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News18 » Auto
10-min read

Volkswagen Passat Road Test Review: Have SUVs Really Taken Over?

Compact, Mini, Sub-Compact, Mid-Size, Full-size, 5-seater, 5+2-seater, 7-seater and the list of SUV categories just goes on. The Volkswagen Passat, despite not being the latest, is actually a breath of fresh air.

Manav Sinha | News18.com@manav_sinha

Updated:August 19, 2019, 10:50 AM IST
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Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat Review
Volkswagen Passat. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
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We test a lot of cars that span across segments and price points but here’s the thing, almost all of the cars that we have driven recently have mostly been SUVs of different sizes. Compact, Mini, Sub-Compact, Mid-Size, Full-size, 5-seater, 5+2-seater, 7-seater, off-road biased, road-biased and the list of SUV categories just keeps going on. And it is this craziness around SUVs that have shifted the goal post for the things that we have started to expect from cars. They should be big, bulky, have a lot of mass, it should be tall, loud, in your face and just scream for attention with chrome, body cladding and oversized wheel arches. But then comes the Volkswagen Passat which may not be the latest car around, but driving it was still a breath of fresh air.

THE LOOKS

And this actually starts off from the moment you lay your eyes on the Passat. The car does not scream for attention and yet, if you look closer, it will draw you towards itself with its subtlety and attention to detail. At the front, there is a generous amount of chrome and the face is dominated by horizontal lines that rise only slightly towards the edge, giving it a bold look.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewVolkswagen Passat has a bold look. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

This is only further accentuated by the sharply chiselled shoulder line running across the length of the car and has no kinks or curves that you might expect. This, along with the chrome strip that runs below it through the bottom-end of the doors, makes the car look long-er. The chrome surround on the windows is also a nice touch.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewThe strong shoulder line on the Volkswagen Passat makes it look longer. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

There’s not a lot of drama going on at the back, either, as the only point of attraction are the tail lights which are slim LED units. And while they have fantastic detailing inside them, you will really have to go looking for it to notice it. The chrome element which carries on over from the front, then to the sides, is there at the back too. This runs seamlessly around the entire car and that is a great touch.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewVolkswagen Passat from the back. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

STEPPING INSIDE

The sense of simplicity is carried on over to the inside as well with simple, horizontal design lines dominating the all-black cabin. There are gloss-black and brushed aluminium-finished elements but they all gel well together maybe too well, making the interiors look a bit dull. The only contrast comes in from the faux wood on the dash and the doors. What I did really like, though, was the single grille design for the AC vents that make it look upmarket.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewThe interiors of the Volkswagen Passat. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

But the absolute best design element, which may come down to personal taste, was the analogue clock place in the middle of the dash. In the age of touchscreen infotainment systems, analogue clocks on premium cars have become so rare that they are now a standout feature by its own and something surely that will wow the passengers in your car. It just adds a level of charm that a touchscreen can only hope to match.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewAnalogue clocks>digital clocks. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

You also get an electronically operated sunroof which is a good addition. However, the blind underneath the glass is manually operated and before you say anything against it, ask yourself, do you really need it to be electrically operated? For me, it doesn’t really matter. I found it to be a lot quicker with the opening and closing when I did it with my own hands as compared to it being operated electronically and that makes it a lot simpler of a process too as you can have it opened by just the amount you want.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewThe Passat gets an electric sunroof. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

The Volkswagen Passat is loaded with features, even though the interior does not give off the most tech-savvy vibe. The sedan comes with things like a 360-degree camera which gives you a bird’s eye view of the car which comes in very hand when you are stuck in a tight spot. And in case you do, then the Park Assist feature allows for hands-free parking with you having to only moderate the accelerator and gear pedal, while the car operates the steering wheel by itself!

The boot space on the Passat is 586 litres which can be taken up to 1,152 litres with the rear seat folded down. The boot lid is electronically operated which means you don’t have to lift the lid up or push it down manually, it can be done with the touch of a button. That’s not it, say both your hands are full and the keys are in your pocket, simply swing a leg under the rear bumper and the boot lid will pop open by itself. On top of that, once you move away from the car it will close by itself too! How cool is that?

Speaking of cool, the rear parking camera is actually hidden underneath the Volkswagen badge and pops out when the car is engaged into reverse gear.

