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Volkswagen Passat: Test Drive Review

Date: 27 October 2010   |   Author: Alisdair Suttie

VW Passat dash

If you were to come up with a blueprint for the perfect mid-sized fleet car, VW's Passat would likely be the result. It's been offering company drivers solid, dependable transport since 1973 and this latest update is not about to abandon those hard-won accolades.

The cosmetic changes to the seventh generation are clear, including subtle changes to the bumpers and grille, while new headlights with the now de rigeur LED daytime running lights give the Passat the bolder front-end look that's spreading across the VW family. At the rear there are new lights, too, while all new Passats also come with a thicker windscreen and increased sound deadening to seal out road, wind and engine noise very effectively.

VW says the styling gives the Passat an air of the luxury Phaeton, which is a conceit backed up by the list of options you can specify for the cabin. As well as the expected leather and touch-screen satnav, the car can now be ordered with front seats that feature a massage function, plus heating and cooling.

The mildly revised interior, meanwhile, continues to offer a healthy amount of room and adjustment for the driver. Other occupants are also well catered for, while the saloon's boot is generous if a little hindered by a lack of a hatchback opening compared with some rivals. The estate version, however, solves this particular issue. VW expects the estate to outsell the saloon in the fleet market, accounting for 53% of sales in this sector.

Both economy across the engine range and carbon dioxide emissions are improved, and all of the diesel engines are now designated Bluemotion and come with stop/start. Best of the bunch is the new 104bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 114g/km emissions and 65.7mpg average consumption. It's smooth and quiet, but VW expects the 138bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel - there is a 167bhp alternative too - to remain the big seller, being as strong as ever in the Passat. The company also expects it to account for a quarter of all sales. All engines are offered with six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG twin-clutch gearboxes.

Least relevant to business users is the 207bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol, which manages 39.2mpg and 169g/km of CO2. However, don't discount the refined, swift 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol motor that gives 40.9mpg and 160g/km. Better still is the new 1.4-litre petrol turbo that offers enough big-engine oomph to feel brisk, hushed and capable. This 120bhp motor serves up 48.7mpg and 138g/km to be the pick of the petrols.

As mid-life revisions go, the Passat's is a thorough job and keeps the VW towards the head of the field. It may not be as dynamic as the Ford Mondeo to drive, but it sticks to the blueprint that has served VW so well for so long.