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Volkswagen Passat Review

heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

Volkswagen Passat
Volkswagen Passat

1/10

1 / 10

00/10
heycar rating
"Classy family and business saloon"
  • Launched: 2015
  • Large family car
  • Petrol, Diesel, PHEV

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Quick overview

Pros

  • Sharp, neat, but understated styling inside and out and CarPlay and Android Auto on all models
  • Good choice of economical petrol and diesel engines 
  • Spacious, smart interior and a large boot, even in saloon guise here

Cons

  • The boot is big, but being a proper saloon means it’s not as easily accessed as hatchback rivals
  • The more expensive models really are in the premium pricing sphere 
  • Smart and classy as the saloon is, the estate version is an even more capable car

Overall verdict

"The Volkswagen Passat exemplifies how the company has carved an enviable position above its mainstream rivals, pitching its models between the once dominant, high-volume mainstream marques and those premium brands."

Volkswagen Passat Front View

That means you’re as likely to utter BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class or even the Passat’s close Audi A4 relation, as you might the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia when considering the Passat.


This Passat was originally introduced in 2015, when it quickly won the prestigious European Car of The Year award. It was substantially overhauled for the 2020 model year with a revised engine line-up, improved technology and connectivity. The Passat is available as a saloon, as reviewed here, as well as a handsome, usefully spacious Volkswagen Passat Estate, and as a plug-in hybrid model - the Volkswagen Passat GTE - as both saloon and estate model.


Being a big-selling mainstay in the Volkswagen model line-up it’s offered with a wide range of engines and transmissions, with a choice of three petrol engines of 1.5 and 2.0-litre capacities with outputs spanning from 150PS up to 272PS. 


The turbodiesel engine range offers even more choice, with four power outputs from the 1.6 and 2.0-litre capacities, from 120PS to 240PS. There’s the option of either a six-speed manual transmission, or a seven-speed DSG automatic, the majority of the range being front-wheel drive, with the most powerful models gaining Volkswagen’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system.


The revisions for the 2020 model year didn’t just bring under the skin changes to improve economy and emissions, but also sharpened up the Passat’s already handsome looks, while adding a more comprehensive offering of safety equipment, as well as standard fitment of Volkswagen’s Travel Assist, which allows the Passat to drive at speeds of 130mph (where allowed) in a partially autonomous mode.  


The saloon’s trim levels start with the SE, followed by the SE Nav, SEL, and R-Line. The saloon marketplace is in decline, with competition for buyer’s money from estate cars, SUVs and crossovers diminishing their appeal, but the Passat remains an appealing prospect, however unfashionable or not the regular saloon might be considered in the current marketplace. 


As a foil to the too-obvious premium players the Volkswagen Passat exudes considered classiness, which is a sizeable part of its appeal, as is its neatly designed, spacious interior. 


Spacious, comfortable, considered and classy, there’s a lot to like about the Volkswagen Passat, enough indeed to consider it very worthy of rivalling those omnipresent premium rivals. Not exciting, admittedly, instead the Passat is deeply satisfying, which is arguably more appealing in your daily driver, which makes it easy to recommend here.    


All the car you could really want or need, the Passat is a fine all-round choice for the family or business buyer, or a combination of both. 


If you're looking for the older version, you need our Volkswagen Passat (2011-2015) review.

Is the Volkswagen Passat right for you?

It’s difficult to argue against the Passat, the saloon car might not be the most on-trend vehicle in the car showroom these days, but its endured regardless, and the Passat underlines why. It’s a classy, understated family car, that goes about its business effortlessly, with a spacious interior and sizeable boot.


 It’s bigger inside than most of its premium alternatives, makes the interiors of its mainstream rivals look shoddy in comparison, and while it’s not an SUV, neither are you paying for a lot of four-wheel drive hardware, to buy, and run, that you don’t really need. We reckon anyone, and we mean absolutely anyone, would be delighted to have a Passat, it’s that good an all-rounder, even here in saloon guise.

What’s the best Volkswagen Passat model/engine to choose?

The best Volkswagen Passat for you depends on what you’re intending on using it for. If you’re going to be doing lots of motorway miles then it’s impossible to ignore the long-legged ease and superb fuel consumption offered by the diesel models, and, in particular something like the 150PS 2.0-litre TDI EVO SCR. With the six-speed manual you’ll be able to get in the 60mpg sphere on a long cruise, though we’d take a bit of a hit – around 3-4mpg – and opt for the seven-speed DSG with the same engine, for the ease it brings. 


