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VW Passat: Last of a dying breed

By Miles Downard

The worldwide shift to SUVs means the average family no longer owns what one used to find in the driveway of most middle class families; namely a big family saloon. One of the major sufferers is this, the Volkswagen Passat. In fact so bad is the situation for the Passat that VW sells on average four times as many Tiguans than it does Passats. That’s a massive pity because the Passat is a really really nice car, one that’s worthy of a lot more sales is currently achieved. Here’s why.

On the outside

VW’s sister company, Audi, is often the favoured sibling when any discussion turns to looks. Audi has for a long time been producing some of the sharpest looking cars to come out of Germany. But in my opinion the current generation of VWs have changed all that. The Passat is no different. It’s subtle, refined, elegant and crisp like almost no Audi on sale today. There’s an element of muscularity too, but one that isn’t overpowering, something that’s very difficult to achieve. The Passat manages to carry its size remarkably well, especially with the R Line package, another thing that a lot of bigger saloons fail to manage.

Read also: VW Tiguan: Bigger, better, more competitive than ever before

On the inside

Here again VW has upped the ante. The group’s digital dashboard is on offer. It means there aren’t traditional dials for the speedometer etc but rather a configurable digital layout that one can customise. Nice leather seats and three zone climate control are all standard, but the Executive model has a few extras thrown in, like dynamic cornering lights and Apple CarPlay. Then one can spec more, like adaptive cruise control and a head-up display, park assist, electric seats and a nice sound system.

In my books the cruise control is nice, as is the digital dashboard. The rest is down to personal preference. What must be said of the Passat’s interior is that it’s absolutely cavernous, comfortable as you’d like (better if you don’t have the R Line 18” wheels) and could comfortably cut it with any of the big 3 premium German brands.

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Behind the wheel

Under the bonnet of my test car was VW’s 2.0 litre turbo diesel with a six speed dual clutch gearbox. As always with DSG gearboxes it’s a bit dopey from standstill and will likely cause some trouble during any ownership period (although not to worry, VW is very good at covering these things under warranty). But the motor itself is as smooth as soft butter and with 130kW and 350 torques has some poke. Super efficient too.

Out on the road one can have no complaints. The Passat will waft you, your family, the kitchen sink and a trailer load along any open road in absolute comfort. It’ll easy live up to any of its sibling Audi’s when it comes to road manners and refinement.

The Passat might not offer the soft-roading capability of the Tiguan that four times as many people buy but honestly I question how many Tiguan’s ever see the sight of a dirt road, nevermind actually driving on one that the Passat couldn’t manage. 

Pricing

At R547,900 the Passat is priced directly in competition with the Tiguan. Competitors outside of VW itself, and in the non-premium saloon market, are few and far between. Kia no longer sell the Optima, Ford no longer sell the Fusion, Honda don’t offer the Accord. There’s no Hyundai Sonata anymore. It stands alone in South Africa as the last non premium big saloon. At around R550,000 you can buy an entry level premium saloon like the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4. In my books you’d be doing much better to visit a VW dealer and pick up a Passat. It might not have the premium name but let’s be honest VW is hardly scraping the bottom of the barrel and you’d end up getting a lot more for your money.

Verdict

A great car, the Passat, but I don’t think anything I, nor any other motoring scribe says will change the fact that everyone wants an SUV these days. Pity.

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