The VW Passat has classy looks and a premium cabin that set it apart from the family car norm

Volkswagen knows that the only way is upmarket for conventional family cars. The class is dying out, so it needs to focus on rivals such as BMW and Mercedes, rather than Ford and Vauxhall. Luckily for VW, this Passat is a more convincing alternative to these executives than ever. It's got the quality, refinement and technology to compete with the best, even if it lacks the badge prestige.

The Passat has plenty of advanced tech, including the latest infotainment and active safety options, while the GTE plug-in hybrid is a showcase for VW's green tech. But it’s the core diesel engines that showcase the Passat in its best light, proving punchy, smooth and very economical.

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The exterior looks aren't very inspirational, but the Passat has moved up a notch in terms of luxury, which is reflected even more strongly inside, where it feels a cut above the Ford Mondeo. The Passat is roomier than most rivals, despite being no larger than the previous-generation model, and it rides and handles better than ever, thanks to its lighter platform architecture.

The Passat is perhaps seen as a safe, unadventurous choice, but don’t let that put you off. It’s not a thrill-a-minute car, but if you’re looking for something to please over the long term, it’s a model that should never disappoint.

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VW Passat 2.0 TDI 150 SE Business

The Volkswagen Passat saloon and Passat Estate are the longest lived models in the VW line-up. They've been for sale since 1972, so pre-date the Golf by a couple of years, while the current B8-generation version has been on sale since 2015, with a facelift arriving in 2019.

The big change when the current Passat arrived was a move upmarket compared to what we're used to. It was a planned step, with VW moving away from the family car sector and fi its sights on the compact executive saloon class instead. As it sits in this middle ground between the two sectors, it has a number of rivals that it needs to take on.

Other models in the family car class have taken a leaf from the Passat's book by moving upmarket, so cars like the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 508, Mazda 6 and Skoda Superb have all raised their game, while the Kia Optima and Hyundai i40 are alternative family cars, and the Toyota Camry has returned to shake up the market. While these rivals offer a mix of hatchback or saloon bodies, all bar the Camry also come as an estate.

At the other end of the spectrum are the executive models that the Passat is designed to emulate. This includes the big three Germans in the shape of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, while the Jaguar XE, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Lexus IS are also in the running. In reality, the Passat gets close to these cars, but isn't quite at the same level.

But if you want an upmarket, spacious and well equipped family car, then the VW Passat fits the bill. VW offers S, SE Business, GT and R-Line trims, and prices start from around £24,000. Power comes from 1.6 TDI and 2.0 TDI diesels, while VW's 1.5 TSI Evo petrol with cylinder shut-off tech is also available. Six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG auto gearboxes are available, with the latter fitted as standard on higher-spec models, while 4MOTION four-wheel drive is standard with the most powerful 2.0 BiTDI 240PS twin-turbodiesel model.

Diesel engines are as accomplished as ever, the petrols are interesting and the GTE is an intriguing performance eco model
The Passat’s diesel-focused engine line guarantees great economy and low CO2 - and plug-in GTE offers a good alternative
Upmarket, high-class interior is extremely refined and packed with executive-level equipment and technology
Big and roomy, the Passat is better-packaged than ever and there’s never been one that’s as comfortable as this
Reliability signs are good: safety standards and features are front-running

There's also the plug-in hybrid Passat GTE, which features a petrol engine combined with an electric motor and battery pack. This model is pricey, but low emissions mean it's attractive to company car users.

The Passat uses the VW Group's MQB platform, and is one of the larger models to do so. As a result, it's relatively light, so the Passat handles tidily, although it's geared more towards comfort than performance.

As mentioned, the Passat Estate is also offered, and it caries a premium of around £1,500 over the saloon. It's available in all the same trims as the saloon, including GTE, but also comes in Passat Alltrack spec, with raised suspension, 4MOTION four-wheel drive and with SUV styling additions. It's a great alternative for buyers who don't want an SUV, but appreciate their abilities.

Last updated: 
13 May, 2019