THE WORLD of the four-door coupe is a relatively new segment that just happens to be filling up rather quickly with competitors, especially from luxury brands.
But if you want a smart-looking, four-door coupe without breaking the bank, a car like Volkswagen’s new Passat CC offers four-door coupe thrills for a fraction of the price of the aforementioned luxury models.
The key question though is whether the VW Passat CC is any good at what it is supposed to do - even if it drives perfectly, does it tick the right 'image' boxes?
After all, the entire point of a four-door coupe is to offer the good looks of a coupe with the practicality of a sedan.
Fortunately for the Passat CC, the car’s lines are very easy on the eyes.
It has a longer and wider stance than Volkswagen’s other mid-size models, and while there’s no mistaking it for any other brand, it sets itself apart from its more humdrum siblings thanks to eye-catching proportions and sleek appearance.
It's been said before that the Passat CC's appearance carries influences from the lines of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, but that’s a good thing.
The Passat CC's swooping roof line, for example, looks very familiar when you first see it ‘in the metal’. But the seamless way the bonnet rolls into the slatted grille and the lipped boot at the rear adds individuality and gives the CC its own appealing personality.
The heavy crease along the entire side length of the car also makes a defining visual impact and adds particular strength to the CC’s lines.
In the styling stakes then, the Passat CC passes the test with flying colours. It looks solid, sleek and appealing, and more importantly it manages to offer the image of an expensive looking car without the exorbitant price tag.
The interior of the Passat CC is one that perfectly suits its stylishly clean exterior.
The layout of the instrumentation and vehicle controls is simple and intuitive, and, with just two large dials in the display, you aren't overwhelmed with needless information.
The elegant three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, the integrated center console and the Nappa leather upholstery all give the interior a definite premium feel. We especially liked the chunky gear selector, which felt solid and smooth.
The front seats are comfortable, even for extended periods, and provide good support to the love handles when cornering.
The rear seats are also comfortable, easily accessed behind the wide rear doors and offer ample legroom. There are however only two rear seats, separated by a wide console rather than a triple-seater configuration, and headroom in the rear is tight for adult passengers.
Passengers though should have no problem stowing away miscellaneous items as there is plenty of storage to be had. And, should you run out of room in the cabin, there’s copious space in the 532-litre boot.
Equipment and Features
There is no shortage of technology and features in the Passat CC. It comes as standard with Bi-xenon self-leveling headlights, cornering lights and an automatic ‘kerb-function’ exterior side mirror when reversing.
For communications and entertainment, the CC comes with Media Device Interface with USB port and IPod connections, a touch-screen display, a CD and MP3 compatible stereo system with eight speakers and optional sat-nav.
A trip computer with multi-function display, dual-zone automatic climate control, and multi-function steering wheel, is also among the long list of standard features. It also comes with heated seats both front and rear, while the front seats also get power adjustability.
For protection, the CC comes as standard with driver and passenger front and side airbags, rear-seat passenger side airbags plus curtain airbags front and rear. There are also three-point seatbelts front and rear with pre-tensioners.
Compared to its more expensive V6 petrol brother (see the Passat CC V6 FSI review here), the Passat CC TDI feels noticeably slower. The reason is simple - compared to the petrol variant, the oil-burner is significantly down on power.
While the petrol V6 boasts an impressive 220kW of power, the Passat CC TDI has almost 100kW less, with the final power output coming in at just 125kW from its 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.
However, the turbo-diesel does have some advantages over the petrol V6 that simply cannot be overlooked.
First of all, there are the torque figures which are identical for both diesel and petrol Passat CC models - each are endowed with an ample 350Nm.
The second advantage, and the one most likely to win customers over, is the vastly superior fuel consumption figures of the turbo-diesel compared to its petrol-sucking brother.
In our tests, the Passat CC TDI sipped on less than 6.5 litres of diesel every 100km - a remarkable figure considering the car weighs over 1500kg.
Thanks to this frugality, the Passat CC TDI makes a strong case against the V6 petrol engine if you're on a budget or simply more environmentally-inclined.
On top of this, the TDI engine is a super unit and a lot more pleasant than diesel powertrains of old (you can forget about any of this tractor-rumbling and black-smoke emitting business).
From behind the wheel the diesel is as smooth as butter, quiet (from inside the car), and usefully strong in the mid-range thanks to its high-torque levels. This is a more than useful trait when overtaking on the highway.
The steering is speed sensitive, lighter at lower around-town speeds and for parking, becoming heavier and with improved feel as speed increases. Some may find it a little dead, but the CC is, after all, more sporting saloon than sports car.
Reining in the diesel engine is Volkswagen's brilliant six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission, which not only makes changes lightning quick, but also saves on fuel compared to a conventional manual gearbox.
The DSG is brilliant for its versatility. If you want to give the Passat CC a good bootful, simply choose manual mode, and hustle it through the gears with the wheel-mounted paddles or by tapping the gear-shift.
For more relaxed city driving, the transmission can be as sedate and transparent as any other automatic (although with sharp shifts and no torque-converter loss through the twin-clutch box).
With its diesel engine and relatively low power range, the Passat CC TDI was never intended as a sports car.
Sure, it looks good as a four-door coupe, but driving it as you would a performance two-door is going to leave you a little dissatisfied – it is simply not that kind of car.
Coupled with front-wheel-drive, what we really have here is a leisurely cruiser that's suited more to the highway rather than twisty back roads.
With three different driving modes to choose from thanks to Volkswagen's Adaptive Chassis Control, you'll find the diesel-engined Passat CC TDi it performs better in 'Normal' or 'Comfort' modes rather than 'Sport' - a setting that is more appropriate to the more powerful V6 petrol version (although we have some reservations there).
The ride in the rear can be a little rough, even in Comfort mode, while the Sport setting is hard on all passengers over rough roads. You will also notice the front tyres start to slip when accelerating off the line briskly or in the wet.
Apart from this, the car is quiet and sophisticated at speed and is a relaxing place to spend some time at the wheel. The speed sensitive adaptive steering requires some getting used to but overall we found it to be predictable and intuitive.
Another impressive feature of the Passat CC is its special resealing ‘mobility’ tyres that can automatically reseal after punctures of up to 5.0mm in diameter. Unlike the run-flat tyres used by BMW and a few other manufacturers, the mobility tyres do not compromise the Passat CC's ride and handling.
Braking performance is strong, with good pedal feel and little fade even after heavy use.
Overall, we found the Passat CC 125 TDI an interesting car. It won’t suit all buyers, but for those looking for a stylish four-door coupe with sedan practicality (minus one seat, that is) and excellent fuel economy, then the Passat CC TDI is worth a look.
At $54,990 plus on-roads however, it is approaching luxury brand territory in terms of price. And, although it comes very well equipped, this level of pricing puts it into entry-level BMW 3-Series territory.
Couple this with the cramped conditions for rear seat passengers, and suddenly the Passat CC is starting to lose some of its shine.
But its positives are hard to ignore: the TDI offers a superb diesel, a sumptuous feel to the interior, and a high level of features and prestige appointments.
Last, but not least, it has a very pretty face.