First Drive

First Drive: Volkswagen Passat

The story:
Traditional saloons and estates, once the favourite of the company car market, are now on the wane, but the Passat retains enough support to continue. Based on a heavily updated version of the eighth-generation car the new Passat once again offers understated class in an increasingly tough sector.
Category:Upper Medium
Key rival:Vauxhall Insignia
VW Passat 190hp 2.0 TDI estate R-line
Price:£35,575 (estimate)
MPG:64.1mpg (estimate)
Emissions:120g/km (estimate)
On sale:Q4 2019

Despite the seemingly unstoppable march of the crossover, the humble family saloon and estate still manage to carve a respectable place in the UK market.

First Drive-July 2019-Volkswagen Passat-Image 3Excluding the premium brands, the Passat was the second biggest seller in the large family class last year with more than 12,500 sold – the majority as company cars.

To cement its standing in the sector, Volkswagen has given the eighth-generation Passat an extensive makeover including a facelift, new and even higher-quality interior including a digital dashboard, a host of
new tech and a wider engine range.

Volkswagen reintroduced petrol engines to the Passat range two years ago (it had been diesel-only for several years), so it is now available with a choice of three petrol engines ranging from 150hp to 272hp, four diesels from 120hp to 240hp, and a petrol plug-in hybrid with 218hp. However, fleets should note that the diesel engines won’t be RDE2-compliant at launch, so they’ll be subject to the 4% Benefit-in-Kind tax penalty that cars such as the new Jaguar XE manage to avoid.

As before, the Passat will be available in saloon, estate and Alltrack forms with the estate taking the largest share of sales.

Company cars will account for 78% of the mix in a full year. And because the Passat is primarily a long-distance fleet car, the 150hp 2.0-litre TDI will still be the best seller, although due to the dieselgate saga, the subsequent rise in the popularity of petrol and the availability of a plug-in hybrid version, there is a wider spread across the model mix.

First Drive-July 2019-Volkswagen Passat-Image 1With the new car, Volkswagen hasn’t messed with the basic formula. It’s still a refined, comfortable cruiser with plenty of space for a family of four and their luggage, but now these aspects have been boosted with new technology such as a clever cruise control system that allows the car to creep in traffic and keep within its lane, as well as new connected services.

To drive, the 190hp diesel is still as strong as ever under acceleration. However, while the overall refinement of the car at a cruise is improved, there is still a noticeable rattle at lower speeds under light acceleration, which is something neither the petrols nor the hybrid we drove suffered from.

Nevertheless, all versions had light steering with little feedback, but felt stable sat at a motorway cruise.

However, Volkswagen hasn’t published any official technical data about the car’s efficiency in terms of CO2 and mpg and equally
it hasn’t confirmed the pricing and equipment for the UK market, which makes it hard to judge as a company car.

What we do know is that despite efficiency revisions the diesel engines don’t meet the new RDE2 requirements, so are hit by the attendant BIK penalty.

Having said that, and assuming the pricing, equipment and CO2 figures are competitive, the Passat remains a safe company car choice.

Tristan Young

The verdict

Without pricing, specification or any mpg and CO2 figures it’s near impossible to say how competitive, and therefore how good, the Passat is for fleets. This aside, as a car to cover long distances, though, it is excellent.