Options lists are full of temptations but business drivers must balance each item against the accompanying increase in benefit-in-kind taxation.
Our Passat has extras including a winter pack – heated seats (which I don't like) and heated windscreen washer jets – for £210.
A better investment is surely the £295 parking sensor whose rapid beeps confirmed my visual sighting of a couple of pedestrians unaware of my slow reversing manoeuvre recently.
The Passat 2.0 Sport, which just scrapes into the price list below £17,000 OTR, comes with a generous standard specification. The most important are ABS brakes, electronic stabilisation program and all-round airbags but you also get air conditioning, alarm, alloy wheels, sports seats and suspension, a facia CD autochanger and rain-sensing wipers.
Best of all though is the car itself. The latest Passat is helping Volkswagen to make inroads into the fleet market and is worthy of its standing as the Fleet News upper-medium car of the year. It takes each journey on its merits, making light of lengthy motorway hauls and adding driver satisfaction on twisting B-roads.
I have done a number of return journeys between Fleet News HQ, on the outskirts of Peterborough, and London. The Passat Sport was relaxed on the M11 but felt nimble threading a course round Hyde Park Corner. The sports suspension and stabilisation kit combine to produce sweet handling, matched by the way the engine offers its power and the slick five-speed manual transmission.
This is both a practical car and one that offers the sort of refinements users appreciate. The boot lid can be raised by touching a button on the key fob to reveal a large load area, enlarged by moving forwards the rear seat back (split two-thirds, one-third).
Front door bins are big enough to hold the oddments essential for a journey and the grab handles above the doors glide slowly and silently back into place when released. Thoroughly tested German engineering is apparent throughout the Passat.
Company car tax bill 2002 (22% taxpayer): £72.19 per month