Price: £21,065

Engine: 1.8 litre four cylinder turbocharged petrol

Top speed: 138 mph Acceleration 0-62 mph in 8.6 seconds

Average fuel: consumption 37.2 mpg

CO2 emissions: 180 g/km

Also worth considering? Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C Class

As automotive brands go, Volkswagen is one of the best. It stands for reliability and German quality but at the same time it represents value for money and accessibility – nobody is secretly going to ask themselves whether they are grand enough to own a VW. But there are limits to how far you can push even the strongest brands. That's why VW has acquired a large stable of marques in order to help it extend its reach: Audi to compete with Mercedes and BMW, Lamborghini for the fastest cars, Bentley for the most luxurious, and Skoda and Seat for mass market motors. And yet the company persists in trying to stretch the core brand to cover new market territory, most notably in the case of the Phaeton, which proved that buyers just aren't prepared to pay up for a Mercedes S-class competitor with a VW badge, no matter how good the car.

My first reaction to the introduction of the Passat CC was that VW had produced another Phaeton – an excellent car that would be held back by its VW badge – but after our testing I think it will be a hit, mainly because of its keen pricing and outstanding looks. Based on the underpinnings of the standard Passat, the CC shamelessly but very successfully borrows much of the glamorously swoopy "four-door coupe" styling of the larger £46,000-plus Mercedes CLS. But the cheapest CC – the one tested by our readers – costs just £21,000.

If the CC looks like a million dollars – or at least £30,000 – how does it stack up on the road? Well those Passat mechanical parts certainly don't let the side down; in fact, I thought the CC felt rather suppler in terms of ride comfort and sharper in terms of its handling than the last standard Passat we featured on the Verdict. But it was the powertrain that really impressed. Our CC's 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine was smooth, quiet, powerful and economical, and its six-speed manual gearbox was similarly excellent.

Anyway, affordable style is the clearly the order of the day at Volkswagen because the company is about to introduce a new, reinvented version of the Scirocco coupe. It'll being doing well if it tops the Passat CC.

Matthew Bloomer, 26, auditor, Northampton
Usual car: Ford Mondeo

This car's relatively small engine worked really well, and especially so for a car of this size. There was always plenty of power available whatever the speed, and with decent fuel consumption to boot. According to the Passat's on-board computer, I was getting around 35mpg in town and over 50mpg on the motorway. The exterior of the car looked the part and the interior was tidy too. The controls were all nicely to hand, though I never did feel comfortable with trusting a stickless handbrake! There wasn't really anything I didn't like about the Passat CC. My only complaint would be that were I a back-seat passenger I would have to crane my head if I wanted to sit back in my seat. That wouldn't be so bad if I were a giant, but I'm a reasonably average six foot!

Richard Marks, 42, independent financial adviser/company director, Kidderminster
Usual car: Audi A6 3.0 TDI Quattro

My pre-conceived notion was that it would simply be a bland rep-mobile with its edges curved. But I have to admit it's a car that is very difficult to fault. The spec was excellent and it felt, as you would expect, extremely well screwed together. Performance was pretty lively and ride and handling excellent. The only real drawback is that it's a genuine four-seater so wouldn't appeal to larger families. Boot space, however, is good. At first glance it's an attractive vehicle and will I'm sure appeal to someone looking for the solidity and reliability that the VW badge offers, but in a sexier shape. I suspect it will prove popular with fleet buyers too and that the entry level models will prove to be the best option. One final thought, though, was how the car would be received if it had an Audi rather a VW badge?

Phil Andrew, 45, Psychotherapist, Steane, Northants
Usual Car: Smart

This car is sleek, sculptured and very "touchable". The doors open wide to allow easy access and the driving position is comfortable with everything to hand. The engine, linked to the six-speed gear box, is willing and powerful even at low revs. I could see this car soaking up long distances with relative ease but I'm not sure how it would cope with small country roads. Reasonable space in the back (if you're not too tall) would make this a viable choice for a family. The equipment, even at this level, was surprisingly good and well laid-out and the finish inside looked attractive and robust. This car isn't for those who want something flash, but I think it would be a relaxed and dependable place to spend a lot of time.

If you would like to take part in The Verdict, email or write to The Verdict, The Independent Magazine, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, telephone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean driving licence

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