VW’s aim with the new Passat is to take on the big three, especially Mercedes-Benz. On the launch of the eighth generation Passat in Port Elizabeth we all set about wondering if this could be possible. We perused the specs, checked the build quality, drove different cars, sussed out suspension characteristics, listened for squeaks and rattles and resolved that a lot of effort has been put into this development. Although based on the Golf platform with an extended wheelbase, we all know what an accomplished overall package the Golf is and all the positive design features, especially the suspension setup, so it’s all rather impressive.
While the overall length is 2 mm shorter than the previous model, the interior length is up by 33 mm. The general build and trim quality of VW is very close to that of Audis, and Audis offer perhaps the neatest interior layouts in quality and design of the big three, so this Passat can be placed in the same space for comparison. Mass has been significantly paired down in all departments, from body structure, engine, interior material, steering and even the air conditioner. Total savings are up to 85 kg.
Of the three powertrains, the middle powered one, at 132 kW, is perhaps the best balanced, with less wheelspin than the 162 kW 2,0-litre version which is getting a bit much for mere front wheel-drive. Similarly it offers more useable grunt than the 1,4 Turbo delivering 110 kW. Note that all three versions are petrolturbos at present. Diesel-engined models will be added later in 2016.
The seven-speed DSG gearbox is well established by now and is a joy to use especially via the paddle shifters. The Highline has more than enough acceleration at a claimed 7,9 seconds to 100 km/h and still delivers a great fuel consumption of 5,8 L/100 km on the combined cycle. Obviously this is if you drive conservatively. Put foot and it will escalate somewhat to close to double that. Various driver profiles are selectable with Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual modes that adjust engine mapping, air conditioning, coast function and alternator to optimise your driving experience.
The space of the Passat is geared for family use or four to five adults and the boot space is more than generous at a claimed 479 dm3. Rear seating is especially ample. Although we did notice a buzz or two from the interior trim in one of the test units, the others were rattle free and sound insulation, particularly from the road was good.
The only problem with the package is that some of the interesting features are all options that can raise the cost price significantly. For example, there is a feature of the central touch screen that gives digital performance dials of power, turbo boost and oil temperature. These can be switched by mere swiping. If your finger just approaches the screen it detects that you want to perform a function and the relevant menu presents itself. Other options are a heads-up display and adaptive cruise control.
Features that are included on this Highline models include: auto lights and windscreen wipers, Alcantara /leather seating with heated front seats, multi-function 6,5-inch display with USB and SD card inputs, cruise control, three-zone climate control and park distance control front and rear. The CD player is located inside the glove box.
The big question is still whether VW will be able to entice buyers away from Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW. We think some VW fans will be persuaded but there is no denying that the badges play an important part of South Africans’ aspirations and when you are spending around a half a million rand on a car, you might prefer to go for the more up-market marques.
Engine:1,8-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Power:132 kW from 5 100 r/min
Torque: 250 N.m from 1 250 r/min
0-100 km/h: 7,9 seconds
Top Speed: 232 km/h
Fuel Consumption:5,8 L/100 km
CO2: 130 g/km
Maintenance Plan:5-years/100 000 km
Notes:All claimed figures