Updated: May 17, 2019
When it rains, it pours. Or something. Well, shortly after I got the chance to test the Golf 1.6 TDI, the wheel of fortune (alloy not steel) provided me with a short opportunity to drive the Passat, too. One equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, with a cavalry of 150 horses deployed onto the tarmac. The test was short, but the experience sweet.
Somewhat akin to what I did with Peugeot 208 GTi and Skoda Octavia vRS, I can quickly share the sum of my findings from a single day with a Volkswagen Passat, roughly 500 km worth of roads, mostly on highways and with excellent 80s music playing inside the cabin. Shall we.
Passat is a stylish car. Somewhat reserved. Recently, like most VW Group models, it's gained some of the more Audi-like straight-angle aggressiveness but without losing its essential laid back charm. It's meant to look classy but without the rakish character. Well, at least in the S trim, which is what me car had. The R-Line definitely makes things more interesting. In fact, I'd very much like to test the 240HP BiTurbo model, but that's a separate story.
Very comfy and spacious. The seats come with great lumbar support, and you feel fresh even after many hours of driving. The ergonomics of the dashboard and the console are just right, and the flat-bottomed steering wheel hints that it might get angry, if you let it do so. I am undecided regarding the analog watch. It's something I've seen on Passat CC and never quite understood, because it feels like an "old person's" feature, but then, it doesn't look too obtrusive, and it does break the monotony of the continuous three-streak air vents motif that stretches across the dashboard.
You get climate control, cruise control, Start/Stop, Hill Hold, white thread stitching, electric windows, eight speakers, and an electronic parking brake, which I've never really been fond of. The specimen in my hands had no navigation, only basic touch-based infotainment. Plenty of room in the back, and the boot is spacious enough for luggage and whatnot, although it's nowhere near as cavernous as Superb, especially the Estate model.
The Passat 2.0 TDI was fun to drive. With 150 HP and 340 Nm of torque, it has a lot of low-speed pull, and it's rock steady at any speed. This is the engine that I wanted in the Golf, as the other car felt a little underpowered with the smaller 1.6-liter unit. If I recall my Skoda experience in Germany, on the autobahns, the Passat should breeze sweetly up and above 200 km/h without any problems. With the 130 km/h restriction in place, it did well, with brisk, strong acceleration, no matter which gear you choose. The engine also has a nice, guttural grunt.
The one downside is, the Passat doesn't try. It's not designed to thrill. It's meant to be sensible, comfortable and practical, a family car with a semi-posh streak, reliability, and lots of goodies for its owners. It's not there to break the speed record, and so the experience can be almost too mellow. Effortless, predictable, even a little boring. But you can notch the gearbox down one or two cogs and feel the torque kick in. Steady and stable through corners, with linear braking. Feels tight and precise.
Fuel consumption was only about 6 liters/100 km, maybe a bit more, and this is with two adults, lots of dirty clothes, aircon blowing air, and the gas pedal working rigorously. With a typical 130 km/h speed most of the time, save a little bit of town snailonomy, this is a commendable economy figure.
None came up during the short road test.
Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI is a sensible car. If you're looking for something that ticks the boxes of quality, good looks, reasonable speed, and solid fuel economy, this is a smart all-rounder. There are more exciting choices, cheaper choices, and even within the VW family, you'll find some interesting rivals, both in spirit as well as in price. I liked the experience, but I'm not sure if this is a car for me. Perhaps the top end model with some extra teeth.
I think the big problem, so to speak, with Passat is that it takes you a while to figure out which of your emotions it stirs. There's no immediate bond. Or maybe my bonding trip was too short. Or maybe that's the intended goal. An effortless model for people who treat driving as something that should be done with reserved style. Either way, this is a solid vehicle, with lots of goodies. The 2.0 diesel is a great choice, and makes for a superb sweet spot between raw numbers and the monthly cost of fossils. 8.5/10. Take care.