The jerky pleasure
Pull up a chair and settle down in the middle of obscurity and the apex of pleasantness. Volkswagen’s Passat has always been an agreeable motor car which few people understood, especially since the favoured four-door Volksie sedan on local shores has long been the Jetta.
The poor Jetta lurks in the enormous shadow cast by its Golf donor. The Passat, well, that lurks in whatever size shadow the Jetta can muster up. Worse still, the Passat is actually a bigger and more luxurious take on the Jetta format, but not big and luxurious enough to make a marked difference.
When Volkswagen introduced the stunning four-door coupé Passat CC a few years ago, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief: the Passat was saved. Beauty was its new calling card, exclusivity ensured its future and defined a new market ni… and then VW ripped the word “Passat” off its boot.
The CC lives on and embodies all of the above, but instead of letting the poor Passat die a badge-engineered and somewhat dignified death, Volkswagen revived the hapless sedan and just sent it into battle again with new looks and a sprinkling of new technology.
Looks-wise, I will happily describe the vehicle on this page as attractive. Not beautiful or amazing, but pleasant to look at. Its back end is somewhat conservative but creases along its sleek profile meet up with a chiselled face that embodies VW’s new look. The Passat need not fear a 3-Series in the company car park.
A few chrome strips and lots of sparkly lights shove the Passat straight into 2011 and will hopefully convince punters to fork out a few extra bob and walk away from the ageing Jetta. A few good reasons to do this are, beside the extra space and fresher kit, the Passat’s line-up of drive-trains.
1.8 TSI and 2.0 TDI are offered with manual or DSG (double clutch automatic) boxes in a Volksie that is only available in the upmarket “Comfortline” specification. This features most popular entertainment, comfort and safety items as standard with headlines like:
Drowsiness detector, high beam assistant, electronic park brake with selectable hill hold, electronic diff lock, climate controlled front seats, heated exterior mirrors, auto wipers, 16-inch wheels and full size spare, speed-sensitive electromechanical power steering, leather-covered steering wheel and gear lever.
Our press demonstrator had the following options fitted: 17-inch wheels with pressure monitoring, rear sunscreen, audio upgrade with navigation and colour touch-screen, park assist with rear camera, keyless entry and ignition, clever lights with LED’s, cornering feature and Bi-Xenon, electric memory seats and a full leather package.
This drove the car’s base price of N$309,000 to within an inch of N$400,000 but I’ll gladly point out that you don’t need all these extra toys. The upgraded lights are a great idea but the standard feature high-beam assist isn’t, not just in a Passat.
That goes for everybody, not just Volkswagen. And while I’m at it… Dear manufacturers, if you’re going to fit an analogue clock to the dash, please ensure that it either looks classy or suits the rest of the vehicle / instruments. The Passat features a clock which looks like something you’d find on a hostel nightstand.
And perhaps I can take one more swing at the Passat; in the general direction of its DSG gearbox. This dual-clutch seven-speed automated unit with pedal shifts is a super-smooth and lightning-fast marvel of technology; while on the move.
From standstill or at low speeds, the DSG has occasional hick-ups as it bogs down or jerks forward. Sport and Manual mode don’t alleviate the problem and I can see why the Passat has standard hill hold assist. Once you’ve picked up speed though, this gearbox is absolutely amazing.
Its seven ratios help the 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder (118kw/160hp/250Nm) to achieve very impressive performance (0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds, 220km/h top speed) and excellent consumption / emissions figures (average 7L/100km and 162g CO2/km).
Brace yourself, it gets even better. With a 70L fuel tank, you can expect an average range of 1,000km when you hit the open road with a remarkable 565L of boot space. Four tall adults will easily fit into the Passat’s well built-interior, even my 6ft2 driving position left ample space for rear passengers.
The suspension (optional 17-inch wheels fitted) is a little on the firm side but inspires confidence when tackling a few bends. Overcook a corner and the electronic safety net softly steps in to save the day. The responsive steering and vicious brakes are just as pleasing. The Passat is, 99% of the time, a pleasure to drive.
Each Passat is sold with a three-year 120,000km warranty and five-year 100,000km AutoMotion maintenance plan.
0-100m: 6.4s / 87.3km/h
0-200m: 9.8s / 112.6km/h
0-300m: 12.8s / 127.8km/h
0-400m: 15.4s / 140.2km/h
1/4mile: 15.5s @ 87.3mph (140.5km/h)
Climate Sunny, mild
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/6