Although the figures show a strong case for the diesel from both a personal taxation and fuel economy point of view, a fairer comparison would be against similar-powered upper- medium estates.
With 150bhp, the Passat lines up alongside the more powerful variants of upper medium estates, including the 160bhp 2.2-litre Peugeot 406 SRi, the 143bhp Citroen C5 2.0 HPi Exclusive, the 143bhp Ford Mondeo Ghia, and the 145bhp Vauxhall Vectra 2.2 CD.
The Citroen uses high-pressure direct injection and therefore has lower emissions than conventional petrol engines at 177g/km. However, the Passat, at 206g/km, compares well against the Peugeot (212g/km) and the Vauxhall (207g/km), and it is only the slightly less powerful Mondeo that shows it up (194g/km).
Then consider that only the Passat and the Vectra meet stringent Euro IV emissions criteria, and it looks more impressive. It will be a long time before we get a Euro IV diesel.
The Peugeot is £95 less on-the-road than the Passat, but does include standard satellite navigation worth £600, while the Citroen C5 has more equipment than the Passat, but costs £240 more.
The Vectra is £995 less than the Passat on-the-road, but like the Citroen and Peugeot, is destroyed by the Passat on residual values.
CAP Network predicts that the Passat will lose £1,155 less than the Vectra over three years/60,000 miles, and £1,700 less than the 406, with the C5 between the two. The Mondeo comes closest, but is still more than £500 shy of the Passat.
During my brief spell in the Passat, it took me on the short motorway blast to and from Fleet Towers for several days, and spent about an hour in crawling traffic at the Royal International Air Tattoo. It performed both disciplines with no problems.
It is one of the most comfortable cars in its class and its cabin, while predominantly dark, is a pleasant place to be — especially at night with the soothing electric blue illuminated dials.
The Passat might not be as sharp as a Mondeo or Peugeot 406 over a twisty B-road or provide the cosseting ride of the Citroen C5, but it is better built than all of them and performs the role of family estate exceptionally well.
So while the 1.8T might not make the same financial sense as the 1.9 TDI, I would argue that few upper-medium petrol cars offer the same cash benefits of running a diesel. However, the Passat 1.8T is probably the pick of the bunch among its petrol-powered rivals.