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Volkswagen Passat Estate SE BlueMotion 2.0 TDI 140PS

Click to view picture gallery“Fifteen million Volkswagen Passats
  have been sold worldwide since the
  first generation model came along.
  Now the seventh-gen models are here
  and, as you’d expect, they
re better
  than ever
...”


VOLKSWAGEN'S SEVENTH GENERATION PASSAT now on sale in four-door Saloon and five-door Estate body styles takes on not only a fresh appearance both inside and out, with every panel and glass surface apart from the roof being new, but also adopts the latest technologies and efficiency measures to make it among the most economical cars in its class.

The new Passats will sell against the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 as well as the sub-premium brands such as the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Honda Accord, Toyota Avensis, Volvo S60/V60 and Skoda Superb.

The best-selling version of the new Passat range is expected to be the Estate SE 2.0-litre TDI 140PS (138bhp). For the first time, as buying patterns change, the Estate is expected to outsell the Saloon, accounting for 53% of UK sales. In 2011, Volkswagen UK will sell just under 10,000 Passat Saloons and just over 11,000 Estates with overall around 80% of Passats being taken up by fleet and company car users.

CO2 emissions are just
120g/km and with the six-
speed manual
box the
Passat returns an official
61.4mpg — although
my ‘test best’ was only
48.4mpg
...”
Whether company car or retail customers, all are looking for lower running costs in the form of VED road taxes, lower Benefit-in-Kind company car taxation and improved fuel economy and the latest Passats might well appeal.

The engine line-up reflects the challenge of meeting today's customer needs. The petrol line-up comprises of smaller but more powerful TSI direct injection units: 1.4-litre 120bhp, 1.8 157bhp and 2.0-litre 207bhp.

Every second-generation diesel engine is now badged as a BlueMotion Technology product, signifying it is equipped with battery regeneration and Stop-Start systems as standard. The TDI line-up comprises 1.6-litre 103bhp, 2.0 138bhp and 2.0-litre 167bhp units. Most engines are available with the choice of six-speed manual of six/seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic transmissions.

The best-selling 2.0-litre TDI 138bhp unit in estate guise my road test model with SE specification and costing £23,375 has 236lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, CO2 emissions of just 120g/km and returns an official 61.4mpg with the six-speed manual 'box although my 'test best' was only 48.4mpg. Road tax is £nil in the First Year and then just £30 per annum after that. Company car drivers will enjoy a relatively low 13% Benefit-in-Kind tax.

Three trim levels are available: S, SE and Sport. Additional equipment added to the new Passat over the outgoing model includes an iPod interface and leather multifunction steering wheel for the S model. The SE trim level gains an eight-speaker digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and the new driver fatigue detection system; while at the top of the range, the new Sport model gains touch-screen satellite navigation. All Passats are fitted with six airbags, ABS, Electronic Stabilisation Programme and whiplash-optimised head restraints as standard.

In addition, the new seventh-generation Passat is the quietest and most refined iteration yet: thicker glass is fitted to the side windows while the windscreen features a thin plastic film sandwiched between two layers of the glass to help reduce noise transmission.

Being an estate, the
load capacity will be a
major consideration —
with all five seats in use
the boot space is 603
litres and with the split
rear seats folded
this goes up to 1,731
...”
The front bulkhead incorporates increased sound deadening which, combined with the latest generation of common rail diesel and TSI petrol engines, cuts the engine noise entering the interior of the new Passat. Unfortunately, on certain surfaces tyre noise entering the cabin was less appealing.

Those are the main bones of the new Passat but there's more information that will also be of interest: the refreshed exterior design makes it look a classier vehicle an important feature in this very competitive sector.

The new VW family grille with the chrome horizontal fins framed by a pair of angular headlights looks modern and, of course, includes the daytime running light function. At the rear there are more distinctive tail lights. And chrome trim detailing around the windows, along the side sills and in the front and rear bumpers, brightens the exterior without making it too glitzy. Consequently it remains understated but classy.

The Passat has grown by 4mm to 4,771mm nose-to-tail; the width and height are the same (at 1,820mm and 1,516mm respectively) so it looks sleek but substantial. Being an estate, the load capacity will be a major consideration. And the Passat delivers: with all five seats in use the boot space is 603 litres and with the split rear seats folded this goes up to 1,731 litres. The load area is well shaped, so easy to use; and the tall tailgate opening is kind to your head. A tailgate release button inside the car was both thoughtful and very convenient.

Still inside, there's a revised dashboard with new dials and soft feel trim finishes in places, an analogue clock, subtle metalwork highlights and comfortable new seats. The instrument layout is simple and uncluttered and there's a comprehensive list of standard fixtures and fittings. The overall experience is one of comfort and refinement.

Being more of a refreshed model, the new estate does not outshine the competition. It's unquestionably more polished than before but while it has now reached the same level of others in its class, it doesn't exceed them.

The TDI unit is very
quiet in the new model
,
and its high torque
output from low rpm
makes the Passat
responsive to drive
...”
Likewise the fuel economy: it is good but not class-leading. I found the new 2.0-litre diesel units in the BMW EfficientDynamics 3/5-Series Touring and C/E-Class BlueEfficiency Estates to return better real-life fuel economy but they do cost more to buy than the Passat, have higher road tax costs and their Benefit-in-Kind taxes are also slightly higher. But the official homologation figures are all that count, so on paper the Passat Estates score higher for most users.

The 48.4mpg test drive fuel economy I achieved during my week's test could, I think, have been better. Driven at around 60mph on motorways the fuel consumption was 52.7mpg but driven at 70mph this dropped to 46.1mpg with the overall figure of 48.4mpg being registered with A and B class roads and some in-town driving included. This was below the 50+mpg figures achieved by the similar BMW and Mercedes models tested recently over comparable routes.

The engine, with its high torque output from low rpm, makes the Passat responsive to drive despite its high gearing. The unit is very quiet in the new model indeed, most noise aspects of the new Passat Estate are hushed except for tyre noise intrusion on some road surfaces.

The Passat's suspension set-up is on the 'comfort' side which is no bad thing for high-mileage company car drivers. However, drivers will have to accept conservative interior styling, some tyre noise intrusion and real-life fuel economy that on my test didn't come close to the official figure.

Plus points include the polished exterior styling, roomy and well equipped interior, low taxation and a responsive engine. All other driving aspects including flexibility of use, plus the updated design, are welcome improvements. David Miles

Volkswagen Passat Estate SE BlueMotion 2.0 TDI 140PS
| £23,375
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 10 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 48.4mpg
Power: 138bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 120g/km