Reassured that cruise control was present, but slightly disappointed – and perhaps ungrateful – at the lack of sat-nav, I had noticed the Passat in the car park a few days earlier and nothing in its rather plain appearance instilled me with confidence.
My last experience of driving a Volkswagen was back in the 70s when my father became the proud owner of a spanking new powder-blue monster of a car – a Fastback – bearing little resemblance to any vehicle then or since.
The Fastback was kept cosseted in the garage, as befitted a new car in those days, to be brought out only on high days and holidays and certainly not if it looked like rain. It was my misfortune that when, as a learner-driver eager to try out her skills, I decided to back the car out of the garage and into the drive. I selected first gear rather than reverse. The vehicle lunged forward, demolishing the front wall of the garage but leaving the Fastback with a mere cracked front headlight. Impressive, but enough to put me off Volkswagens for a while.
Once inside the Passat, however, my doubts dissipated and its exterior appearance was suddenly of no relevance at all. You know when you're feeling so at home you forget you're in a car at all? That was me, gobbling up the miles in supreme comfort, Carmina Burana belting out on a great stereo set-up (it has a six-CD changer as well) and all was well with the world. Sublime.
Now the Passat has been passed on to some other lucky tester, I regret my initial lack of enthusiasm.
The TDI engine was superb, with powerful acceleration and effortless motorway cruising, and I can't believe it could achieve such impressive economy at about 50mpg. Now I'm in a petrol car that does 30mpg and it makes me feel like an environmental criminal – serves me right.
As for the daughter, initially sufficiently underwhelmed to make no comment about the car at all, she perked up once inside and uttered the ultimate teenage accolade: 'This is quite cool, actually.' Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer) £65 per month