Friday, August 26, 2011

Devon test drives a Volkswagen Passat



Likes: Roomy interior, massive boot space, fuel efficient turbo-diesel engine, German Quality is still there, excellent road manners.

Dislikes: Bland styling, interior isn't as classy as previous generations, no wagon option.

The Volkswagen Passat has always been the classy mid-sized sedan choice. It's also been the most expensive. With the new generation of the Passat, Volkswagen wants to capture the market that's dominated by Toyota and Honda. Will Volkswagen have what it takes with the more Americanized Passat?

Performance: There's three engines available with the Passat. A 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 170hp, a 2-liter turbo-diesel with 140hp and a 3.6-liter six-cylinder with 280hp. Pick of the bunch is the 2.5-liter five-cylinder, it makes the most sense financially. It may not offer the fuel economy of the diesel and the oomph of the six-cylinder. It does however offer good pace and decent fuel economy.

Ride & Handling: The Passat is well composed on the motorway, the ride comfort is smooth. The steering is well weighed and offers good feedback. There's minimal effort needed when driving in corners or on the motorway. The suspension does a good job of soaking up most bumps really well.

Refinement: The Passat offers excellent all-round comfort. On the motorway, there's very little wind and road noise. The engines operate smoothly when up to speed. The five-cylinder emits a distinct droan when pushed hard. It's far from intrusive, but can be a bit annoying on long journeys.

Behind the wheel: The front driver seat offers excellent comfort. The steering wheel adjust for reach and for height. The control layout is clear and logical. But the quality feels rather bland and down-graded compared to previous generations. Everything is well laid out and very user-friendly.

Space & Practicality: The Passat is slightly larger than its outgoing model. So rear seat space has nearly doubled. Legroom, headroom and shoulder room is ample. The large transmission tunnel hampers any space for a third person to sit comfortably. The boot is massive and can easily cope with family luggage.

Equipment: The base Passat comes well equipped for the price. Automatic headlamps, central locking, 8-speaker sound system all come standard. You'll have to pay extra for alloy wheels. The top of the range Passat adds leather seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror and climate control.

Buying & Owning: The Passat is priced to compete with the Accord and Camry. Unlike the Camry and Accord, the Passat is a bit more expensive than both vehicles. You'll pay more for the diesel and six-cylinder engines, but your investments will be well secured as Volkswagen has solid resale value.

Quality & Reliability: Volkswagen doesn't enjoy the best reliability record. But in recent years, VW has been managing to turn this around. The Passat should prove to be reliable, with no major worries about the sturdiness of the mechanicals. Some of the plastics used in the interior are a bit of a let down, but will prove to be long lasting.

Safety & Security: Optional keyless entry start system adds an extra degree of theft protection. If that doesn't make you feel secure, the engine has an immobiliser and the doors have a deadlocks. Safety is Volkswagen's middle name. Side curtain airbags, anti-lock-brakes and stability control are standard across the range. The Passat has always scored high in crash safety tests.

The Americanized Passat is a bit of a let down. It doesn't look as classy as previous generations, and there's no wagon variant. However, the price is low and there's a decent amount of kit for the money. Interior space is excellent and the boot is massive. Buying a Passat means you'll have to give up some of the quirks you're used to from Volkswagen, but you're still reassured of its German Quality and excellent road manners. For the price, you're getting a lot of vehicle for the money.

Devon M 

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