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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Passat - sedan/wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Superb engine smoothness and responsiveness, cast-iron quality feel, dynamics
Room for improvement
Sombre interiors, electronic park brake, indifferent steering feel

Volkswagen logo12 Feb 2010

By PHILIP LORD

BADGE snobs don’t accept cars such the Volkswagen Passat because, while the brand has overhauled its image here since a dribble of detuned Golf GTIs arrived in 1990, the company more than ever is trading on an image of good value.

The good-value image of Volkswagen has goes way back, with generations of Australians growing up with the cheap-as-chips Beetle. So now Volkswagen competes with the likes of the Europeans such as Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Peugeot, Renault and Volvo. The premium Germans - Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz - are not too worried by the likes of Volkswagen’s Passat.

Provided you’re not caught up on brand image, Volkswagen makes a strong value argument in the lower luxury segment. And the price has become even lower.

The first attempt by Volkswagen to re-introduce a Passat to Australia after the 1982 departure was in 1991, when the B3 Passat GL 16v cost $40,490, while the Audi 80 was only a few thousand dollars more. Amazing that all these years later the Passat is a more luxurious car yet it’s cheaper.

The central feature of the Passat for 2010 is the introduction of the 1.8-litreTSI engine. This cracker of a turbocharged inline four was first here seen in the Audi A4 in 2008. In the Audi, it offers superlative power and torque and is a smooth, fuss-free engine that also gets some pretty good fuel consumption figures. Would it be any good in the Passat, though?

From the brief drive we have had of the 118TSI Passat Wagon, the prospects are good. The acceleration isn’t startling yet the 1.8-litre pulls like a train up long, steep hills and the chassis balance is as good as any other front-drive Passat. The steering feels a little disconnected from what’s going on at the front wheels, even though the car responds well to inputs.

The seven-speed DSG works well in the Passat, with crisp and decisive shifts, although we still have misgivings about the DSG’s city stop-start performance. It is still a little too jerky in such conditions. The electronic park brake also is not the first of this design but neither is it one of the more fluid or intuitive to use.

The ride quality and road noise is subdued in the Passat too, and there is no sense yet that this is a five-year-old design. It feels contemporary, despite no cosmetic changes to freshen it up, although the dark interior colours make the cabin feel a little desolate.

There are better cars and there are cheaper cars but if you are after a quality European car that offers good value, the Passat 118TSI will catch your eye – for persuasive reasons that extend beyond its price.

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