The Volkswagen Passat first came to market back in 1973 and was assembled in Melbourne until 1981 before VW ceased Australian production and reverted to import-only options for all its models. The manufacturer has built a reputation for building solid, well-engineered cars that appeal to the masses with a touch of class, and the Passat is no exception. This is not a car that gets noticed for its sportiness, its quirkiness, or for anything out of the ordinary. Quite the opposite in fact, but therein lies its charm. The Passat is a well-rounded car that does what it sets out to do impeccably.
The Passat is pleasantly styled in an elder statesman kind of way. It is not ostentatious in its looks but is perfectly pleasing on the eye. The hatchback variant is particularly spacious, offering plenty of legroom to front and rear and a suitably boxy-shaped boot space, which can be augmented considerably thanks to the flat-folding rear seats. Seventh generation, post-2011 models are more attractive than ever before, adding looks as well as charm to what has gone on to become one of the most successful car models in the world.
Passats from 1998 to 2002 were available with three engine options to begin with, ranging from a 1.8L option giving 92kW and 173Nm, through a turbocharged 1.8L option giving 110kW and 210Nm to a 2.8L V6 delivering a respectable 142kW and 280Nm. The 1.8L base model will use 9-10L/100km in urban conditions, reducing as low as 7 out on the open road. Expect to use significantly more if youre driving the V6.
The year 2005 saw a restyling of the Passat and added new engine options into the bargain. The new base model was a 2.0L turbo diesel giving 103kW and 320Nm, followed by a 2.0L petrol turbo with direct injection giving 147kW and 280Nm, with the range topped by a 3.2L direct injection V6 with 4Motion all-wheel drive system, delivering an impressive 184kW and 330Nm. There was plenty of change beneath the surface on these models too, with a new electro-mechanical steering system adding to the hold and handling, four-wheel ABS-equipped brakes, and a new 4-arm rear suspension, which delivered a noticeably quieter ride.
Fuel economy on the turbo diesel post-2005 models is excellent at around 6.5L/100km for combined urban and open-road driving. Consumption on the petrol models remains a bit higher, as you would expect, at around 8.5L/100km for the 2.0L FSi and 10 L/100km for the V6.
For many years, the Passat reigned supreme as VWs premier prestige model and offered a level of trim and equipment that was commensurate with this badge. Expect a typical 1.8L sedan from around 2000 to come with power windows and mirrors, ABS brakes, central locking, immobiliser, air-conditioning, 8-speaker sound system with inbuilt CD player, and smart wood grain and cloth trim. A turbo dating from the same period will feature alloys, trip computer, leather steering wheel, and sports trim while the V6 is firmly at the luxury end of things, with larger alloys, stackable CD sound system, and a higher quality wood trim.
Models from this period have been given five stars in used car safety surveys. This level of kit holds up on the post-2005 B6 models, with even more featuring on the post-2011 models, whose ANCAP five-star rating is boosted yet further with additional features such as seatbelt fastening detection for the rear seats and new horizontally adjustable head rests in the front which effectively reduce the risk of whiplash in the event of a collision.
The Passat competes within the VW range with its younger sibling, the Jetta, for the affections of the masses. For those who value the more mature drive and handling and the extra space the Passat affords, it certainly comes up trumps. Outside the VW stable, those looking to buy a Passat will understandably consider other leading European and especially German makes. The BMW 3-series and 5-series will both make the shortlist along with the Audi A4 and A6 models and the Mercedes C-class. They are all perhaps more notable head turners than the Passat and their price tags are a little higher but it all depends on what youre looking for in a car.
Bearing in mind that the Passat was intended to go head to head with some of Australias most successful cars, such as the Holden Commodore, it is fair to say that it has succeeded admirably in stealing the hearts of thousands.