Sister company SEAT does a similar thing with its ‘auto emocion’ strapline, but being Spanish it can get away with this emotive theme better than its more reserved stablemate.
That’s not to say there’s a lack of passion at Wolfsburg, and one look at the new Passat tells you that. You can see that Volkswagen takes building cars very seriously. It doesn’t like accepting second best and with the Passat it has done the job as the new model sets a fresh benchmark in the upper-medium sector.
Not only does it boast an elegant exterior, but it also has a vast and well-equipped interior with pricing and residual value forecasts which put its rivals firmly in the shade.
From the outside the Passat has more than a hint of the firm’s flagship Phaeton saloon about it, especially with those LED rear lights. There’s also the striking silver front grille which extends down to the bumper, creating a distinctive face and giving the Passat plenty of road presence.
The rear-end styling doesn’t work quite as well. The tailgate is fairly high and tapers in at the back and it doesn’t match the chunky styling at the front.
There has also been a thorough overhaul of the interior, with mixed results. The chunky, solid-feeling cabin of the previous model has gone, replaced by a more minimalist look. It is now far more airy, but the mass of flat-faced plastic on the dashboard means the Passat has lost that enclosed feel of old.
The cabin doesn’t feel as solid as before either. The plastics used on the top half of the dash and doors are fine, but the materials used on the lower reaches, such as the door bins and underneath the dash, feel brittle.
There are some familiar items from the old model, such as the circular light switch, door handles and window switches, but other than that it’s all new. Debuting in this sector is an electronic parking brake, freeing up space for a large storage area, and a push-key start.
But it is on the road where the Passat really impresses. Compared to the previous model, the new car is much better.
The ride is still firm, but there is far more feel from the steering wheel and the handling has also been sharpened.
Volkswagen expects the 2.0-litre diesel to be the biggest-seller, and that is no surprise.
This is a fantastic engine, delivering smooth power with little noise intrusion into the cabin. Allied to a much more positive feel to the six-speed manual gearbox, it has addressed the shortcomings of the old model.
While it may not lead the field in CO2 emissions and fuel economy, it is so close that drivers should not balk at paying a few pounds more in company car tax and visiting the fuel station fractionally more often.
Three rivals to consider
NEARLY £1,000 separates the cheapest from the most expensive car here, with the Peugeot and Volkswagen the only cars to dip below the £17,000 mark. All cars featured are entry-level specification with the higher-power diesel engines, ranging from the 120bhp Vectra to the 138bhp Passat. Obviously, these volume manufacturers offer discounts to fleets, and our recent contract hire survey shows how much support is offered on these cars.
ALL four cars are very evenly matched in service, maintenance and repair cost terms, with just £252 between the cheapest and most expensive over three years/60,000 miles. Volkswagen’s new Passat leads the way, with garage bills likely to be £1,422 over the typical fleet operating cycle, with the Vauxhall Vectra close behind on £1,470. The Mondeo will cost £1,650 in Ford dealership bills, while the Peugeot 407 is the most expensive on £1,674.
THE Vectra is the most frugal car in this quartet, with Vauxhall claiming a combined fuel economy figure of 49.6mpg. This translates to a fuel bill over three years/60,000 miles of £5,196. Second place goes to the Peugeot, which returns 47.9mpg for a cost of £5,376. The Ford and Volkswagen both return a claimed 47.1mpg, resulting in a fuel bill of £5,472. However, it is highly unlikely your drivers will match the manufacturers’ claimed figures, so you are better off budgeting a higher cost for fuel.
WITH such an impressive residual value forecast, the Passat is miles ahead of the competition in depreciation terms. CAP estimates the Volkswagen will retain 38% of its cost new after three years and 60,000 miles, compared to 28% for the Peugeot, 24% for the Mondeo and 23% for the Vectra. With the Passat being the second cheapest car, none of the others can hope to match it without big discounts. The Vauxhall suffers from being a run-out model now.
WITH a dominant performance in the depreciation sector, it is not surprising that the Volkswagen Passat wins the wholelife cost competition. It is the only car to dip below the 30 pence per mile mark, and is nearly three pence per mile cheaper to run than its closest rival, the Peugeot 407. The Vauxhall and Ford are even further back, and are likely to cost £2,580 and £3,102 more respectively than the Passat.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
DESPITE being one of the most expensive cars in this test, the Vectra offers drivers the lowest company car tax bills thanks to its Euro IV-compliant CDTi diesel engine. The Vauxhall will cost a 22% taxpayer £54 a month in company car tax, £1 a month cheaper than the Peugeot 407 and £2 ahead of the Passat. The Mondeo is the most expensive in company car tax terms with a monthly bill of £58. Thanks to their low emissions, all four cars will cost £135 a year for road tax.
SIMPLY put, the Passat sets a new standard in the upper-medium sector. It is a better car to drive than any of its rivals, yet it is also cost-effective. It is the cheapest car to run of our quartet, and is also the cheapest in contract hire rates. It costs a few pounds more a month than its rivals in company car tax, but drivers won’t begrudge paying a little extra.