Now in its eighth generation, the new Volkswagen Passat arrives with more standard features, stronger and more fuel-efficient engines, and a base price that's $4000 lower. There’s a real premium feel to the interior and more space than most families will know what to do with.
Safety and comfort have been given a lift, and the model range grows to three variants, with a choice of sedan and wagon body-styles. Add in refined running and a smooth and comfortable on-road demeanour, and the Passat looks like good buying in the mid-size class.
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan and wagon
Price: $34,990 - $47,990 (plus on-roads)
132 TSI: 132kW/250Nm 1.8 4cyl petrol | 7spd automatic
140TDI: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 4cyl diesel | 6spd automatic
132TSI claimed: 6.0 l/100km | tested: 7.8 l/100km
140TSI claimed: 4.8 l/100km | tested: 6.9
While it still wears a ‘medium’ classification, Volkswagen’s newest generation Passat could easily be mistaken for a large car.
The space on offer, particularly for the rear seat, is incredibly generous. Yet, externally, the new model is actually a sliver shorter, nose-to-tail, than the outgoing model (by 4mm).
Volkswagen’s modular MQB chassis architecture is the reason why. The same space-saving and weight-saving methods employed in the Golf make their way into the Passat, which now has a longer wheelbase, but shorter overhangs than before.
Specification gets a boost, with added safety features such as nine airbags and fatigue detection across the range, as well as an equipment boost that includes three-zone climate control in all models.
As for pricing: it's a considerable $4000 less than before with the Passat 132TSI now starting from $34,990.
The range now comprises two petrol-powered variants, the 132TSI and 132TSI Comfortline, while the range-topping Highline comes paired exclusively with the 2.0 litre diesel 140TDI (not affected by the current emissions fiasco).
Sedan and wagon are still available across the range, with the wagon asking $2000 more than its four-door equivalent.
- 132TSI: Cloth seat trim, driver’s seat cushion tilt adjustment, cushion depth adjustment and electric adjustment for backrest and 4-way lumbar, auto dimming interior mirror, heated exterior mirrors, leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control with speed limiter, three-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels
- 132TSI Comfortline (in addition to 132TSI): Vienna leather seat trim, heated sports front seats, auto opening and closing tailgate (wagon), adaptive cruise control, and proximity key with push-button start
- 140TDI Highline (in addition to 132TSI Comfortline): Nappa leather seat trim, alarm, brushed aluminium interior highlights, chrome-tipped window switches, piano black gearshift surround, colour multi-function instrument cluster display, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, AM/FM/CD/SD card playback, USB and Aux inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio, Apple Carplay and Android Auto (132TSI) as above with 8.0-inch display and 10GB hard drive (132TSI Comfortline and 140TDI Highline)
- Options available: R-Line package including 19-inch alloys wheels, sports pedals, aluminium scuff plates, black headlining, privacy glass, sports steering wheel with sift paddles, sports suspension, carbon leather seat inserts, and sports body kit (available on Comfortline and Highline). Luxury package including LED headlights, sunroof, LED ambient lighting and driving profile selection.
- Cargo volume, sedan: 586 (minimum) 1152 maximum. Wagon: 650 (minimum) 1780 (maximum)
The new Passat comes with an 'a-grade' interior presentation melding top quality finishes, plenty of soft-touch surfaces, and smart new brightwork. It is nicely set apart by a clean and stylish interpretation of the dash-wide air-vent motif.
Comfort for the driver gets an overhaul thanks to the standard adoption of ergoComfort seats which offer electric lumbar and backrest adjustment, as well as manual slide, tilt, height, and seat base length adjustment.
Front seat passengers get a simpler range of manual adjustments, with lots of fore-aft travel and plenty of head and shoulder room.
In the rear there’s a surplus of space for passengers. Legroom for days, and the comfort of a separate rear temperature-control with rear face-level vents, make the Passat ideal for family haulage duties.
The cabin is served by door pockets in each door, lidded cupholders and front storage tray, as well as a glovebox and centre console that offer useful storage space.
Boot space in the sedan has grown to 586 litres in the sedan and 650 litres in the wagon. Fold the rear seats and the sedan offers 1152 litres while the wagon grows to 1780 litres.
ON THE ROAD
- 132TSI: 132Kw/250Nm 1.8 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- 140TSI: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
- Seven-speed DSG automatic (132TSI) or six-speed DSG automatic (140TSI), front wheel drive
- Macpherson strut front suspension, four-link independent rear suspension
- Four-wheel disc brakes with vented front rotors and solid rear rotors
- Electro-mechanical power steering, turning circle: 11.7m
The new 132TSI petrol engine boosts power output by a modest 14kw over the old Passat to 132kW between 5100rpm and 6200rpm. Torque stays at 250Nm as before, but is now developed between 1250rpm and 5000rpm (250rpm earlier than before).
