The king of company cars has been losing its appeal for years. But the virtues of the VW Passat are still enough to rule the middle class.
The throne of the former king of the company car is shaking: The mega-trends SUV and electrification are currently grappling with the VW Passat, the registration numbers are falling at a high level. The middle class station wagon is still far too good for the elderly.
The end of the Passat era?
With almost 60.000 new registrations, the Passat was by far the most popular mid-range model in Germany in 2019. But even the sales leader cannot stop the segment's loss of importance: only one in ten new cars in Germany is still a classic mid-range car, at the beginning of the decade it was almost one in four. A trend that is also affecting Passat sales. One of the reasons for the falling demand: The triumph of the more fashionable and hardly less spacious SUVs. With the Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace and at least partially the Touareg, the Passat has had strong competition in-house.
Competition with e-cars
And now the new electric car fleet is also cannibalizing: VW, for example, advertises the compact car ID3 itself with space at Passat level. At least as far as the passengers are concerned. Against this background, the corporate executives from Wolfsburg are already publicly moving away from their former parade model: Although the rumors of a complete end to the series have long since evaporated, production of the new generation (from 2023) will be relocated to the Czech Republic, where it will be then rolls off the assembly line exclusively as a station wagon and together with the Skoda Superb .. Instead, electric cars will roll off the assembly line at the main plant in Emden.
Still, it doesn't look outdated
But it's too early for a swan song, as a test of the current model shows. Almost 50 years of tradition have made the Passat mature rather than old - which is clearly noticeable as soon as you get in. The sense of space and space at the front are very good, the driver's workstation is basically furnished in a matter-of-fact way, but comes up with interesting details such as the almost continuous ventilation slot above the dashboard or the frameless interior mirror. Materials and workmanship are at the same high VW level as in previous years.
The fact that the interior doesn't look old-fashioned despite six years of construction is due to the successful integration of the new infotainment system. Its high resolution and partly pleasing graphics characterize not only the representation of the central screen in the center console, but also the instrument display behind the steering wheel. Unlike in the new Golf, the touch controls are flanked by numerous classic buttons and switches, which make operation much easier. Only the lack of the rotary knob for the volume control seems like a rather unfortunate Zeitgeist decision.
Regardless of fashions, the Passat's greatest asset is the lush and practical trunk. Up to 1.780 liters can be found behind the comparatively steep tailgate - more than many of the competitors in the segment who prefer the sleek shape to the optimal space economy. The more horizontal roof line also benefits the rear passengers, who can look forward to significantly more headroom than in the Passat sedan, for example.
How long the gasoline engine will remain on offer is uncertain
The Passat is also mature on the road. The long wheelbase and wide track make it easy for the chassis to provide a lush asphalt layer and good suspension comfort. In addition, there are quite decent dynamic capabilities that are not unduly slowed down by the basic gasoline engine. The 110 kW / 150 PS four-cylinder turbo offers enough power even from low tours, provides sufficient reserves for the intermediate sprint when overtaking and only gets out of breath well above the recommended speed. Anyone who drives sensibly and pushes the manual six-speed gearbox into the correct gear early on will also get fuel consumption below the six-liter mark. For an entry-level engine, the 1.5 TSI requires remarkably few concessions from its driver. You really only miss a diesel for long, long journeys at high speeds or for permanent city traffic. There the gasoline engine reaches far more energetically in the large and heavy Passat than when driving steadily overland. How long the engine will remain on offer is uncertain. According to the data sheet, it only fulfills Euro 6d-Temp-EVAP-ISC despite the recent lifting of the series - in the coming year it will no longer be approved in this form.
Very worthwhile in the hybrid version
The middle-class station wagon starts at 30.260 euros. For this there is the "Conceptline" equipment, which already offers the most important functionalities. However, there are narrow limits to further upgrading, and many assistants, comfort functions or design extras are not available for money, but only in the higher lines. If you want more than the basic equipment, you have to orientate yourself more towards 35.000 euros. An automatic costs another 2.200 euros extra, whoever wants a diesel (110 kW / 150 PS) pays at least 32.750 euros, with proper equipment the price rises to over 37.000 euros. In a direct comparison, the plug-in hybrid variant GTE appears financially more attractive. After deducting the environmental bonus, it is available for around 38.000 euros, but already comes with very extensive features.
The Passat has never been a bargain. Currently, the inflexible equipment policy makes it a little more expensive, especially for special requests. In return, it offers very good space, a high-quality and modern ambience and a high level of driving comfort. Although it cannot serve with a fashionable SUV style, real consumption is lower, especially on the highway. A good reason to let the king of the company cars rule for a while longer.
Technical data - VW Passat Variant:
Four-door mid-range station wagon with five seats. Length: 4,77 meters, width: 1,83 meters, height: 1,48 meters. Wheelbase: 2,79 meters, loading volume: 650 to 1.780 liters.
1,4 liter turbo gasoline engine; 110 kW / 150 PS, maximum torque: 250 Nm at 1.500 - 3.500 rpm, front-wheel drive, manual six-speed gearshift, 0-100 km / h: not specified, Vmax: 220 km / h, standard consumption: 5,1 - 5,3 liters / 100 kilometers, CO2 emissions: 117 - 122 g / km, emissions standard: Euro 6d-TEMP-EVAP-ISC, efficiency class: B - A, test consumption: 6,5 liters / 100 kilometers; Price from: 30.260 euros.
Brief description of the VW Passat:
Why: the convincing overall package
Why not: high price level
What else: Opel Insignia, Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 508