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  • Composed drive with nice steering; diesel engine offers both good economy and performance; plenty of cabin space; standard auto tailgate and above-average cargo space
  • Ageing interior design; low-speed ride not perfect; some rivals better value

8 / 10

Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
by Jez Spinks

The Volkswagen Passat turned 40 years old in 2013, so it seems perfect timing for assessing the current-generation version of the big German sedan.

Passat is now in its seventh iteration – and good to the tune of more than 15m million sales – since debuting in 1973.

The current model introduced in late 2010 was more of a heavy makeover over the sixth-generation, and an all-new VW Passat – sitting on the company’s new modular MQB platform – is expected in 2014.

For now, though, the diesel version of the Passat received a little birthday gift in April when the 125TDI variant turned into the 130TDI.

The number change represented a small hike in the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine’s power output from 125 to 130kW. Torque also increased – by 30Nm to 380Nm.

Fuel economy was also improved – to 5.4L/100km (-0.3L/100km) for the wagon and to 5.6L/100km for the sedan (down 0.1L/100km).

They’re worthy tweaks for a good engine that is pleasantly torquey and smooth to rev.

There is some partial turbo lag below 1500rpm, most noticeable in stop-start traffic or out of corners, but the engine pulls well from just above 1000rpm – which is just as well considering the six-speed dual-clutch auto’s desire to upshift into higher gears as early as possible.

Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI

You can flick the auto into Sport mode to make the engine feel quite lively for a diesel, though there’s little point taking it to the 5000rpm redline.

We tested the VW Passat 130TDI in wagon form, which officially is two-tenths slower in the 0-100km/h acceleration run than the sedan – 8.6 v 8.4 seconds.

That’s good performance for a diesel wagon in the segment, beating rivals such as the Peugeot 508 Touring (9.5 seconds) and the sister Skoda Superb 125TDI Wagon (8.8 seconds).

The suspension feels a touch overdamped at slower speeds, bringing a firmness to urban bumps, though generally the Passat offers a decently comfortable ride.

And at faster speeds, over big-dipper-style country roads, there’s excellent composure.

The Passat is not as satisfying on curving roads as a Mazda 6, Honda Accord Euro or Ford Mondeo, though there’s strong front-end grip generated by the tyres and VW’s biggest passenger car doesn’t get flustered in corners.

The steering is also smooth and accurate – covering key basics that can’t be taken for granted in the medium-size segment.

The Alfa-esque ribbed-leather seats (pictured above in the Alltrack variant) of our test car would benefit from more side support but the long, angled cushions of the front seats are ideal for long journeys.

Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI

There are some other classic VW touches of quality, too. The doors close with a satisfyingly dull thud, large door pockets are carpeted, and the centre console cupholders and tray are rubber-lined.

Soft materials also embellish the upper dashboard and upper door trim, and the beige and dark brown of our test car’s cabin created a smart duo-tone look. A $300 walnut wood and aluminium trim was a fitted option on our test car.

The Passat’s overall dash design, however, looks a generation old compared with fresher VWs such as the Golf – and effectively it is because the German car maker barely touched the cabin styling in the jump from generations six to seven.

The metallic-style centre stack looks a touch bland and the central chunk of the dash is a hard, scratchy plastic that only partly redeems itself by the texture design that tries to disguise the lower cost of the material used.

So medium cars is a rare segment where Volkswagen loses for perception of quality, now outclassed by the newer Mazda 6.

Jump into the rear and the Passat puts its 4.9-metre length and 2.7m wheelbase to good effective by providing plenty of clearance for heads and knees.

The centre rear seat includes an armrest with a concealed tray and push-out cupholders, as well as hiding the useful ski port. There are also rear vents.

Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI

Rear seats up, the Passat wagon’s boot has a cargo volume of 603 litres compared to the sedan’s 565L. Fold the 60/40 split seats down – via levers on top of the seats or handy levers in the boot – and capacity expands to 1730 litres, with a flattish floor.

Comparing load space with wagon rivals, the VW Passat is ahead of the likes of the Hyundai i40 Tourer (506L/1672L) and Mazda 6 Touring (451L/1593L), similar to the Peugeot 5008 Touring (612L/1817L), short of the Skoda Superb Wagon (633L/1865L), and well behind the cavernous Ford Mondeo wagon (816L/1919L).

An automatic tailgate has been standard on all VW Passat wagons since September 2012, and opening it reveals a handy low loading lip despite the presence of a full-size spare wheel.

There are also side sections for storage and a cargo blind.

Satellite navigation with a 30GB hard drive is also standard on all Passats as part of the minor 2012 update that also brought small price increases.

The 130TDI costs from $44,490 as a sedan and from $46,490 as a wagon, and forms a third of the local regular VW Passat line-up. (There are also a CC four-door ‘coupe’ and higher-riding Alltrack variants.)

