Volkswagen Passat

New model has revamped engine and slick electronics

Students of motoring arcana enjoy the catalogue of cars published each year at the Geneva motor show.

Among the most intriguing entries are those from countries relatively new to automotive mass production, some of whose products are old designs revved-up with an incongruous new nose in a bid to imbue some modernity. The Russian Volga is a good example. China's Volkswagen Santana is another.

It's tempting to add the new Volkswagen Passat to this list. Actually, every outer panel, bar the roof, has changed compared to the previous Passat, but only slightly. Windows and door apertures are the same, though, and so is much of the understructure: it's the kind of refreshment that created the latest Golf out of the previous one. Volkswagen calls this the seventh-generation Passat, but it's just a comprehensive facelift.

A Passat has never been glamorous. But since the mid-1990s it has hovered on the edge of "premium" territory. When the Passat was a differently bodied Audi A4 (1996 to 2005), the boundary virtually vanished. When it was re-engineered as a giant Golf saloon, its interior was cheapened to restore the automotive apartheid. Now the pendulum swings again: the latest Passat might at first seem little changed apart from that grille, but once you're inside it you find that the quality has come flooding back.

The basic interior components have changed little, but the finish and the details are set to tread on Audi toes again. Priced from £18,470, this would be a premium car were it not badged Passat. Electronics systems? One of these applies the brakes if you forget to do so and would otherwise crash into the back of the car ahead. It recognises metallic objects but not people, so it's less clever than the Volvo system, but it's still a good idea. Then there's the automatic parking system, now able to cope with end-on parking bays as well as roadside slots.

A clever device nudges the steering wheel back on track if you veer out of a lane. (Take your hands off the wheel and it stops working, so this is not quite the self-steering car, thank goodness.) And – as standard equipment – there's a warning in the form of a cup and saucer if the steering's enormous control brain senses that your movements are erratic and you're dangerously tired.

I like the new windscreen, too. It has a heat-reflecting film which can also pass an electric current able to heat the glass and so de-mist and de-ice it. But what's it like to drive?.

Painless, is the answer. It's quiet inside, partly thanks to the new windscreen's sound-absorbing ability, but not so much that the diesel versions hide their method of combustion. With optional adaptive dampers, the Passat copes amazingly well with speed bumps while still feeling precise and responsive. Normal mode is best most of the time; the suspension fidgets in Sport, but Comfort is good if you're feeling passive. The standard suspension resembles Normal but has an underlying firmness over smaller bumps.

The electric power steering is good of its type, and the latest engine range is as efficient as in other recent Volkswagens. There are various sizes and powers of diesel and petrol engines, all turbocharged and producing up to 210 and 170bhp respectively, but perversely my favourites are the most modest motors: the 105bhp 1.6 TDI with an amazing 109g/km CO2 score, which feels very willing despite its frugality, and the 1.4-litre TSI with 122bhp, an eager demeanour and very low CO2.

For the first time, saloon and estate Passats are launched together. More people buy the commodious estate, but the saloon better illustrates the new look. Both are civilised, comfortable, capable cars which light no emotional fires but do a fine job. In this nothing has changed.

Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

    £30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

    Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

    £34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

    Developer - WinForms, C#

    £280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform