Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDi Bluemotion

VW Passat lr

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By Tim Saunders

Owners of successful businesses keep a tight rein on absolutely every aspect to deliver the best possible bottom line. Fact.

This mindset is reflected in the vehicles they drive. And so sensible forward thinkers cannot help but be attracted by the new Passat four door saloon from Volkswagen. And it’s a diesel. “But what about the emissions scandal?” I hear you cry.

Yes, there are going to be software upgrades and there have been mutterings about this being detrimental to fuel economy. If, like me, you take the view that Volkswagen is probably not alone, then most diesel vehicles are going to have an issue. Also, this crisis only relates to Volkswagen’s diesel cars. That’s a key point when worrying whether software updates will affect fuel economy. VW’s petrol engines are the most fuel efficient I have tested and I still expect their diesel engines to be the industry leaders, after this storm has blown over.

In 1.6-litre TDi Bluemotion SE Business guise the Passat is a vehicle that will return over 60mpg and can travel around 650 miles on its 70 litre tank, helped by reliable automatic stop/start. This is arrived at during normal everyday driving, not religiously sticking to 56mph as is often the case with these figures.

VW also owns Bentley and refinements from these vehicles are creeping into the more attainable Passat. For instance, the intelligent cruise control, which, with the help of a radar, keeps the Passat at a safe distance behind the car in front, automatically braking and accelerating as required. A similar system can be found in Volvos.

This Business edition Passat scores highly all round. Its interior is finished to a high standard and clearly much thought has gone into placement of switches and de-cluttering the dashboard. With equipment levels that include heated front seats and even a heated steering wheel, occupants remain comfortable no matter what the climate. However, one qualm from both my wife and I, is that over a long journey we ache and feel that more padding on the front seats would resolve this issue. Another surprise for me is the thin boot lid; it does not shut with a satisfying thunk, rather a tiny echo.

It’s a surprisingly large vehicle too, with a cavernous boot that swallows all of our luggage with ease. Usually no matter what vehicle we travel in we end up having to put luggage inside the car but this is not necessary in the Passat, which is really refreshing.

There is plenty of space inside, both in the rear and the front. This size is only really noticed when negotiating tight, narrow roads where the kerb is clipped by the nearside rear tyre. There is a useful camera for reversing and helpful bleeps alert the driver to obstacles.

Equipped with a seven speed DSG automatic gearbox it can be driven like a manual if desired or there are paddle shifts either side of the steering wheel so that you can drive like a racing driver should the mood require. Whichever you choose the Passat should not disappoint. Bearing in mind that it is only a 1.6-litre it does provide reasonable performance. Greater performance can be achieved with the 1.9-litre engine. While it will happily potter around the town at 30mph it will burst into life if necessary and although not the quickest it is fast enough. Between 30mph and 40mph the gearbox can be a little indecisive over revving when a gear change would be better. But of course this can be overcome if the automatic box is overridden. The sound of the diesel unit can be heard from inside but this is quickly removed at speed.  

Fitted with an electronic handbrake there is also a useful auto hold switch that can be turned on to counter rolling on a hill start. With no traditional ignition there is a push button start.

Satellite navigation takes the strain and stress away from finding places and makes for a more leisurely journey and the system fitted in the Passat is generally easy to use and reliable. It is not infallible and does get confused with some of the roads in Normandy, France but quickly rights itself. The offer of finding a filling station when the fuel level is too low is certainly helpful.

The Passat is also attractive. Although it is more angular than its predecessor it seems lower to the ground and more sporty, cutting a fine example in the car park. I like the electronically folding wing mirrors and the incorporated courtesy light that lights the way at night.

The difficulties at Volkswagen have highlighted that there is a trade off between power, fuel efficiency and emissions in diesel engines no matter who makes them.

Facts at a glance

Price: around £30,000

0-60mph: 12.5secs

Top speed: 120mph

Power: 120bhp

Economy: 60mpg

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