Used car road test

VW Passat 1.9 TDi 115 BHP Sport

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The Passat is one of VW-Audi's more overlooked models - we tend to think of Golf and then skip straight to A4 which is a shame because the Passat is a nice old car indeed. 

An acquaintance in the rep world was lucky enough to have a car budget from which he could pocket the difference. He, along with ten colleagues, bought their cars from the prescribed list. 

Guess what they choose?

Nine of them took the Audi against one who took a VW Passat and a lump of cash. 

It says a lot about the VW Passat's perceived value, ie that you could not pay nine out of ten people to have one.

The Passat is a modern-looking saloon but very much a VW stable conservative. There are hints of the Mondeo in its appearance. It’s not as elegant as the A4 and A6 designs which is what probably suppresses its appeal somewhat but there is really little to complain about. The curving roofline is probably its best feature with a little hint of TT to it. The wheels are neat in a Germanic kind of way and the headlamps fuse into the front wings in a nice flowing fashion.

The interior is standard VW quality and simplicity, again it’s not flash, just well appointed and well integrated. 

Nothing drives you as wild with exciting cutting edge design as you might find in an Audi but nothing grates in any kind of way.

The neon-lit dash is here with red touches across its entire scope and doors which is all a bit bright for me although it seems to work for most people. It's all very tidy and well laid out as is normal in VW’s and at first glance appears bereft of switches.



It's all here - Adjustable Steering Column, Centre Arm Rest, Cup Holders, Drivers Seat Lumbar Support, Front Door Bins, Head Rests (front & rear), Height Adjustable Drivers Seat, Height Adjustable Seat Belts, Pollen Filter, Split Rear Seats, Time Clock, Velour Trim, Digital Odometer, Heated Rear Window, Cigarette Lighter, Electric Mirrors, Electric Windows (front & rear), Trip Computer - pretty much everything you would expect of a modern saloon of this class with a couple of nice bonuses like heated mirrors, air con and multi-play CD.

Nothing dramatic, just good solid sensible useful stuff. As usual the VeeDub is devoid of stupid gadgets (at least if you ignore the obligatory mine's-better-than-yours cup holders).

VW’s well proven and long lived TDI motor powers the Passat; in 90bhp form the Passat is a little slug-like but in this 115bhp red I version it's quite a lively driver. 

The car pushes on to a high 124mph top end helped by towering gear ratios but the engine's torque spread helps it cross the ratios and sprint to sixty in a reasonable 10.7 seconds which is sprightly enough to stop you getting bored. 

For the road these are fairly irrelevant stats compared to its towering mid range grunt which makes it seem much faster than its figures actually suggest. It also means that on the road it can perform beyond cars with nominally better figures. 

The mid range is so strong there is little need to rev the proverbial b******s out of the engine.  As soon as the turbo starts pushing around 2000 rpm it thumps around the rev counter in a barrage of steaming diesel donkeys and gears any incline. 

Drop a gear and floor it for a real thump in the back and get the tyres really struggling for grip in the low gears.

Despite the abundant torque, the supplied gearbox is very slick and can be used to full extent to access even more performance than the mid range supplies but it's hardly worth working it hard and revving it out as the mid range provides just as much poke.

The available economy for such a large car is truly stunning over the 65mpg claimed when cruising and a parsimonious 40+mpg in the urban cycle. 

It's just a shame our Government has a fiscal downer on Diesel.

If you drive a Golf you will feel straight at home in the Passat. The VW Passat goes and feels pretty much like the VW Golf with its pliant chassis, the big plus being that’s its longer wheel-base gives it a real comfortable ride.

Steering feels solid, the assistance is enough to keep it light at slow speeds but not enough to kill all feel like so many Audis. Handling is solid and assured with only a little body roll which is well controlled enough not to upset the general feeling of calm.

The chassis does not have the chuckability of the Golf but it was never meant to.  What it does have is a calm, cool, collected feel that tells you to relax a bit. To be fair, the chassis is hardly stretched by the engine as it has the headroom to handle the 2.8 V6 motor so it tends to smother the diesel a little. It does mean, though, that you can rely on the chassis to cope with whatever the engine chucks out.



It may not be the most desirable car on earth but it's well protected as all cars need to be nowadays.

Alarm, Engine Immobiliser, Locking Fuel Cap, Locking Wheel Nuts, Remote Central Locking, Visible Identification Number all help to keep your mind at peace and the insurance premiums down.

With the Passat aimed towards a more family market, all the marketing safety features get a mention too.  Anti-lock Braking System, Child Locks, Front Side Air Bags, Front Twin Airbags, High Level Brake Light, Pre- Tensioned Front Seat Belts, Rear Seat Belts, Side Impact Protection all get the mention. Its safety rating gets a credible 3 stars but misses out on the very top 4 star rating. 

I'm probably wrong but I feel much safer in the VW Passat compared to Renault's Megane with a 4 star safety rating.


Okay so the Passat is a slightly boring car but that doesn't make it any less worthy as a family saloon. 

It’s big, roomy and comfortable inside. Its build quality means it will stand up to the rigors of a family. The interior is attractive yet tough. It has an extra large boot and the lid is scooped deep to allow easy access.

Claimed reliability, Volkswagen's good resale value and the fantastic economy mean that running costs should be pretty low.  Just a shame, then, that VW service costs are an arm and a leg.

This class of Passat sits in a hotly-contested sector of the market and, in its place, it’s a perfectly acceptable choice. It’s really somewhat strange that down a size everybody loves the Golf and its heavily built simplicity yet, moving up a group, everybody wants a different kind of vehicle. Still, if you’re a Golf lover and want something a little bigger, this will be perfect for you.

It's all fairly roomy inside with plenty of leg and head room all round. The cut back dash gives a feeling of space to the front. Rear seat passengers are also fairly well catered for.

Being a fairly tough, well sized saloon and not bowing to any particular fashion criteria of its day, this could well be a car which would last you a good long time without complaint. 

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UK Car road test. VW Passat Sport 1.9 TDi