Volkswagen£€™s classy Passat has been gaining on the premium brands with every new model. And this latest generation, launched last year, challenges not just Vauxhall£€™s Insignia; now getting quite old, but the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
It£€™s spacious and elegant in saloon or estate car form and compared to the workmanlike Ford Mondeo, the Passat feels truly luxurious inside though the Ford£€™s Aston Martin £€˜face£€™ will lure some buyers.
Prices start at £22,680 and there£€™s impressive finish and attention to detail everywhere you look, while lightweight design makes the Passat up to 85kg lighter than before; reducing fuel consumption and improving handling.
Despite the ballyhoo over VW fudging diesel exhaust emissions figures in tests that cars can£€™t meet in real life anyway, there are no petrol engines apart from the petrol-electric hybrid. Prices start at £22,680 and you can pick from seven trim levels.
I have been driving an 118bhp turbo diesel in SE Business trim with a six-speed manual gearbox which I think is preferable to the dual-clutch DSG automatic option. Despite a dominant chrome grille, the Passat still looks discreet enough for the executive car park.
It£€™s obvious the Passat is a class act and that Volkswagen£€™s policy of continual improvement has moved it upmarket with more than 22 million sold since the first iteration in 1973.
All versions have alloy wheels, air conditioning, digital radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity and electric door mirrors. SE trim adds front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and larger alloy wheels.
SE Business provides dynamic satellite navigation via an eight-inch colour screen that reacts to traffic jams, full European navigation, voice activation and fast, short and economy route options.
Three years Car-Net guide and inform access for £825 gives online access to traffic, weather, news feeds, and Google Earth and includes online navigation software updates.
A £1,110 driver assistant pack will dip headlights for you, warn if you drift out of a motorway lane, flag up traffic signs and warn of walkers in your path and at the side of the road.
A radar sensor also monitors the driver£€™s blind spots. The digital instrument panel (£580) has menus to vary what information is displayed. A rear view camera was £315.
You can get three people on the back seat, but the centre one has to straggle a central transmission tunnel though this model is front wheel drive. The rear seats fold easily at the tug of a lever in the boot. Load length is 1900mm and depth 470mm.
The boot springs open fast enough to deliver an uppercut to the unwary. The 118bhp 1.6-litre engine is smooth and refined with similar power to the old entry level versions of the 2-litre.
There£€™s lots of smooth torque on tap from 1,750 to 3,500rpm which makes the car feel quite lively and there£€™s plenty of performance on standby at most speeds. The Passat is even more relaxed than before at motorway velocities.
Though it rides and handles better than before there are more exciting cars to drive, but good handling barely matters these days and the Passat is a mature product that delivers the qualities many motorists want.
Like all Volkswagens, the Passat is easy to drive with low effort controls and precise steering. It feels more agile than before without being nervous and the ride is nicely accommodating though at night you need to watch out for suspension damaging none painted speed bumps.
A pal has recently claimed for damages from the council in his area. Backing up the Passat£€™s good looks is a 12-year guarantee on the bodywork.
Verdict Refined, brisk, economical and spacious