Despite all its recent faults there is no denying that Volkswagen do make some very good cars, like the Passat Estate with the latest hybrid powertrain, says Robin Roberts.
A well-designed small petrol engine seamlessly works in conjunction with an electric motor to give the medium sized Passat estate a surprisingly lively and economical performance with a low tax bill.
The latest Passat series of saloons and estates run to 25 models in seven trim levels and various power outputs from its choice of three engines, nearly all diesels. Prices rise from about £23,170 to a staggering £42,270, but it seems hard to justify the highest when it moves the VW into a sector where there are more fancied rivals, including its own Audi family members.
Our hybrid test car comes as saloon or in the model we had, estate style, but the powertrain is common and it’s a good one. In a week’s hard use it returned close to 40mpg without any attempt to be economical, and just the intelligent hybrid system working it all out and delivering a very good driving experience.
The plug-in power charge was done in a little over four hours and used a conventional three-pin socket.
Driven sensibly and without pushing the petrol engine to its higher limits when it gets noisy, the powertrain delivers strong acceleration in mid-range and upwards. You can live with this without a care.
I would have preferred more feel through the steering but the silken 6speed automatic transmission with its selectable sporting mode was delightful and the brakes packed strong stopping power under moderate foot pressure.
Secondary controls were well located, worked nicely and the instruments were big and clear with a good satnav display as well.
Heating and ventilation was simple, effective and efficient in such a large cabin where there was no shortage of leg, head or shoulder-room either.
Oddments space was good throughout and the low loading boot-floor was very smartly trimmed with useful access through the back doors for longer loads to be moved.
With driver and passengers aboard the access was easy, the front seats had a very wide adjustment range and good shaping and they felt firm, maybe too hard for some users’ preferences.
The ride quality was generally very good. On the firmer side of comfortable it nevertheless soaked up most shocks without complaint if noisily and the long wheelbase and wide track ensure it spreads its load and you can easily straddle some speed humps.
When it comes to grip the Passat Hybrid has that. It sits planted on the road with a near neutral attitude through corners and little roll or pitching.
You can very accurately place it thanks to the clear sightlines with a big windscreen and low waistline, even to the rear.
Wipers both ends were good, the lights very bright, wide and far reaching as well as being “intelligent” and switching to dip when vehicles approached or you caught up something.
I genuinely found it hard to believe it was 1400cc, so good was the performance and economy in such a medium sized car. Volkswagen can still produce surprises.
|VW Passat GTE 1.4 TSi Hybrid DSG Estate||Price: £35,575, after Gov. PICG|
|Insurance Group: 26E||Mechanical: 218ps 1.4 4cyl petrol engine and electric motor, 6sp DSG|
|Max Speed: 140 mph||0-62mph: 7.6 secs|
|Fuel consumption: 38.8 mpg||C02 emissions: 40gkm|
|Bik rating: 7%||Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles|
|Sizes: L 4.77m, W 2.09m, H 1.48m||Bootspace: 483 to 1613 litres Weight: 1735kg|
For: Refined and sophisticated, quiet, smooth, powerful, well equipped, very roomy, economical
Against: Very firm seats, occasional road noise, dull steering feel