Coming to the touchscreen infotainment system it did leave us wanting for more. The issue is that you will be operating most of the features of the car through this system and that just looks a bit dated now. Don’t get me wrong, it has a very smooth touch response with a good quality graphics chipset ensuring smooth animations and the User Interface (UI) is intuitive and easy to use as well. It’s just the overall packaging of it, with the chunky buttons surrounding it, makes it look not so premium. But otherwise, the system will give you no chance of complaints. It even senses your hand approaching the screen and enlarges the on-screen buttons even before you reach it. This never gets old.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewThe infotainment system on the Volkswagen Passat works great, but looks dated. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

The same thing happens when you look at the Instrument Cluster as well. The small Multi-Information Display (MID) unit with the exact same steering wheel that you get in other smaller Volkswagen cars just does not add to the feeling of luxury and might make you feel shortchanged.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewThe familiar Volkswagen view. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

Before we get to the driving dynamics, let’s get the rear seat comfort out of the way because truth be told, chances of the Passat being a chauffeur-driven vehicle is quite high. In that case, the Passat has oodles of space on offer for rear-seat passengers. There is a huge amount of legroom, shoulder room and headroom available and even tall passengers seated behind a tall driver will have absolutely nothing to complain about. A nice touch by Volkswagen is that you get blinds for the large rear windows which allows for a bit of privacy when needed. There is also a blind for the rear glass panel which can be electrically operated by the touch of a button by the driver. Put all the blinds down and you will have an airy and well-lit cabin taking the sense of roominess even further. And yes, the rear half of the cabin gets its own climate zone too.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewThe rear seat of the Volkswagen Passat is a great place to be. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

The Passat is a Volkswagen which means that it has a fantastic build quality and is high on safety too. It offers 9 airbags all around the cabin and gets several electronic driver aids. This includes Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Traction Control (ASR), Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), Hill Start Assist and even the front seat headrests can be longitudinally adjusted for comfort and also, to prevent whiplash in case of a crash. And of course, all of this is offered as standard.

But where the Passat leaves a mark is when you are the one driving it.

THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE

It is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine that makes 177 PS of power and 350 Nm of torque and comes connected to a 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox. And let’s just say, in short, this is the best drivetrain you can get your hands on this segment.

The engine feels extremely refined and while there is a little bit of engine clutter that creeps into the cabin, it is nothing that you would mind. The power delivery is linear and you won’t really notice the turbo kicking in and doing its thing. The feedback from the car to the driver is what makes it so engaging. At all moments, you know exactly what the car is going through and what you should be doing it in case you want to experience some dynamic driving.

It is planted through corners and will almost egg you on to take the corner faster than what you would expect it to be capable of. And this is due to what Volkswagen calls Adaptive Chassis Control (DCC). As part of this, based on the driving mode that you have selected, the car will change the suspension settings, throttle and steering sensitivity and change gears with the corresponding urgency. If needed, you can control the gearshifts from the steering-mounted paddle-shifters too.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewThe DSG gearbox of the Volkswagen Passat is fantastic. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

Now while the car has great highway capabilities, it does not take on potholes with the same grace. The ‘thud’ from the suspension is painfully audible inside the cabin and as a result, you would be driving it very consciously on bad roads.

But other than that, the Passat drives fantastically well which are complemented by the ergonomics. The front seats can be electronically adjusted with the driver-side seat getting a memory function and a massage function too.

Then, there’s the fact that it gets a 66-litre fuel tank which when combined to its fuel efficiency of 15 km per litre, gives you a range of over 900 km on a single tank! This makes the Passat a great choice for long-distance driving.

Volkswagen Passat, Passat, Volkswagen Passat ReviewMassage seats for the driver of the Volkswagen Passat. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

THE VERDICT

So yes, the Volkswagen Passat has been a mighty impressive car. It is not perfect, it has its shortcomings, but the number of features, build quality, safety and the driving dynamics that it offers, make it a car that is very hard to fault unless you are nitpicking. However, the Volkswagen Passat competes against a host of competitors at its price tag and also has the hard task to justify itself over full-sized SUVs. On top of that, if you go for the higher variants of the Passat you will be looking at the kind of money that can also get you cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLA.

But to be honest, the Volkswagen Passat is offering an experience that can match even more expensive sedans. And it offers a drive quality that SUVs just can’t match, all while offering a huge range and great efficiency for a car its size as well. So while I find it hard to try to sum up the Volkswagen Passat without drawing out a huge list of check-list and compare it to like five different cars with different body styles and fancier badges, let me try to put it this way.

THE SIMPLER VERDICT

Some cars are meant to be bought from your heart, based on the feeling that a car gives out to its driver or owner and this is one such example. It will relate to those who find a pair of well-fitted suit to be more comforting, fulfilling and exuding confidence than those feeling the need to show a belt with a brand logo with bright colours in order to get attention. It’s a pair of well-polished shoes instead of a funky sneaker. It’s an analogue clock rather than a smartwatch. It’s a bowtie instead of a wireless headphone. I can go on and on. Neither of these two styles is wrong or bad, but it is about where you see yourself fitting in. And if you relate to the former, then the Passat will interest you.

Oh and speaking of SUVs, what they are yet to catch up to is the driving experience of cars like the Passat. Until then, the take-over is not complete.

Oh, wait, hold on a second, there's also the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Passat of SUVs! Well, scratch all that. Get the Tiguan.

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| Edited by: Manav Sinha
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