2011 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.2 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.5 l/100km
And, for mid-sized cars, Volkswagen’s Passat is one of the benchmarks for dynamic finesse and affordable, quality motoring.
For the latest Passat, Volkswagen has not gone down the revolutionary road. (After all, why change a winning formula?) Instead, it has taken the best bits from the previous model and studiously re-worked them into a subtly-improved package.
Quality: Although the entry-level model in the Passat range, the 118TSI looks and feels anything but basic.
It has a very solid feel and there is a nice marriage of interior styling elements - soft-textured finishes for the dash and doors set off with metal and chrome highlights.
The only quality glitch we could note was a rattle from the ignition fob and barrel assembly on rough roads (easily attended to by the dealer).
Comfort: Wide, accommodating front seats and a spacious rear bench make easy work of settling in. Getting in and out is also made easier by the Passat’s high door profile.
Plenty of leg and headroom will keep rear seat travellers happy and large windows with a low belt-line will be welcomed by smaller family members on long-haul journeys.
Equipment: leather trim, heated front seats, dual-zone climate-control, 17” alloy wheels, multi-function trip-computer with steering wheel controls, heated windscreen washers and auto-dimming mirrors, front and rear parking sensors and driver-fatigue detection are standard.
Optional equipment includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Emergency City Braking, reversing camera and ‘Park Assist 2’ to automatically steer into parallel and 90° parking spaces, 12-way powered seats and upgraded audio and navigation systems.
Storage: Rear storage measures 565 litres, giving the Passat sedan one of the most capacious boots in the segment - particularly with a full-size spare tucked beneath the floor.
In the cabin, there are lined door pockets, a good-sized glovebox and centre console space. There is also a cubby beneath the climate controls and a compact driver’s side glovebox.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Volkswagen’s 2.0 litre 118TSI engine is a shining example of advanced engineering. It is quiet, unobtrusive, economical and yet provides the required punch when called to do so.
With 250Nm of torque doing the heavy lifting from 1750rpm-4500rpm, and a power peak of 118kW stretching from 4500rpm-6200rpm, the Passat has a lively on-road feel.
With a quick-shifting seven-speed DSG gearbox flawlessly choosing the right ratio for the conditions, it is rarely caught of guard if extra urge is needed.
Refinement: With a well-insulated cabin and excellent noise-suppression, the interior is hushed for freeway and highway travel, but tyre roar on rough-chip secondary roads can intrude.
When on the fly, the DSG gearbox is a mind-reading gem, but it still struggles with stop-start driving and parking lots, although it is marginally better than before.
Suspension: MacPherson front struts and a four-link rear axle make up the Passat’s fully independent suspension. A slightly firm-ish feel on the road helps the Passat maintain cornering composure while not compromising passenger comfort.
Braking: The four-wheel disc brakes with vented front rotors provide progressive and strong braking performance with good pedal feel and little sign of fade after repeated hard stops.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: Eight airbags, Electronic Stability Program, ABS and Brake Assist, Electronic Differential Lock and Anti-Slip Regulation, low-pressure tyre-indicator, height adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners.
The Passat is also the first Volkswagen to feature Fatigue Detection. Standard across the range, Fatigue Detection uses sensors that detect the on-road signs of a tired driver. If a drowsy driver is detected, the program will beep and display an in-dash warning.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,00km and 24 hour roadside assist with 12 years anti-corrosion warranty.
Service costs: Consult your local Volkswagen dealer for servicing costs, as costs can vary.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Renault Latitude ($36,990) - The Korean-built Latitude is good value with plenty of space and a sweet-sounding V6, but somewhat dull conservative style. Overall not as comfortable, nor as well-built or secure on the road as the Passat. (see Latitude reviews)
Toyota Camry Grande ($39,990) - Although nearing the end of its model-cycle, the Camry offers a good equipment list, plenty of interior room and would be the pick for rural running. It lacks the feel and precision of the Passat however. (see Camry reviews)
Mondeo Titanium ($44,990) - The asking price may be slightly steeper, but there’s added bells and whistles to offset the difference, the hatchback body adds versatility and the new 2.0 litre turbo engine shades the Passat for performance. A strong contender. (see Mondeo reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Everything that was good about the previous Passat has been carefully honed and refined in the latest Passat. The result is a car that checks all the boxes in areas like safety, equipment, dynamics and refinement.
And though some have criticised its conservative unadorned lines, there’s nothing ‘basic’ at all about the entry level Passat. The fact is, its on-road performance and quality feel makes some Euro competitors look overpriced in comparison, and gives it a clear margin on most Japanese and Korean opposition.
Well worth a look if you’re considering a mid-size sedan.