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Volkswagen Passat SE 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Technology

Click to view picture galleryAs the second-most expensive
  single purchase in most people
s
  lives, you could rightfully expect
  your car to last as long as your
  house. However, if you
re self-
  assured enough about who you
  are, why change your car every
  two years just to impress the
  neighbours with the latest ‘plate
?


MOST CARS BUILT TODAY will easily give you ten years of faithful service, if not much more; the trick is to recognise now which one will still look and drive as well a decade down the line. Actually, it's not so tricky. One way to be sure is to buy something wearing a VW badge on its nose. If it's a family-sized four-door saloon you're after, the Passat should definitely be on your list.

To date, over fifteen million Passats have laid down a rock solid reputation for providing faithful and long service to their owners. And the Passat gets better with each new incarnation —
this seventh generation model is a car you could happily buy with the intention of running it for ten-plus years in the certainty that there would be no hiccups as the miles and the years rack up — familiarity, far from breeding contempt, actually breeds contentment.

“With a tempting
61.4mpg potential
average consumption
and low, tax-friendly
tailpipe emissions from its already well-proven
138bhp turbodiesel
engine, the Passat
doesn’t have to fight to
get your attention
...”
With a tempting potential 61.4mpg average consumption and low, tax-friendly tailpipe emissions from its already well-proven 138bhp turbodiesel engine, the Passat doesn't have to fight to get your attention.

A week's hard driving saw 49.9mpg and no doubt lighter-footed drivers will easily crack the mid-50's. Even if they don't, 50mpg is nonetheless an impressive return for a quality saloon of this size.

And the TDI diesel engine has more to offer than just economy —
236lb ft of torque; and it's on tap from 1,750rpm which makes for a responsive and flexible engine. The Passat tops out at 132mph, which the majority of drivers will never need to approach; and its 9.8-second zero to 62mph acceleration is perfectly fit for purpose. The real bonus is just how refined and effortless it feels; 70mph on motorways calls for just 1,750rpm in top gear.

All TDI-powered Passats now come with integrated BlueMotion Technology and this brings Stop/Start, a visual gear change prompt, battery regeneration (recovered energy from braking is used to charge the battery); and low rolling resistance tyres. Additionally you also get lowered suspension (15mm at the front and 7.5mm at the rear) plus, a boot spoiler —
all of which help reduce air resistance and optimise fuel consumption.

As important as the right engine is a liveable, well-equipped cabin. Here too the Passat delivers —
and not just for the immediate present, but for the long haul. Each successive generation of Passat saloons (and estates) has been noticeably better, smarter, and more comfortable, and this latest one continues the trend. Strongly.

There's a clean-cut elegance to the cabin architecture with nothing faddish, so it will look as fresh in ten years' time. Brushed stainless steel decorative highlights and quality filleting abound, both on the dash, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and the switchgear, which not only looks good but feels good to operate. Dials are crisp and clear with can't-be-bettered white-on-black markings.

The wide 'comfort' seats are well-shaped with light but effective bolstering — those in our test car were upholstered in a cloth that's comfortable all year round although leather is an option.

“Adding to the cabin
ambience is the sound of
silence — thanks to
excellent sound-
deadening and thicker
side window glass plus
a plastic film-and-glass
sandwich windscreen.
Not that you can hear the
clock in the fascia
ticking — but then it
doesn’t make any noise
at all.
..”
They're large seats, firmly supportive and set well apart by a height-adjustable centre armrest wide enough to share without any squabbling. And they're surrounded by plenty of room in all directions — most importantly, the space between your head and the roof.

The driver has the added benefit of electric lumbar adjustment on his seat. More importantly you sit right-on to the generously adjustable leather-rimmed steering wheel and pedal set (essential for real comfort); combined with plenty of electric seat adjustment this guarantees a splendidly spot-on driving position.

If you want to make it even more welcoming you can tick the boxes for the optional heated front seats (260) and the electric glass panoramic sunroof (870).

Adding to the cabin ambience is the sound of silence —
thanks to excellent sound-deadening and thicker side window glass plus a plastic film-and-glass sandwich windscreen. Not that you can hear the clock in the fascia ticking — but then it doesn't make any noise at all.

Access to the rear cabin is through wide doors that open to a full ninety degrees and it's just as pleasant to travel back there thanks to plenty of light entering through the long side windows, a comfy backrest angle and lots of foot, knee and leg room.

Passengers are flanked by wide outer door armrests with a good-sized drop down central one (with cupholders and a slim lidded storage tray) dividing up the rear bench. Parents will appreciate the optional integrated booster seats that can be popped-up when needed.

