VW gets a Pass with distinction

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IT’S difficult to imagine some cars getting better and better but that’s exactly what Volkswagen has achieved with its Passat Estate, writes Allan McIntyre.

I was singing the praises of the Passat quite recently when a neighbour was asking advice on what her next family car should be.

That was before I had driven the new version and I am now even more convinced that it is a model well worth having in your driveway.

This seventh generation Passat went on sale in January - some 37 years after its launch. Since then over 15 million have been sold and their popularity continues to rise.

The Passat has a sharp look, distinguished with its pronounced grille, chrome trim and new headlights as well as LED daytime running lights.

The interior has a top quality feel with the dashboard incorporating new dials, trim finishes and an analogue clock along with chrome highlights.

It is available in three trim levels, S, SE and Sport Range, with a choice of three petrol engines and new second-generation diesel units.

All diesel engines comes with BlueMotion Technology which features Stop/Start and battery regeneration systems.

The test car was a Passat Estate SE 2.0-litre TDI 140 PS and it was a real treat.

The cabin was roomy and comfortable with excellent driving position – electric six-way adjustment including lumbar support driver’s seat - and lots of head, leg and elbow for front and three rear passengers.

Drive quality was also right up there, with the turbo engine delivering power smoothly up through the manual six-speed gearbox and little road, wind or engine noise coming through.

It was sprightly off the mark when required, going from standstill to 62mph in 10 seconds, and with a top speed of 132mph didn’t come near to breaking sweat at maximum speed limits.

Other more than pleasing fuel economy figures are the 61.4mpg combined, 30.4mpg urban and 70.6mpg extra urban.

VWs are well equipped and the SE model’s standard spec includes Bluetooth, DAB digital receiver, excellent eight-speakers sound system as well as cruise control with Fatigue Detection system.

Warnings

This monitors the driver’s characteristic steering and driving for the first 15 minutes of a journey and if it indicates a deviation from the initial behaviour then waning concentration is assumed and warnings issued with an acoustic signal and a visual message in the instrument cluster recommending a break.

The best-selling model will be the SE 2.0-litre TDI 140 PS, accounting for around a quarter of total sales, while Estates are expected to outsell saloons with an estimated UK 2011 market of 9,987 saloons and 11,175 Estates.

If you opt for the Estate you will get 523 litres of luggage space up to the window edge rising to a massive 1,731 litres when the entire bootspace is utilised, including the 800 litre spare wheel recess.

Prices for the new Passat range from £18,880 saloon and £20,180 Estate rising to £27,545 while the superb test car cost £23,375.