The new Passat, launched last June, packages everything Volkswagen and its UK fleet team knows about the market in one car. Not only is the Passat priced below many of its volume rivals, it also comes with equipment levels which, the firm claims, take it into the premium sector above.
It’s a bold statement, but one which seems backed by facts. In a market where upper-medium models in general have low appeal in the used car market thanks to a glut of examples on forecourts, the Passat is in a league of its own.
Where residual value predictions of low to mid-20%s is the sector norm, the Passat is valued more highly. CAP quotes RVs of between 35% and 40% after three years/60,000 miles.
That, combined with competitive pricing, gives the Passat a strong wholelife cost proposition, so it’s little wonder it was named upper-medium car of the year and company car of the year at this year’s Fleet News Awards.
Our test car is the 2.0 TDI in SE trim – the best seller in the range. With a decent level of standard equipment and the proven 2.0-litre 140bhp turbodiesel engine, it appeals to both drivers and fleet managers alike.
For drivers the appeal is clear. The Passat is a big family car (it’s larger all round than its predecessor with more rear legroom) and it also looks good thanks to styling cues taken from both of Volkswagen’s luxury models – the Phaeton and Touareg.
There’s also the obligatory list of goodies, from air conditioning to a CD player, but where the Passat sets itself apart is in some of the items included as standard.
Volkswagen calls this ‘democratising luxury’, which roughly translated from marketing speak means offering items from luxury cars to the less well off.
For a start there are wipe-dry brakes, a system which automatically applies the brake discs every five minutes (although it’s so slight you’ll never notice) to remove any water film which may have built up. This ensures the brakes are able to work at their optimum level if they’re needed. Along with emergency brake assist this can cut stopping distances by 25%.
Also, the hazard warning lights are automatically activated when the brakes are pressed very hard to alert following cars.
There are also run-flat tyres, tyre pressure monitoring, Bluetooth phone preparation, keyless entry and an electronic parking brake. Us less well-off have never had it so good, although it must be said that some of these are items from the options list.
On the road, the Passat feels much like any other Volkswagen Group product, with the accent more on comfort and convenience than driving pleasure. But this car doesn’t purport to be an Alfa Romeo or, even, a Mazda6 in handling terms.
It simply devours miles with ease, and at a fairly frugal rate. So far, our Passat is averaging nearly 40mpg, which is 7mpg short of Volkswagen’s claimed average.
Now that the engine is fully run-in we expect things to improve.
We’re also hoping that a slightly annoying, and occasional, glitch in the fuelling disappears. It usually rears its head when you’re in fourth gear travelling at about 60mph and then press the throttle to overtake. There’s an initial hesitancy, almost like the engine’s coughing, although it then smooths out and disappears as the revs rise.
Equipment and options
Total options: £6,320
Price (OTR): £18,730
Price as tested: £25,050
The manufacturer’s view
‘It is testimony to the Passat’s fleet popularity that even in its run-out period, sales hardly dipped. However, the launch of the new model last June has given the Passat a new lease of life. Extra equipment and space, new engines and a fresh design mean it remains a firm favourite with fleet drivers; while high residuals and low running costs ensure its place on fleet managers’ choice lists.
The 2.0 TDI is one of our best sellers, and in SE trim you can enjoy high levels of comfort.’
Vincent Kinner, head of Volkswagen Fleet Services
Model: Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI SE
Price (OTR): £18,765 (as tested £25,085)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% taxpayer: £71 per month
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 47.1
Test mpg: 39.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,850/37%
Contract hire rate: £375
Expenditure to date: Nil