Alternative regular Passat models are the entry-level 118TSI, from $38,990, which is powered by a 118kW/250Nm 1.8-litre turbo petrol, and the $56,490-plus V6 FSI that offers 220kW and 350Nm from its 3.6-litre V6.

The 118TSI petrol is teamed with a seven-speed dual-clutch ‘DSG’ auto, where the diesel and V6 petrol are mated with a six-speed version that can handle greater torque outputs.

The V6 FSI, which is all-wheel-drive where the other models are front-drive, is the quickest but also the thirstiest model.

It sprints from 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds (sedan; 5.7 wagon), where the 118TSI takes another three seconds and the 130TDI another 2.9sec.

Opt for the diesel 130TDI, however, and you’ll save more than four litres of extra fuel every 100km compared with the V6 – 5.4-5.6L/100km versus 9.5-9.7L/100km. The 118TSI sits in between with official consumption of 7.2-7.5L/100km depending on body style.

Standard equipment is largely shared between the models, with the biggest differences coming in the quality of trim on offer or the occasional big-ticket item such as adaptive chassis control that is standard only on the V6 FSI.

Main inclusions for the VW Passat are an electronic park brake, rain-sensing wipers, rear view camera, front and rear sensors with optical parking guide, eight airbags (including rear side as well as side curtain), 17-inch alloy wheels (18s for V6), dual-zone climate control, cruise, driver fatigue monitor, heated front seats, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and driver’s seat with electric backrest and lumbar adjust.

The 130TDI’s gains over the 118TSI include foglights and an electronic front diff lock that aims to quell understeer. The V6 FSI is the only model to offer paddleshift levers for pseudo-manual gearchanges.

Metallic paint ($700) is among a list of options that also include semi-automatic parking ($900), premium audio ($2000), integrated child booster seats ($850) and a Sport package ($2300 for the 130TDI) that brings 18-inch alloys, paddleshifts, dark tinted rear windows and front sports seats.

The Volkswagen Passat isn’t the most exciting choice in the medium car segment, and it isn’t the best value if you compare it with a competitor such as the Hyundai i40 Tourer Elite that’s nearly $5000 cheaper, offers a five-year warranty and isn’t far behind on spec.

But the Passat is a car that is thoroughly competent in so many areas.

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Volkswagen Passat Review: 130TDI
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  • nugsdad

    in negatives forgot to mention boring and almost invisible

    • Merv

      That should be your other car. You know the Porsche or AMG. The Passat is the worker.

  • BurnedVWowner

    DSG reliability??

  • Nikolai

    That horrible rear overhang, along with the oversized front doors make for a pretty clumsy appearance.

    • Nikolai

      Or undersized rears door perhaps. Ugh, who even knows.

      • $29896495

        Doors look alright to me, better to be bigger fronts than tiny. But they look pretty balanced.

  • not a fan

    It’s a nice overall package but the front end is already very outdated.

    • Dogoto san

      Just another Euro Camry.

      • jsrgj

        If only you get actually get a Camry that handles, has a wagon option, a Audi quality interior or a V6 that does 0-100kmh in 5.5 secs, people wouldn’t go ‘Euro’.

  • SMovlov

    I hope someone forgot to ‘zero’ the tripmeter at the last fill-up, because almost a 1/3 tank used for 90km’s is pretty ordinary.

    • kdgh

      Who resets tripmeters at every fill up? Anyway, if you look at the same screen, you’ll see it’s showing “av consumption 8.4L100km”.

  • Autoholic

    Nice car, but it needs to be a few thousand cheaper to be reasonably priced.

  • gtrxuone

    Interior looks quiet stylish,but not very sporty.Does have good space for a mid size wagon.Baby boomers is the only market I can see for Passat.Don’t think it will appeal to younger buyers.

  • LowRezFez

    Dull and old, but still shines for the feeling of solidity and finish. The drivetrains are amazing for the power and economy they offer. One small problem, I don’t trust VW reliability and running costs, I suspect the Camry would destroy the VW as an ownership proposition.

    • Bill Robertson

      Running costs? Covered by capped price servicing and a 5 year warranty on the DSG. Reliability? On my second one in 3 years and fortunately have not experienced any of the dreaded DSG problems despite high mileage.

      Agree it is rather dull, but the Sports Pack makes it a little bit sharper in the appearance stakes. Dynamically accomplished and at odds with its conservative image. VW really need to bring back the R36.

    • Golfschwein

      Well, you could buy a Toyota on ‘reputation’ and kick yourself when something goes wrong with it outside of ‘reputation’, because not only do you have an ordinary steer, but an ordinary steer that’s in the workshop. And trust me, this happens. Or you could buy the Passat for the superior drive and quality and get a Get Out of Jail Free card when it gives you a perfect run over 150,000. This happens too, just as Bill Robertson here states. I’ve had two dull as dishwater Camrys forced on me over time, so make mine a Passat, for sure.