The TSI turbocharged petrol engines are impressively economical, if not yet in the same league as their diesel alternatives, but if you’re after a Passat that’ll spend more time on shorter drives then the 150PS 1.5 TSI EVO is a fine choice. 


If you can stretch to it, the plug-in hybrid GTE is well worth considering, too. As for trim, all Passats come well specified, but the best balance of connectivity and comfort is the SEL model. 


What other cars are similar to the Volkswagen Passat?

Occupying the middle ground between the mainstream and premium makers the Passat has a broad mix of rivals from the Ford Mondeo to the BMW 3 Series and everything around and between them. Perhaps the closest brand match that spans both categories like Volkswagen would be Volvo, with its Volvo S60 saloon, with the Mazda 6 also a little bit of a cut above the humdrum, too, again without quite being elevated to premium status. If you want premium feel and even more space, a Skoda Superb is also well worth considering – it’s vast inside.

Comfort and design

"Volkswagen achieves its convincing stature in the near premium marketplace thanks in no small part to its design."

Volkswagen Passat Front Interior

The interior of the Passat is a demonstration of this, as while there’s little in what could be described as flair, the cabin demonstrates a considered, elegant style that will appeal to its intended wide audience, as well as look good forever. It’s not as overt as some mainstream competition then, which is to the Passat’s enormous credit.


It’s pleasingly styled, the air vents looking like the span the entire width of the dashboard, the simple design of the instruments, assuming you’ve not optioned the full digital instruments as part of the Discover Navigation Pro, being very crisp and clear. That neat design encompasses the seats, which not only look good, but provide excellent comfort and support. 


From base level SE trim the driver and front passenger seats have height adjustment, with the driver’s seat also benefitting from seat cushion tilt adjust, thigh support and an electrically adjusted backrest. SEL models gain seat heating in the front seats, while the upholstery and the steering wheel and gear knob are covered in leather. All Passats have a rake and reach adjustable steering column, too. 


Manual air conditioning as standard across the range, with R-Line gaining three-zone electronic climate control, this available optionally with other trim levels. Keyless entry is also a standard feature with R-Line specification, again, this can be optioned on all. Other comfort-orientated cost options include a heated multi-functional steering wheel and a 14-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat with massage and memory function.

Quality and finish

It is not just the Passat’s fine looks inside and out that make it a credible premium alternative, but the material quality throughout. It looks its best in its higher trim grades, with SEL required to have standard leather upholstery, but even the fabric covered seats look good and feel like they’re wear very well. 


Opt for the highest grade navigation system and the centre console is filled with a neat touchscreen, while the analogue instruments are swapped out for a digital screen that’s configurable. Doing so really lifts the Passat’s interior to another level, but at £2,200 it should do.

Infotainment

The standard infotainment offering on the SE includes a 6.5-inch colour touch screen connected to an eight-speaker stereo system without DAB radio but does feature Wireless App Connect smartphone mirroring via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. SE Nav gains a larger 8-inch touchscreen, with Bluetooth connectivity, sat nav, SMS functionality and twin smart device pairing. SEL gets all that, plus DAB radio and voice activation. 


None of the saloons get the range-topping Discover Navigation Pro (the R-Line Edition estate only model and GTE Advance plug-in hybrids do) as standard. It’s a £2,200 option, which adds a 9.2-inch touchscreen, with voice control 3D mapping, a 64GB SSD hard drive, the Discover Navigation Pro also sees the conventional instrumentation being replaced by a 10.25-inch high resolution TFT screen which Volkswagen dubs Active Info Display. 


It offers five different viewing modes, allowing you to customise your instruments, reducing the size of the dials, have a large mapping screen or the status of the assistance systems displayed. 


All the touchscreens, from the 6.5-inch one to that range-topping Discover Navigation Pro one all work with ease, Volkswagen sensibly keeping functions like ventilation controls separate to those within the screen, while there’s an easy home and menu button. Of the three choices, the middle 8-inch option is the best choice, unless you’re determined to have that TFT instrumentation. A head-up display is optional in SEL models and above, too.

Space and practicality

Up front there’s plenty of space for even a pair of taller adults, likewise the rear seats offer head and legroom that’ll accommodate adults comfortably. 


