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Volkswagen Passat Estate Bluemotion 1.6 TDI road test report

Bluemotion 1.6 TDI

The Passat Estate is the unsung hero of the Volkswagen model range. A workhorse with unexceptional looks, its lack of glamour means its tailor-made for families who want something solid with an air of understated conservatism. It also makes it ideal for the fleet market. Its appeal is now likely to broaden, as the new ‘eco’ Bluemotion version hits the roads, sipping even less fuel than before and emitting less CO2 than any other car in its class. Perfect for frugal family and fleet motoring, the Passat Estate Bluemotion is a serious alternative to the hybrids currently on the market – and it also has more loadspace.

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
A front-facing image of the Volkswagen Passat Estate

Image number 2 of the Volkswagen Passat EstateImage number 3 of the Volkswagen Passat EstateImage number 4 of the Volkswagen Passat Estate

Performance Performance - 3 stars

The Passat Estate Bluemotion is powered by a four-cylinder, 1.6-litre TDI that produces 103bhp and 185lb-ft of torque at 1,500rpm. It’s not a big engine, especially for a family-sized estate, so the rather sluggish 12.4 seconds for the 0-62mph benchmark feels about right. Top speed is 120mph. But pace and performance aren’t really the point of Bluemotion editions of Volkswagen cars. The common rail diesel engine has been modified for better economy, having a revised engine management system and a lower idle speed, plus an automatic start/stop function. Also modified is the five-speed manual gearbox, which has longer ratios for third, fourth and fifth gears to reduce engine speed. Together these tweaks create a car that cruises well, but sometimes struggles when called upon for overtaking duties. The five-speed ‘box sometimes feels a little limited and often has to be worked hard to get the most out of the engine, but once you get the hang of it, it responds with a fairly quiet, refined driving experience.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

It might be an ‘eco’ car, but the modifications to the Bluemotion thankfully haven’t affected the standard Passat’s handling, which has many of the best qualities of a Volkswagen. The steering feels nicely weighted and is accurate enough, although it doesn’t feel as sharp or as focused as the Mondeo. There’s no real body roll to speak of, though, and it feels flat and well contained when cornering. The ride also has a familiar compliancy that means it feels comfortable on all types of road. Indeed, cruising on the motorway – which is perhaps the most natural environment for the Passat Bluemotion – it soaks up most of the bumps and broken surfaces. One modification to this variant is a suspension that has been lowered by 15mm at the front and 8mm at the rear to create a more aerodynamic stance, but it has little noticeable effect on the ride itself.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 4 stars

Volkswagen has garnered a good reputation for reliability over the years, but the results of some customer satisfaction surveys and reliability studies sometimes undermine the company’s good name in this department. However, Volkswagen came 11th in the league of manufacturers in the most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey, with the Passat 50th in the table of the 104 most popular cars. Warranty Direct, though, scored the Passat as lower than average in its Reliability Index, with average repair costs of £413.78. Perceived build quality matches the standards we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen. The body looks solid and sturdy, and the cabin is still comfortable and practical, despite being slightly more minimalist in order to save weight. Softer-touch plastics are used on the on the upper surfaces of the cabin, with the harder ones fitted to surfaces on the lower reaches, where they’re likely to have to contend with rougher treatment.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

The current-generation Passat has acquitted itself very well in crash testing by Euro NCAP, scoring five stars for adult occupant protection, four stars for child occupant protection and two stars for pedestrian impact protection. The Passat Bluemotion is equipped with the usual array of active and passive safety kit fitted as standard, including ABS anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist System (BAS) and Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution (EBD); ESP electronic stabilisation with Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and ASR traction control; four airbags (front and side ‘bags for driver and front passenger); Isofix child seat anchor points; plus driver and front passenger active head restraints to reduce the effects of whiplash. For security purposes, there’s an electronic engine immobiliser, remote central locking and an alarm with interior protection.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

In terms of its interior space, the Passat is about average for the class, offering plenty of room for a family. The front section has plenty of shoulder-room and the driving position is very good, thanks to plenty of adjustability in the seat and steering wheel. The dashboard is clear and reasonably well laid out, with all the major controls to hand. We’re not convinced by the electronic parking brake, though: what’s wrong with a good old mechanical handbrake? It’s the same story at the back, with enough head- and legroom for three adults, although long journeys might lead to them feeling cramped. The rear seats split 60:40 and fold flat to increase the load capacity of the boot from 513 litres to 1,641 litres, which isn’t the biggest in the segment but is about average. The kit levels have been reduced to save some weight, but there’s still enough equipment to make the Passat Bluemotion functional and practical. For example, there’s air conditioning, a shift indicator to ensure optimal gear changes (although we would question the timing of its indications), electric front windows, radio/MP3-compatible CD player with eight speakers and Aux in socket, and cruise control.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 5 stars

The initial purchase price of £20,955 isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s certainly competitive with other cars in its class (however, the 1.6-litre engine is smaller than the 2.0-litre units most rivals are fitted with). As we mentioned earlier, the Passat Estate Bluemotion’s running costs should be lower than its similarly sized rivals, thanks its excellent fuel economy and low emissions. An official figure of 64.2mpg on the combined cycle is superb for a car this size – and it is achievable in the real world (we actually managed to beat it, albeit by driving very slowly and carefully on a mix of rural and urban roads). Likewise, CO2 emissions are a best-in-class 114g/km, so vehicle excise duty will cost just £30 a year. Passat residuals tend to be pretty strong compared to rivals, with the Volkswagen brand values helping them to remain high: Bluemotion models, with their low running costs, are in even greater demand, so this Passat variant should retain even more than the rest of the range.

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