Fleet News

Volkswagen Passat estate



TRANSPORT bosses may be starting to think small in the wake of steep price rises at the fuel pumps, but big is still beautiful for the estate version of the new Volkswagen Passat.

And with fresh levels of driver convenience backed by an array of advanced features, the model completing the German firm’s revitalised upper-medium line-up is set to bring a touch of class to practical motoring.

Due on sale in November, the Passat estate puts glamour alongside the extra room for occupants and greater carrying capacity that brings it into closer contention with Vauxhall’s Vectra, the reigning space race champion, and the Ford Mondeo.

Although it can’t match the Vectra’s 1,850-litre maximum load volume, the new Passat’s larger interior brings it up to 1,731 litres – 53 litres more than the Mondeo. There is more room in the Passat if run-flat tyres are fitted, leaving the 90-litre tyre well as extra space, but UK cars will have a proper spare wheel.

Either way, the longer, smoother and most attractive vehicle in the range remains commodious while also raising the bar in terms of ability, refinement and versatility. Developed for business users who want MPV-type usefulness in a sleeker package, the Passat features an easy-fold, 60-40 split rear seat.

For maximum carrying potential, the squabs can be folded out and down to provide a flat load platform stretching to 1.96 metres, complete with removable side panels to increase width behind the wheels.

For added convenience, the rear door swings up sufficiently high to keep tall people dry when loading or unloading in the rain, and two of the load lashing points double up neatly as carry hooks to cater for unruly plastic supermarket shopping bags.

Like its saloon counterpart, the estate promises to confound its competitors with a mixture of quality, impressive detailing and aggressive pricing. Although UK lists are yet to be finalised, the entry-level model is likely to undercut the £16,310 starting cost of the outgoing model.

Despite that, UK versions will boast superior safety with driver, front passenger, front side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control, fast-response LED rear lights and active front headrests.

In addition, an electronic parking brake, Bluetooth telephone unit, a 600-watt hi-fi and dual-zone air conditioning will also be standard.

Latest design techniques allow a more rigid body to provide precise road-holding and more confident cornering in the new car, which in higher specfication levels will be pitched to compete with the BMW 3-series Touring and Mercedes-Benz C-class estate.

Four FSI petrol engines, from 1.6 to 3.2 litres will be available from launch, along with three turbodiesels of 1.9-litre and 2.0-litre capacities. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, with the DSG automated gearbox optional on turbodiesel models.

A six-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission can be specified on the two smaller FSI models and 4MOTION four-wheel drive will come as standard on the top-line V6 petrol car.

Trim levels will progress from entry-level S to SE, Sport and SEL and Volkswagen UK has confirmed that an extensive list of options – including a power tailgate, a rail-based luggage management system and a 230-volt mains power socket for laptop computers in the rear passenger compartment – will be available, as will a solar sunroof which converts power from the sun to keep the air conditioning working while the car is parked.

Volkswagen Passat estate fact file

MODEL: 1.6 FSI 2.0 FSI 150 2.0 FSI 200 3.2 FSI V6 1.9 TDI 2.0 TDI 140 2.0 TDI 170
MAX POWER (BHP/RPM): 114/6,000 147/6,000 197/5,500 246/2,500 103/4,000 138/4,000 168/4,200
MAX TORQUE (LB-FT/RPM): 114/4,000 147/3,500 206/1,800 243/2,500 184/1,900 236/2,500 258/1,800
MAX SPEED (MPH): 122 130 142 148 115 128 136
0-62MPH (SEC): 11.7 9.6 7.8 7.2 12.4 10.1 8.8
FUEL CONSUMPTION (MPG): 27.9 24.5 34.4 N/A 48.7 47.8 42.8
CO2 EMISSIONS (G/KM): 182 202 N/A N/A 157 159 N/A
PRICES (EST): £16,000 - £22,000

Behind the wheel

DESPITE offering a lot more metal than its predecessor – it is bigger in every direction – the new Passat estate weighs only 40kg more in basic trim. So performance is a strong feature, particularly from the lively 148bhp 2.0-litre FSI engine.

By comparison, its 1.6-litre stablemate feels weak and proves noisy when it has to be worked hard just to keep pace in brisk motoring with only the driver on board. This wouldn’t be our choice for transporting a full complement of passengers, let alone heavy loads.

There are no such problems with either of the two lower-powered turbodiesels, however. Volkswagen’s ubiquitous 1.9-litre unit still feels nimble off the mark and cruises quietly to return excellent economy for such a large car. Until the 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI arrives in the autumn (along with the fiesty 197bhp and 246bhp FSI petrol units), the beefy 138bhp version is the plum fleet choice.

With the kind of torque that makes light of any situation, the 2.0 TDI is a superb all-rounder and has the potential to make light of long distance work with the engine lazing at just 3,000rpm while cruising at 100mph on the autoroute.

The recipe gets better still when this engine is mated with the delightful DSG semi-automatic gearbox, which saves fuel while also providing seamless upward or downward changes. Though likely to cost more than £1,000, DSG should prove well worth the premium for driving pleasure and convenience in city centre traffic, as well as its improved efficiency over the traditional manual gearbox.

Driving verdict

BALANCING cost with perceived value, we would rate the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI with six-speed manual transmission as the best bet – so it is no surprise that Volkswagen is expecting most of the 13,000 Passat estates it will supply to British customers next year to come in this format. With the promise of even stronger residual values than in the past, this 638kg payload car is a formidable competitor.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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