new Passat improves upon a car that was already impressive in this area. The ordinary 1.6 TDI, for example, now emits just 114g/km CO2 and returns 65.7mpg - the BlueMotion will boost this further still to 109g/km and 68.8mpg.
The MSN Cars verdict
Don't get us wrong - we like the Volkswagen Passat. The basic build quality is immense, the improved refinement certainly advantageous and we appreciate the extra toys and tech.
But the Passat is never going to set your heart on fire, and we can't help wishing VW had tried just a bit harder with the dynamics and the design. Comfortable, quiet and clever transport. The end.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.4, 1.8, 2.0 (all turbocharged)|
|Engines, diesel||1.6, 2.0 140, 2.0 170|
|Power, hp||102 - 210|
|Torque, lb ft||147 - 258|
|0-62 mph, secs||7.6 - 12.2|
|Top speed, mph||121 - 148|
|Mpg combined||39.2 - 65.7|
|CO2, tax||114g/km - 169g/km / 13% - 21%|
|Ratings||Volkswagen Passat Estate 1.6 TDI|
|Ride & handling||***|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
Read another Volkswagen review on MSN Cars
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
MSN Cars' Steve Walker takes the UK's cheapest new car for a test drive to see if it's worth parting only £5,995 for.
Date 23/05/13, Duration 4:17, Views 1335