Behind the rear seats you'll find 565 litres of easy-to-load luggage space. A neat touch to keep your hands clean or for when you return laden with shopping: slide your foot under the Passat's tail and the bootlid opens for you automatically.

This convenient hands-free boot opening feature is packaged with keyless entry and a Start/Stop button and costs an extra 525. It's a big, wide boot (40-inches); pull the handles in the boot and the backrests spring forward and with the rear seats folded the loadbay runs to 77 inches in length.

“The new Passat’s ride
comfort is impressive.
On motorway it’s what
you’d call mile-eating
and in town it has
a cosseting suppleness
that treats poor roads,
potholes and less
than perfect blacktop
with the contempt
it deserves.
..”
With the rear seats in use, longer items such as skis can be accommodated via the load-through hatch behind the centre rear armrest.

Adding extra versatility, the 60:40 split/fold rear seatbacks fold almost flat; and the rear bulkhead cut-out is large enough to take advantage of it.

Another pleasant surprise is the full-size matching alloy spare wheel beneath the boot floor —
and you don't see many of them these days!

While an easygoing character is a prime requisite for any extended relationship, so too is a good-looking body and the potential for some easy automotive jiving when you're in the mood.

The new Passat dresses noticeably sharper; pronounced crease lines on the bonnet flow back from the chromed four-bar grille and iconic VW roundel. New-look headlights with LED daytime running lights and classy brightwork on the front splitter and window surrounds are as subtle as they are classy.

And while it's obviously no Golf GTI, the Passat's supple and well controlled chassis is more than capable of honouring anything its owner is likely to ask of it. Backed up by good visibility, nice steering and decent brakes with plenty of bite as you go down to the wire, this large saloon delivers safe, reassured handling and cornering —
and it warns you in good time as you approach the limit so you can ease off the power to smoothly kill any understeer and keep your line clean.

Not only that but the new Passat's ride comfort is impressive. On motorway it's what you'd call mile-eating and in town it has a cosseting suppleness that treats poor roads, potholes and less than perfect blacktop with the contempt it deserves.

Mid-range SE trim models come equipped with all the essentials, and then some: semi-automatic AirCon, radio/MP3-compatible CD player with eight speakers and Aux-in plus DAB digital radio, flat tyre indicator, power-operated heated door mirrors with auto-dimming, four one-shot up/down power windows, auto wipers, electronic parking brake with auto-hold (both work superbly), hill hold function, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power driver's seat, Bluetooth, press and drive key, auto boot opening, multi-configurable driver display and a multi-device interface with USB and iPod connection cables along with a set of smart, easily cleanable five-spoke 17-inch alloys.

“As you drive down the
road the Passat’s Park
Assist not only picks
you a suitable parking
space but, if you press
the ‘now park me’
button, will twirl the
wheel to parallel park
you neatly into it — first-time, every-time
...”
Also standard-fit kit is cruise control and it includes VW's excellent Fatigue Detection. This innovative driver assistance system monitors the driver's behaviour for any signs of fatigue or loss of concentration and then sounds a wake-up call (via a visual between the speedo and rev-counter along with an audible warning) of the need for a time-out. Naturally an electronic stabilisation programme is also standard, as too is a full set of airbags.

If parking is a chore you really do abhor then the optional (625) Park Assist system could change all that: as you drive down the road it not only picks you a suitable parking space but, if you press the 'now park me' button, will twirl the wheel to parallel park you neatly into it — first-time, every-time. This optional feature also comes with front and rear parking sensors.

For the record, our test car had the optional navigation/audio package that includes a rear-view camera and touchscreen 3D SatNav that serves up crystal clear guidance and full postcode input. It's foolproof and worth every penny.

The manual gear shift action is another big plus; it's light and it's positive, and it's complemented by equally well-weighted foot controls. If you prefer, VW's DSG auto 'box is an option —
and it doesn't hurt the performance or the economy.

The Passat's overall quality and 'hush' are even closer to prestige brands such as Mercedes than you might think. In 138bhp guise it shows an ample sufficiency of verve for real-world driving conditions and, particularly on motorways, it's pretty much top of its class for both refinement and frugality. So if you're looking for an excellent long-term motoring companion, the Passat could be the ideal saloon for you.
MotorBar

Volkswagen Passat SE 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Technology | 22,410
Maximum speed: 132mph | 0-62mph: 9.8 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 49.9mpg
Power: 138bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 119g/km