On paper, the Volkswagen Passat estate plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) looks like a no-brainer, with fuel economy of 180.8mpg, CO2 emissions of 33g/km and a pure electric driving range of 33 miles WLTP.
Our long-term test car, however, is delivering a range of 25 pure electric miles on a full battery charge, while full driving range on electric and petrol is 450-plus miles.
A 167-mile roundtrip to mid-Wales, for example, using the 1.4-litre petrol engine and a full battery returned 54.5mpg. The return journey on zero battery charge, saw that fall to 39.7mpg.
Using a 3.6 kW wall charger it will take three-and-a-half hours to fully charge, but a three-pin 3kW plug made it five hours at a cost of around £2.15, equating to 7.7 pence per mile (ppm).
Fuel for a typical petrol or diesel car costs around 12p per mile – so the cost for driving the same distance would be around £3.40, giving you a £1.25 saving.
From a company car driver’s perspective, it attracts 10% (2020/21) benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax; £828 this tax year for a 20% taxpayer – substantially less than the £2,054 for the diesel equivalent.
Class 1 NICs for the employer are also a lot less – £571 for the PHEV compared with £1,417 for the diesel. But, while first year road tax is avoided altogether for the PHEV, there is a subsequent annual charge of £465.
That compares with £215 first year road tax for the diesel and £150 thereafter.
The high P11D value (£41,395) of the PHEV means employers will also have to dig a little deeper in terms of overall running costs when operating on a 48 months/80,000 miles cycle.
The Fleet News company car tax calculator gives the PHEV a 50.84ppm running cost compared with 43.8ppm for a 2.0-litre diesel equivalent.
The PHEV wins on fuel costs but loses out on depreciation, costing 38.62ppm compared with 30.36ppm for the diesel.
Estate's boot is impressive
The Volkswagen Passat estate manages to maintain a premium feel while delivering a level of practicality that will appeal to many a company car driver.
Compared with the outgoing model, the roofline is a bit lower, but headroom has not been compromised and, despite being shorter, there is more room inside.
In fact, there is bags of legroom in the rear, while the boot has grown to offer an impressive 650 litres – 47 litres more than its predecessor. The Mondeo estate offers a meagre 560 litres in comparison.
A wide opening, which comes with the optional electric tailgate on our GTE Advance 1.4 TSI PHEV test car, is matched with a flat boot floor, making visits to the DIY store less of a back-breaking experience.
There is also a useful storage space under the boot floor that is ideal for storing the hybrid's charging cables.
Fold the rear seats down and you’ll get a cavernous 1,780 litres, more spacious than some London bedsits!
It is also easy to park, with front and rear sensors as standard, and good sightlines when negotiating a tight spot. Our test car comes with the area view and rear-view camera, an £800 optional extra, making it easier still.
The infotainment system features digital radio and Bluetooth as standard and all cars come with a wireless App Connect system to sync your smartphone with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or Mirrorlink via Bluetooth.
Refined, relaxed driving
Power for the Volkswagen Passat GTE comes from a 13kWh battery and electric motor paired with a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine.
Starting the Passat up, the plug-in hybrid system offers a choice of fully electric mode – equating to some 30 miles in our test car when fully charged – or a hybrid setting, where the GTE automatically makes use of both power sources to optimise its zero-emission range and cut fuel consumption.
There is even some computer wizardry in the sat-nav system which, when plotting a journey, will decide when to use a particular power source.
Driving our test car, the transition between power sources is so smooth it is actually very hard to spot.
The petrol engine provides 156PS but, combined with electric power, that increases to 218PS, offering some punchy performance and just 7.6 seconds to get from 0-62mph in the estate and 7.4 seconds in the saloon.
The battery is located under the rear bench seat, while the electric motor is integrated with the six-speed DSG gearbox.
Despite that battery weight, the Passat GTE handles well on the road, but is perhaps better suited to munching the miles on the motorway, rather than negotiating country roads.
The GTE’s 18-inch alloy make the ride a little firm but opting for Dynamic Chassis Control (standard on the 243PS diesel, optional otherwise) allows you to choose different settings, adjusting the suspension’s firmness between Comfort, Normal, Sport, Individual and GTE modes.
Comfort gives a more relaxed feel, while GTE stiffens the suspension and adds extra weight to the steering, which is needed. There are also some fake engine sounds pumped into the cabin to add a degree of excitement.
But the Passat estate isn’t about thrills and spills. It’s about refined, relaxed driving which the GTE delivers, making it an attractive proposition for high-mileage company car drivers.
VW Passat GTE Advance joins our fleet
One-in-four Volkswagen Passats sold in the UK are predicted to be GTE variants and, after just a few weeks of driving the GTE Advance estate, I’m beginning to understand why.
There are eight variants of the new Passat available in the UK: SE, SE Nav, SEL, R-Line and limited-run, Estate-only R-Line Edition, GTE and GTE Advance.
Our 1.4 TSI plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) GTE Advance Passat has emissions of 33g/km (GTE is 31g/km), an electric-only range of 33 miles (WLTP) and a P11D price of £41,395.
Attracting a 10% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rate this financial year, it means a 20% taxpayer would pay £69 per month in company car tax.
The first thing to note, which helps it into that 10% company car tax bracket, is the electric-only range on the new GTE is an almost 40% improvement on the outgoing model. It would certainly be enough for most commutes – whenever they might return.
The electric motor is paired with a 156PS 1.4 TSI petrol engine to deliver a combined output of 218PS, 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds in the estate, and fuel economy of 201.8mpg (WLTP).
The GTE will start up in pure electric mode and run this way unless you change the settings or accelerate quickly. The transition from electric to petrol power is almost seamless and the petrol engine is also one of the quietest around.
Unsurprisingly, the secret for getting the best fuel economy out of the GTE is ensuring it is regularly charged. With no home charge point available, I used a household socket and it took approximately five hours to fully charge the 13kWh battery – an upgrade on the 9.9kWh battery featured on the old model. Use a wallbox and the charge time should reduce to around three-and-a-half hours.
Over the next few weeks, I intend to compare both the fuel economy of a regularly charged car, run in electric mode where possible, and a more irregular charging pattern to see how it varies. Power costs from home charging will also be monitored.