Note from the Editor: Generic CarAdvice image has been supplied for this review.
Since 2006, VW has built a trendy Passat, at least in my opinion. The reviews in the UK were amazing and the Passat seemed to keep in front, when lined up next to its rivals. So, I had to have one!
My first Passat was the 2006 TDI. It was a beauty. Suffice to say, I was a VW convert. Prior to this I owned a 1994 Falcon and a 2002 Toyota Camry V6. Since purchasing the Passat, I did drive a few other vehicles – 2005 Falcon, 2008 Focus, 2012 Toyota Aurion and 2013 Mercedes A180 AMG – but when push came to shove, I purchased a 2014 Passat 118 TSI. It was either the Passat or a 2014 Camry. I made the right choice because I prefer a roomy vehicle. I scored an excellent deal on an ex-fleet vehicle, so it was a no-brainer.
The comfort of the Passat is incredible. The ride is smooth and effortless. The seats are designed for the long-haul – after driving 450km I could easily keep going. The Climatronic is fantastic, and I would recommend window tinting if you haven’t already got it. I had my tinting done more recently, thinking I didn’t need it – the difference is incomparable.
The buttons on the dash and door all feel good to press, they’re solid and satisfying. All windows are auto up and auto down, which is something I believe all vehicles with electric windows should have. The touchscreen doesn’t always feel as responsive as my Microsoft Surface Pro 3, but that may just be me. I don’t necessarily press the screen hard enough, although sometimes it can lag when typing information into the navigation.
On occasion, the reverse camera takes a moment to appear on the screen, but the sensors are always responsive. I do prefer the screen on the dash, rather than the screen that sticks out above the dash. The screens that stick out above the dash, to me, appear like an afterthought and it’s like the screen isn’t designed to be there. Whereas the Passat has the integrated screen, which makes the vehicle feel like it’s been finished properly and things are where they should be. Oh, and the analogue clock on the dash is pretty special. There’s just something about it that gives the interior a certain splendour.
The transmission is smooth and powers through the gears with ease. Not to mention, it’s a miser on fuel. I’m often amazed by people driving their six- or eight-cylinder engines getting their 10–15L/100km, while I’m getting my 7.6L/100km. That’s the average per tank, which I calculate myself on each refuel, driving both highway and suburban. Having the Climatronic on constantly doesn’t play on the vehicle’s performance either.
I use cruise control on almost every road I drive down. It’s not because I’m lazy, I just want to make sure I stick to the speed limit… and I’m lazy! Irrespective of where I use it, my speed is constantly maintained. As I said, driving through the hills is effortless and the cruise control manages it with absolute comfort.
My brother was driving behind me in his Toyota LandCruiser, and he told me his car surges at the slightest loss of speed, whereas the Passat does it without you noticing. I have to agree, the Camry I had was an aggressive accelerator. The Passat, however, only shows aggression when you slam it into Sports mode, and even then it’s sporty alright and smooth. No hard gear changes, just smooth. The Aurion isn’t even this smooth.
VW has designed the vehicle exceptionally well when it comes to space. The boot is cavernous. VW has been able to utilise every section of the vehicle to ensure absolute efficiency in the space department. The backseat area is roomy, so my passengers aren’t squashed when parked behind my 190cm driver’s seat. In saying that, I don’t even have the seat on the farthest setting, like I have done in other vehicles. The front of the cabin has ample room, although the driver’s side floor mat is the smallest in the car.
The cabin remains incredibly quiet and the road noise is kept to a minimum. I don’t even hear the engine, when I’ve got my music playing quietly. Once the Climatronic has got the temp right in the cabin, the operation is silent. The air-con system automatically switches between outside air and inside air, depending on the pollution detected, so no car fumes roll through the vents.
At night time the illumination of the cabin looks fabulous. There is a red glow and all button-type objects are clearly visible. It’s easy on the eye and feels like you’re in a cockpit. The speedo and RPM gauges don’t turn blue, like in the 2006 model – I’ve got to say this colouring was stunning. The gauges are, however, white with red needles, which is also nice. It’s just not blue with red needles!
I have to say, the drive of the Passat is amazing. It feels solid on the road and handles corners extremely well. I misjudged a corner, only a few weeks back, so I yanked the car around this bend and it complied. I was doing around 50–60km/h, probably should’ve been doing 40km/h, but it handled so well, it left me thinking how amazing the car is and how wonderful it is to own it.
Cruising up hills doesn’t bother the Passat. I live in the Perth hills and often cars will pull back and rev up the hill, not the Passat. It may pull back from seventh gear to sixth or fifth, but it’s a quiet achiever. On the odd occasion when the road is quiet, I’ve put my foot down, coming up the hill, only for the Passat to pick up speed and seamlessly cruise up the hill, without any form of complaint. The Passat has never shown any form of discontent, it just conforms with what you want. Oh, and it pulls back the gears to assist you in slowing down, when you’re descending down the hill, which means less brake pad wear and tear.
I feel like the Germans designed the Passat for practicality; the fact that it’s just an all-round beautiful car is a bonus. It may not come with a lot of the gimmicky features, which the cheaper manufacturers install on their base models, but the quality of the build outweighs all else. Yes, I like the idea of auto-dimming high beam lights, but do I need it? No. This was a feature on the Camry I looked at, but the drive and build quality just aren’t the same. The functionality of the Passat is spot on and it is set to impress. Although, I wouldn’t mind having the adaptive cruise control upgrade.
There’s nothing better than getting the windows down on a stinking hot day to let out the stifling heat before you get in. The key fob gives you that ability. It will also close all the windows for you. It even opens the boot, not just unlatch the boot. The actual boot lid opens up, so you can throw everything straight in without trying to clamp onto all your gear with one hand, while the other hand is struggling to lift the boot.
Once you’re in, there are four hooks to hang your shopping on. Perfect if you’ve bought takeaway; it ensures no spillage as everything remains upright. There is one light in the boot, but I reckon it would benefit with a second. I sure would benefit with the second light, so there’s one on each side of the boot. I sometimes cover the light because I’ve loaded up the boot with my doona, pillows, suitcase and the other side is then dark. I could just load the boot space the opposite way around, but I only remember once it’s dark, which is when I’ve arrived at my destination.
In my eyes, the Passat has been designed beautifully inside and out. I can’t really fault the design, because I actually really like it. The styling, the lines, the lumps and bumps are all where they should be. The bonnet could be slightly more reinforced, for when closing it. It’s just a sleek machine. It looks good from all angles. The interior smells good. It just has this smell that, when I get in, I know it’s my Passat. Must be the leather or something…
At the end of the day, my view is find what suits you. It’s your money, comfort and enjoyment that are at stake, especially if you spend a fair bit of time travelling to and from work, or on the road. You need to do what fits into your lifestyle. All I will say is, if you haven’t considered VW, give VW a go. You may still prefer a Toyota, Ford, Holden or whatever… Pushbike.