The pace is far from blistering, but no worse than the class average. Certainly few will find fault with the way the 132TSI manages to move about.
Paired with a seven-speed dry-clutch DSG automatic, the 132TSI shifts gears quickly and cleanly, and will settle into a high gear as early as it can in the quest for lower fuel consumption.
On rolling roads, kick down response can be a little lethargic. One hilly section of highway saw the speedo needle drop by 20km/h before the transmission finally caught up and changed down.
Stepping up to the 140TDI turbo diesel adds a big dose of muscle, courtesy of 400Nm of torque between 1750rpm and 3000rpm, backed up by 140kW of power that chimes in at 3500rpm.
With so much torque delivered through the front wheels, the 140TDI can be prone to plenty of wheel-chirping if you’re too generous with the throttle, but once you learn to drive around it, the diesel is as unflustered as its petrol counterpart.
It's tied to a six-speed wet-clutch DSG automatic transmission that’s set up much like the seven-speed DSG. In other words, it offers swift and smooth gear changes, but with a slightly sleepy kick-down response.
Highline variants also feature ‘driving profile selection’, allowing a choice of either Normal, Sport or Eco driving modes, as well as Individual, to allow adjustment of the transmission, throttle response, steering and air conditioning.
Our first stretch of road saw us behind the wheel of a 140TDI Highline, paired with optional R-Line package, bringing lower, firmer suspension, ‘progressive steering’, as well a 19-inch alloy wheels and front sports seats.
Despite the big wheels and firmer suspension, the R-Line has no trouble dealing with choppy road conditions, ironing out imperfections with superb comfort.
Flicking between Comfort and Sport mode reveals that while both offer taut body-control, there’s no yawning chasm in comfort between the two. On a winding road however, the slightly sharper handling in Sport mode gives the Passat a distinct sporting feel.
And with that 400Nm of torque to call upon, it can get up and really hustle along when 'asked the question'.
The 132TSI wagon comes with a more supple ride and a softer suspension set-up, most noticeable when cornering. The standard suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels make this the more family-friendly option, although neither set-up will generate any complaints.
Even without the R-Line’s progressive steering, the Passat turns in eagerly when pointed through a set of turns. The nicely weighted steering also doesn't need to be chased all over the freeway (at the dead ahead) the way some electric steering setups do.
Road noise is a touch louder in the wagon, with the echo chamber effect of the big boxy rear more pronounced than the sedan. Engine and wind noise are both very well insulated, and from inside the Highline you can hardly tell you're behind the wheel of a diesel car.
ANCAP rating: The Passat has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: All Passat models feature nine airbags (dual front, dual front side, dual rear side, full-length curtain, and driver’s knee), ABS brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, traction and stability control.
Front and rear park sensers and a rear view camera are also standard. All seating positions feature three-point seat belts, front belts feature height adjustment, pretensioners and load limiters, outboard rear belts offer pretensioners.
Comfortline and Highline models also gain Front Assist with City Emergency Brake, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic assist (optional on 132TSI as part of the Driver Assistance package)
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Passat faces off against some very strong competition in the medium segment. The top-selling Camry offers great value, but lacks a premium interior, while the Mazda6 offers a high-feature interior, as well as a choice of petrol and diesel in sedan or wagon.
Subaru’s newest Liberty is up to scratch and has benefited from a recent price slash with the new model, and the Ford Mondeo delivers impressive safety features in a svelte looking package.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While there was little wrong with the previous Passat, age had started to weary it in the face of fresher competition.
Changes to the new generation Passat see a more premium feel to the cabin, with a high-quality look and feel in everything from the 132TSI base model, to the 140TDI Highline.
While the days of a performance Passat are long gone, the two engines available will put in a solid day’s work with little complaint.
Styling isn’t a look-at-me stand out, but there’s a sophistication to the subtle lines, and enough small detail changes to differentiate the models and the money spent.
Passenger space is where the Passat shines, particularly in the rear, with more than enough room to store three warring teenagers (or the more social-media obsessed quiet ones) without complaint.
The heart of a big car beats inside the Passat - a bonus is that it drives so well. If buyers can look beyond Volkswagen's current troubles, they will find plenty to like with the new Passat (and the company is going to be trying very hard to please).