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Hello plug-in, goodbye petrols?

Date: 25 July 2014   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

The new Volkswagen Passat saloon and estate - the latter will cost £1400 more

After 40 years and seven former generations, Volkswagen's Passat has proved itself a mainstay in the marketplace and become something of a cliche company car.

Despite newer and smaller models taking a bite out of the segment, the upper medium arena is still prime territory for user chooser cars, testament to which is that 80% of Passats go into fleets.

The eighth generation of Volkswagen's upper medium model was unveiled earlier this month in Berlin and will be available to order in October ahead of first deliveries in January 2015.

Beneath the sharpened styling lies a big eco-friendly initiative: this will be the first Passat ever to be offered with a hybrid drivetrain. It's a plug-in hybrid too, and borrows the technology from the recent Golf GTE. The firm is billing it as "the most powerful plug-in hybrid from Volkswagen to date", courtesy of a total 211hp with the 150hp 1.4-litre TSI engine and 80kW motor - 5kW more than the Golf, - working in tandem.

"The combustion engine combined with an 80kW electric motor [gives it] a range of 1000km, it will travel for 50km [31 miles] on electric, and it's powerful," says Heinz-Jakob Neusser, member of Volkswagen's board of management for the development division.

The plug-in hybrid model won't be available from launch - it's expected to arrive in the UK in the second half of 2014. Emissions and economy have also yet to be confirmed, but with the Golf GTE at an official 188mpg and 35g/km, it's a safe bet that the Passat will top 150mpg on the combined cycle and duck below 50g/km.

The hybrid is also the only version of the new Passat to be offered with a petrol engine, at least initially, as Volkswagen has ditched conventional petrols from the range due to low historical take-up next to the diesels. That's not to say a low-emitting variant of the firm's TSI petrol units won't make an appearance in future, but they're off the menu to begin with.

The firm claims that the engine range has up to 20% lower emissions than before, which have been achieved by a combination of methods including an 85kg weight reduction, stop-start and regenerative braking systems on all models, and the use of AdBlue across most of the engines, all of which now tick the Euro6 emissions regulations box.

The biggest-selling model is tipped to be the 2.0 TDI 150, which is also expected to be the most efficient version available from launch. Emissions will be 108g/km with official fuel economy of 68.9mpg. That's all but identical to the current lowest-emitting Bluemotion model's figures of 109g/km and 68.9mpg, but it leaves the Passat in good shape as upper medium diesel rivals go, although it will still trail the Mazda 6 at 104g/km and the current class-leading Vauxhall Insignia at 98g/km.

That isn't the end of the story, though, because a sub-100g/km version of the same 2.0-litre TDI engine is set to arrive later, which is likely to be the next Bluemotion variant. When and the exact emissions figure have yet to be confirmed, but that will leave it in the same BIK tax bracket as the Insignia.

Away from the low-emissions developments, the Passat has changed shape somewhat. It's lower, wider and is claimed to have 33mm more rear legroom and, despite the 14mm drop in height, an additional 26mm of rear headroom. Boot space is also up by 21 litres in the saloon, leaving 586 litres with the rear seats in place, while the estate's boot is up 47 litres to 650 litres with the rear seats up and 1780 litres when they're flat.