That’s two adults, the middle seat not particularly comfortable without any contouring to the seat itself, while the raised floor and positioning of the rear air vents reduces leg and foot room in the middle. That’s true of all its saloon rivals though, and for all the other passengers the Passat offers a very spacious cabin. A pair of ISOFIX child seat mounts are located on the outer rear seats, and, usefully the rear doors open widely to give good access to the them. 


There are good-sized, and lined, door bins in both the front and rear doors, all able to accommodate a bottle, while there’s a pair of cup holders between the front seats under a sliding cover. There’s a lidded, deep cubby behind that as well as a recess alongside, while there’s also an area in front of the gear selector that’s perfectly shaped to accommodate a smartphone, it also conveniently located to a USB-type socket (this needing a USB adaptor which Volkswagen provides). 


A good-sized lockable glovebox adds more oddment storage, as does a small lidded compartment on the driver’s side lower dashboard. The front seats in all come with map pockets in the seatbacks too. 


The boot is a good size and shape, there 586 litres of boot space with the rear seatbacks up, though the seats do drop forward in a 60/40 split (the estate getting a more useful 40/20/40 split) to create 1,152 litres of luggage capacity. The Passat’s biggest limiting factor in relation to practicality is the fact it’s a saloon, opposed to a hatchback, meaning that accessing that sizeable boot area isn’t as easy as in some rivals. If you need better access to the boot, then buy the estate. 

Handling and ride quality

"Not sporting, but agile enough for a big saloon, the Passat isn’t going to thrill behind the wheel like a BMW 3 Series, but nor is it meant to."

Volkswagen Passat Front Side View

The suspension provides decent comfort, allied to control, it best with the 17-inch alloy wheels, larger 18-inch wheels, from R-Line upwards, or cost optional wheel sizes up to 19-inches do impact on the ride comfort negatively, though not to the point of distraction. Volkswagen does offer the option of Sport Suspension, it coming as standard on the R-Line, this lowering the ride height by 15mm and adding a bit of unwelcome busyness to the ride. 


There’s also the cost option of Dynamic Chassis Control across the entire line-up, it offering a choice of suspension settings of Comfort, Sport, Individual and Normal.


We’re not convinced you need to spend any extra on the Passat’s suspension, unless you want an R-Line to ride a bit softer. The SE and SEL ride fluently and comfortably on the Passat’s standard set-up. The variable DCC set-up adds choices you’ll not really need, and, indeed, you’ll likely end up driving everywhere in Normal mode, Sport only adding unwanted brittleness to the ride. 


The majority of Passats are front-wheel drive, with 4Motion four-wheel drive on the highest power output models. The 4Motion improves traction on damp or slippery surfaces, and for those wanting a tow car it’ll aid stability, but it doesn’t add any additional engagement behind the wheel. 


Volkswagen offers the option of an XDS electronic differential lock on all, which improves traction and handling, it an inexpensive - £205 – option that’s worth having if you want to sharpen up the agility of your Passat. Competent, if unexciting, the Passat’s a fine all-rounder. 

Engines and gearboxes

Petrol, diesel and a plug-in hybrid choice - the Passat saloon has a good choice of engines. The petrol line up comprises of 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged four-cylinder engines, the entry-level 1.5 TSI EVO having 150PS and 250Nm of torque. The 2.0-litre TSI ups the Passat’s power to 190PS, with torque increasing too, to 320Nm, while the 272PS 2.0-litre TSI engine is limited to a single, estate-only model.

The diesel range is introduced with the 1.6-litre TDI with 120PS, the 2.0-litre TDI above it having 150PS and 340Nm of torque, and another version above it coming with 190PS and 400Nm. The diesel range is headed by a 2.0 BiTDI turbodiesel, it getting 240PS and 500Nm of torque. 


All but two Passat saloon versions are front-wheel drive, with the 240PS turbodiesel coming as standard with 4Motion four-wheel drive, and the 190PS 2.0 TSI available with either front, or that 4Motion four-wheel drive. Those 4Motion cars and the 190PS TSI in front-wheel drive are only offered with the 7-speed DSG automatic, with the rest of the line-up having a choice of either it, or a six-speed manual. 


That manual is slick and easy, and while the DSG ups the convenience, it can fluff the odd shift. Of the engines the 2.0 TDI 150 will provide more than enough performance for most, with 62mph arriving in 8.9 seconds, its strong mid-range torque more applicable than that 0-62mph time, that flexibility making it a very capable and easy motorway cruiser. The petrol engines are smooth, and while they’ve not got the surfeit of torque of the diesels, they’re still capable all-rounders, even the 1.5-litre entry-level choice.