      • LowRezFez

        My personal experience with 2 Golfs, has been substandard, however, the Toyota’s in my family have been peerless from a reliability and running cost point of view.

  • Bill Robertson

    Nice work Jez, but there’s an error in your review. Only the 118TSI petrol variant comes with the 7 speed DSG. Both the 130TDI diesel variant and the V6 petrol variant come with the 6 speed DSG.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au Jez Spinks

      Good spot, Bill, and copy now reads the way it should have.

  • Bruzzer

    So many negative comments on reliability, so i will comment on the basis i own one since 2011. Since new i have had two routine services first one was $380 (15,000kms), second one $650 (30,000kms) total so far $1030 over two years. Fuel efficiency around town avg 8.4l/100km and highway have gone as low as 5.6l/100kms. I have had only one problem with the DSG which was the clutch plates replaced under warranty, i also received a car for the day and been trouble free ever since. The car feels solid and comes with all the bells and wistles i need. Plenty of space and despite looking on the boring side it got plenty of looks when it come out, in fact had two guys looking at the car at bunnings when i was coming out and was asked awhole bunch of questions, how drives, reliability the usual…. my previous cars was Rav4 and Mazda3 SP, the rav4 had the gear box rebuild (not replaced) was off the road for 3 weeks and fuel efficiency nothing to rave on about…the only good thing was capped cheap service but had to go every 6 months.
    The Mazda was great little car but had my bluetooth replaced 3 time and a wheel bearing replaced. Service was done every 6 months at a cost of almost $400 each time so the little mazda was actually more expensive to service over the same period and never gave me the fuel efficiciency numbers i get with my Passat.
    so my point is we can argue about reliability all day but at the end of the day all cars will have its faults. Not even the might Toyota is full proof. At the end of the day VW feels good, drives good and it comes down to the individual… alot of people comment without even driving one but i must say at some point ever car manufacturer will have a lemon or two nothing is full proof.
    thats my 2 cents… now be nice on the replies :)

    • test

      the people complaining about this car aren’t even in the market for a 40k vehicle. the petrol 118tsi model is a remarkably refined commuter. there is just no comparison to a camry in the same way a commodore does not compare to a BMW 5.

    • Dieseltorque

      Thanks for your informative comments Bruzzer, however, the fact it required clutch plate replacement so early in its life does not provide confidence in transmission reliability.

    • Zaccy16

      great comment bruzzer, i have also had a great experience with my vw polo, no problems what so ever, it is great to drive, has a quality comfortable interior and is very fuel efficient!

    • Happy

      Agreed. Have had mine (diesel) since 2011 and it’s been great. Wonderful fuel consumption, very comfortable and solid and smooth to drive. No problems at all.

    • tas-man

      Our 118TSi Wagon is excellent. Only issue has been DSG clutch plates ( even this ‘fault’ was barely noticeable) and since replaced under warranty has been perfect. It is just a lovely car to drive and be driven in – quiet, slick DSG, rapid when needed, good fuel consumption ( eg less than my former Mazda SP 25 which has far less space and refinement), good audio, acres of space and imo looks classy. Boring? – are you kidding! We drove from Adelaide to Melbourne packed to the roof almost and it left most others on the road standing, and handled the twists and turns of the Great Ocean Road like a sports coupe. I’d definitely have another.

  • Barry the GTi driver

    Vw reliability can’t be the bogeyman so many claim. In Brisbane, the black and white taxi co. has a whole bunch of passat wagons in their fleet.

  • Zaccy16

    It might be 3 years old but IMO it is still the ultimate all rounder in the segment, it does everything well, the interior is roomy and a very nice place to be, i have driven the 125 kw version and it had bags of torque and was very refined, so this will be even better and should be great in the gtd golf, i would still buy the newer 6 though in this class but the passat is still a great choice!

Volkswagen Passat Specs

Car Details
3C MY13.5
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$28,270 - $32,130
Dealer Retail
$28,680 - $34,100
Dealer Trade
$22,000 - $25,700
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
380Nm @  1750rpm
Max. Power
130kW @  4200rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
5.4L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:1500  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
235/45 R17
Rear Tyres
235/45 R17
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Lower wishbone, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
4 links, Gas damper, Coil Spring, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Control & Handling
Traction Control System
Power Steering, Reversing Camera, Satellite Navigation, Trip Computer
Radio CD with 8 Speakers
Power Windows
Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Optional Features
Power front seats, Power Sunroof
Control & Handling
Adaptive Damping Control
Premium Sound System
Metallic Paint, Power Tailgate, Sports pack
Alarm System/Remote Anti Theft
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Inner Guard
Country of Origin