Passatisfaction: VW Estate offers space, style and a little luxury
You know you’re getting old when you relish the prospect of driving a big, safe, reliable, comfortable estate car.
It wasn’t that long ago when my idea of the best motor for a staycation involved two wheels only. And while my solo motorcycle holidays seem like a thing of the distant past, family trips involving my wife, our two kids, and stuffing an extraordinary amount of luggage in the boot, now take top priority.
A recent two-week break to the west of Ireland required careful planning. As any parent of young kids will know, you need an awful lot of gear to keep the brats fed, watered, clothed and happy on holiday.
Our day-to-day car is a Skoda Octavia, which comes with an impressive 590 litres of boot space. But she-who-must-be-obeyed was worried that we’d need more space, especially as our eldest would turn two while we were away and we would have to pack an additional treasure trove of assorted presents for the trip.
There was only one thing for it: consult the oracles. There’s very little the Motormouths don’t know about modern motoring, so when I told them I was looking for a car big enough to accommodate the family and all the associated bits — but one that is comfortable and a serious mile muncher to boot — they were unanimous in their verdict: “The Volkswagen Passat estate is your only man.”
The eighth-generation Passat brings with it a fresh weapon in the arsenal of Volkswagen’s biggest-selling model. While it traditionally fought – and won — against mid-market competition such as the Ford Mondeo and Opel Insignia, it now has the executive estate market firmly in its sights, with one eye on the likes of BMW’s 3 Series Touring and the Mercedes C-Class Estate.
A subtly-curved nose blends into a square body that sits on 18-inch alloy wheels (on the model tested) seamlessly, making what was always an attractive car even better looking. Inside, there’s a quality feel to the cabin that, once again, exceeds expectations and brings the new Passat to a whole new level. Dark-grey plastics are broken up with silver trim and there are plenty of smart storage areas.
The cabin looks and feels luxurious, with the analogue clock and speedo gelling with the touchscreen display that houses everything from voice-controlled sat nav (an option on the model tested) to the standard DAB radio and plenty of other tech treats.
Passenger comfort is supreme, with acres of room front and back and leather trim on the model tested. Back in the boot, the 650-litre capacity expands to a monstrous 1,780 litres of space with the rear seats folded.
The new Passat saloon starts at €28,230 for the 125hp 1.4TSI unit, with a 1.6 TDi unit and 2.0TDi version in either 150HP, 190HP or 240HP (bi-turbo) guise also available.
The estate version starts at €30,170 for the petrol unit, with the 2.0TDi DSG 190HP version tested starting at €43,430. The test car was dripping with extras, including metallic paint, ‘light assist’ high beam control, sat-nav system with voice control, keyless entry and a ‘Sports Pack’ including Nappa leather trim and 18-inch Dartford alloy wheels, brining the on-the-road price to €48,129.
And it’s on the open road where this Passat excels, the twin-clutch DSG automatic delivering lovely acceleration. You can choose between three power modes that also adjust the suspension accordingly — switch it to ‘Sport’ and this family car changes from friendly to furious in the blink of an eye.
The ride in ‘Normal’ is engaging without being intimidating and the car cushioned the bumps and west of Ireland potholes with aplomb on our trip. The cabin is very quiet too, with minimal noise from the road reaching the occupants inside.
Adaptive cruise control (standard on Highline models) made light work of the motorway, while climatronic three-zone air conditioning kept everyone, most importantly the kids, at their desired temperature.
The Passat’s premium pricing will be offset by low running costs for those willing to take the plunge, with annual road tax starting at €190 for the diesels (which will account for the majority of sales) to €280 for the range-topping 240HP 2.0 TDi bi-turbo version. The model tested falls into tax band A4, costing €200 in annual road tax.
Fuel consumption is similarly attractive, with a claimed 3.8l per 100km for the entry level diesel, the 120HP 1.6TDi, rising to 4.1l per 100km for the 190HP 2.0 TDi DSG model tested.
Volkswagen has sold 3,124 Passats, in both saloon and estate versions, so far this year in Ireland compared to a total of 2,224 last year.
And that’s no surprise to me, having lived with one for two weeks. It’s a hell of a lot of car, and the latest offering is now firmly in the realm of the equivalent models from the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes in terms of driveability and desirability.