Car review: Volkswagen's new Passat 2.0 TDI SE is beaking into the family car elite

 
Peter Burgess
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Volkswagen’s new Passat
Volkswagen’s new Passat challenges its premium rivals in a bid to become the vehicle of choice for families.
It’s tough to break into the “elite” family car market. Audi, Mercedes Benz, BMW and Lexus have got it pretty well sewn up. In fact, nobody else really comes close.
But I drove a car recently that could squeeze into this exclusive family car club. The new Volkswagen Passat is a proper, full-sized family saloon and estate. In many ways, it’s the Golf’s grown-up sibling (and I bet you wouldn’t mind having one of those on your driveway). The Passat feels like it has been around forever. Volkswagen has sold 22m of them so far, and I was apprehensive that this eighth generation model would continue a long-running theme by failing to stand out from the crowd.
I travelled to Sardinia in Italy to find out just how family-friendly the Passat was. The island appears to be shut down to visitors past September, but the weather is still perfect. Volkswagen had taken over the whole of the Hotel Romazzino on the Costa Smeralda for several weeks, such is the significance of the launch of the Passat. They even sent an invite to Oscar winner Adrien Brody. He came, too, with his mum.
There is a level of grace about this new Passat, a hint, even from the outside, that this car is sophisticated. The technical package offers so much you wonder whether you’ll need to do any of the driving yourself at all. There are some truly extraordinary features up its sleeve; take Emergency Assist. This in-built gadget detects if the driver is failing to steer, brake or accelerate – if they’ve fallen asleep, for example. It tugs on the safety belt, jabs the brakes and wiggles the steering to try and wake you up. If there’s no response, the Passat is brought to a halt with the hazard lights flashing. But, like many smart ideas, there’s a flaw. It only works with the cruise control engaged – and how often do you drive like that?


Inside the new Passat

There are no petrol-engined Passats on offer in the UK, which is a shame because there’s a very fine 1.4 turbo option in Europe that is smooth, refined and entertaining to drive. Instead, it’s all about the diesels, which offer seductively low levels of CO2 to keep the company car tax in check.
They range from a perfectly competent 1.6 TDI to the surprising 2.0 BiTDI Passat, which has enough power – 240hp – to scald many a hot hatchback. It’s impressive, but falls short of being enthralling.
Instead, it’s the interior that deals the killer blow. The detailing is spot on, with well-judged use of chrome that makes the Passat classy and not at all brash.
At least as good as those premium rivals, then... But there’s more. Like the Ford Mondeo, space for passengers is pretty generous and the enormous boot will be a hit with young families. The limousine levels of rear legroom will also be popular with gangly teenagers.
The new Volkswagen Passat makes sense on many levels. For a lower outlay you get more space than an equivalent A4, 3 Series or C-Class, while it hits the premium button very neatly as well. Don’t expect too much excitement, but this could prove to be a brilliant, not to mention reliable, family classic.
Peter Burgess works for motoringresearch.com.

THE FACTS: VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 2.0 TDI SE

PRICE: £24,435
0-62MPH: 8.7 secs
TOP SPEED: 138mph
CO2 G/KM: 106g/km
MPG COMBINED: 68.8mpg

THE VERDICT

DESIGN: ★★★★☆
PERFORMANCE: ★★★☆☆
PRACTICALITY: ★★★★★
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★★☆

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FORD MONDEO TITANIUM 2.0 TDCI ECONETIC


Ford Mondeo Titanium 2.0 TDCI ECONETIC

PRICE: £24,995
0-62MPH: 9.5 secs
TOP SPEED: 130mph
CO2 G/KM: 109g/km
MPG COMBINED: 67.3mpg
THE VERDICT
DESIGN: ★★☆☆☆
PERFORMANCE: ★★★☆☆
PRACTICALITY: ★★★★★
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★☆☆

MAZDA6 2.2 SE


Mazda6 2.2 SE

PRICE: £22,095
0-62MPH: 9.0 secs
TOP SPEED: 131mph
CO2 G/KM: 104g/km
MPG COMBINED: 67.3mpg
THE VERDICT
DESIGN: ★★★★☆
PERFORMANCE: ★★★☆☆
PRACTICALITY: ★★★★☆
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★★☆

MERCEDES-BENZ C 200 BLUETEC SE


Mercedes-Benz C 200 Bluetec SE

PRICE: £28,570
0-62MPH: 9.7 secs
TOP SPEED: 135mph
CO2 G/KM: 102g/km
MPG COMBINED: 72.4mpg
THE VERDICT
DESIGN: ★★★★☆
PERFORMANCE: ★★★☆☆
PRACTICALITY: ★★★☆☆
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★☆☆

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