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Volkswagen's hugely impressive Passat pushes class boundaries

PUBLISHED: 09:34 01 August 2016 | UPDATED: 09:34 01 August 2016

Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion 1.6 TDI estate combines huge carrying capacity with strong environmental performance.

Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion 1.6 TDI estate combines huge carrying capacity with strong environmental performance.

Volkswagen

Volkswagen's Passat never fails to impress motoring editor Andy Russell in the way it keeps moving onwards and upwards.

Volkswagen Passat Estate

Price: Volkswagen Passat Estate BlueMotion 1.6 TDI £25,110

Engine: 1,598cc, 120PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 11 seconds; top speed 129mph

MPG: Urban 65.7; extra urban 85.6; combined 76.3

CO2 emissions: 95g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 19%

Insurance group: 15E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,767mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,083mm; H 1,477mm

My first encounter with the Volkswagen Passat estate was and borrowing a leggy old Mark II to tow a boat trailer more than three decades ago.

The non-turbo 1.6-litre diesel model had covered nearly 150,000 miles but, despite a hard life and ending up as a used and abused runabout, it still drove well and had no squeaks and rattles. It set the tone for what I expected from the Passat.

Now in its eighth generation, with around 23 million sold since 1973, it still doesn’t disappoint.

Its wide appeal is down to being able to straddle automotive classes – a worthy workhorse in the volume fleet mark and smart enough to appeal to the image-conscious executives.

And it just gets better with the latest saloon and estate’s styling highlighting its width and solidity, giving it even more road presence, while shedding up to 85kg but being even more spacious inside.

Under the bonnet

It’s diesel to the fore with 120PS 1.6 and 150, 190 and 240PS 2.0-litre turbo diesels, the latter with twin turbo technology, and the only petrol model is the GTE plug-in hybrid mating a 1.4-litre engine and electric motor.

Just like my first experience of the Passat, my latest drive also had a 1.6-litre diesel engine but at 120PS, the latest turbo unit now has more than twice the power.

This latest 1.6 TDI BlueMotion version offers impressive figures for a large load-lugger with an official 76.3mpg combined and 95g/km of CO2.

This eco model only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox but while it wafts along at motorway speeds – 70mph in sixth is around 1,800rpm - it needs to be worked for brisk acceleration but doesn’t become intrusively noisy with more wind than tyre or engine noise.

Everyday commuting returned 60mpg, rising to 70mpg on a run.

How it drives

This BlueMotion model has 15mm lower suspension, part of measures to boost economy, but the ride hasn’t suffered, helped by 17in alloy wheels with deep tyres.

There are estates more rewarding and involving to drive but the Passat feels reassuringly solid and stable, coping well along winding country roads with good feel from the well-weighted steering.

When it comes to covering long distances – and you can with a 66-litre fuel tank – the Passat does it comfortably and competently which ticks the boxes for most drivers.

Space and comfort

The Passat estate has always been hugely practical but while the new model is 2mm shorter, the interior is actually 33mm longer which means even more space inside for passengers and loads.

It’s as roomy inside as some cars from a class above with generous dimensions for five six-foot plus passengers to stretch their legs – although middle rear passenger has to straddle a tall central tunnel - but headroom isn’t an issue.

It’s not at the expense of luggage space either with the long, flat-sided boot 47 litres bigger than its predecessor at a whopping 650 litres, rising to 1,780 litres with 40/20/40 split rear seat backs folded – they don’t go completely flat without some weight on them but are easy to release via levers in the boot.

A variable and versatile height floor panel sits flush with the sill for easy loading, and some hidden storage beneath, or drops lower for a deeper load bay, and it’s just a case of sliding and slotting it into the desired position with no awkward manhandling.

At the wheel

Volkswagen does some of the best fascias in the business for looks and logic and the new Passat takes it to a new level.

It’s dominated by an innovative air vent the full width of the fascia which features classy materials and padded plastics, upmarket alloy panels and simple dials and controls that are easy to use. The standard touch screen, with simple menu buttons, is one of the most intuitive and responsive on the market.

When it comes to quality the Passat feels as though it should be much more expensive.

Final say

Family estates cars don’t come much bigger or better than the Passat. It’s a huge holdall for passengers and loads, at an affordable price, while running costs won’t make a big dent in your wallet.

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