Refinement and noise levels

The Passat’s premium feel is increased in relation to its refinement. It’s quiet inside, with that calm hush making the Passat a very able, relaxing long-distance proposition. There’s very little wind noise at UK road speeds, while road noise is nicely contained too, though pick larger wheel options and rougher surfaces will result in a bit of noise from the tyres. 


The petrol engines are quieter than their diesel counterparts in normal driving. You'll still hear them if you're in a hurry, but the turbodiesel engines are certainly more obvious at ordinary speeds. Although not reviewed here, the GTE plug-in hybrid, with its electric-only mode, is all but silent inside.

Safety equipment

The Passat’s standard list of safety equipment is extensive, with all coming with ABS brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution, a post collision braking system, front and rear passenger curtain airbag with side impact airbag, driver and front passenger airbags, a knee airbag for the driver and rear seat side impact airbags, driver and front passenger optimised head restraints. 


There’s Electronic Stability Control, traction control and engine drag torque control, while those who tow with the Passat will appreciate the trailer stabilisation function that detects if any trailer you’re towing starts to sway. A pre-crash warning and preventative system is also standard, as is tyre pressure loss indicator, Adaptive Cruise Control with Front assist, City Emergency Braking, a Driver Alert System, automatic headlights, Travel Assistant, Lane Assist, parking sensors and Traffic Jam Assist. 


In short, the Passat is very well equipped in relation to safety as standard, Volkswagen’s available option in relation to safety being the possibility to upgrade the tyre pressure loss indicator to a more comprehensive Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, for just £150. Independently crash tested by Euro NCAP back in 2014, the Passat scored a maximum 5 star overall result, and since its 2019 refresh it’s gained additional safety aids. The Passat is fitted with two Isofix child seat mounts in the rear. 

MPG and fuel costs

"The most efficient diesel Volkswagen Passat models return more than 60mpg in official WLTP fuel economy tests."

Volkswagen Passat Rear Side View

Expect real-world figures to be a little less impressive, but you should still see mid-50s MPG from a Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI when trundling up and down the motorway.


Even the 1.5 TSI petrol is fairly economical, officially returning around 44-45mpg (depending on trim level and gearbox).

Insurance groups and costs

The ABI insurance groupings for the Passat span a wide range, thanks to the differing cost and performance potential of the line-up. The 1.6 TDi is in the lowest grouping for the Passat, it being 15E in SE trim, with the rest of the Passats typically falling into group 20 through to group 25, with only the R-Line, 4Motion 190 and 240 diesels being any higher, in group 26E and 32E respectively. All come with a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty as standard. Volkswagen offers fixed price servicing, too.

VED car tax

Low emissions and good residuals make the Passat a fleet favourite, with the lowest emitting Passat emitting just 124-133g/km. Only one Passat in the saloon range exceeds the £40,000 threshold for a higher (for five years) £325 annual charge after the first year’s payment. 


No Passat is RDE2 compliant, so the first year VED will be between £215 and £1,305, with that highest rate relating to the 4Motion 240PS turbodiesel. The bulk of Passats will cost between £215-£540 to tax in their first year, and £150 a year thereafter. 

How much should you be paying for a used Volkswagen Passat?

"Prices start at under £6000 if you’re happy to have a Passat with over 140,000 miles on the odometer, of which there are a lot, the Passat a popular car for business drivers."

Volkswagen Passat Left Side View

The bulk of used choice is of 2.0 TDI and 1.6 TDI engines, from £7000 you’ll start to get sub-100,000 mile examples, while £9000 and above gets you into cars with less than 80,000 miles, some significantly less. 


There’s loads of choice from £10,000 upwards, so you can afford to be picky, right up to nearly new £30,000+ models and delivery mileage stock that’s on Volkswagen dealership forecourts.


Trim levels and standard equipment

All come comprehensively specified, with air conditioning, alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, safety equipment on all being particularly impressive.


SE is the entry into the range. SE Nav adds satellite navigation and a larger 8-inch touchscreen with greater functionality.

SEL adds a DAB tuner, leather covered seats, steering wheel and gear knob and remote electrically heated adjustable and foldable door mirrors.  R-Line gains sports suspension, an R-Line styling pack, 3-Zone climate control, keyless entry and larger 18-inch alloy wheels.

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