I must admit that when VW gave their Passat a much-needed revamp in 2005, I was mightily impressed.
They took a very ordinary looking car – which was, in many ways, the poorer and far more boring cousin of the Audi A4 and lifted it to another level. So much so, in fact, that I even considered buying a used model a few years ago.
The only problem, I felt, was that the wonderfully designed exterior, with its new muscular stance and strong, striking grille and headlight combination, was very much let down by an interior that lacked the luxury that the overall look seemed to promise.
The good news is that VW have clearly seen the error of their ways and have given the Passat the changes it so richly deserved.
Not only does the car now boast all of VW’s latest design elements, including the four chrome bar grille and “angry” looking headlights with eye-catching LEDs, the body contours and overall look give the car a more executive saloon feel than ever before.
For my money, the inside does what so many of the current batch of VW, Audi and Skoda models do so well, it wraps the driver in a cocoon of confidence.
The materials used in the cockpit are just so solid and reassuring, the thick leather steering wheel, the gearshift, door handles – all have the weight and feel of quality elements.
The space afforded in the cockpit is also more than just a little generous, easily giving my own rather bulky frame plenty of room.
So, is this car heading into my top five of the year? Well, unfortunately, not yet.
It might seem silly, but a few poorly chosen features picked as standard at the expense of others can really sway how special a car feels – and when a car’s starting price is €26,495, well, it should feel special without spending a penny on extra options.
Leaving aside the fact that the metallic paint on the model I tested was a €668 extra, it does actually have some impressive features as standard, including cruise control, the leather steering wheel with stylish aluminium inserts, fatigue detector, electric windows all round, a natty hill-hold control to assist on the dreaded hill starts, a start/stop system with recuperation, front and rear fog lights with chrome trim as well as 16″ stylish steel wheels.
Nobody will argue that there isn’t plenty of practical, useful, innovative features included here, but they’re all a little anonymous.
Personally, even though I spend a lot of time driving up and down to Cork on the motorway, I haven’t used cruise control on a car in about a decade.
I would happily trade the cruise feature for audio controls on the steering wheel or Bluetooth connectivity (to be fair, the stereo is top-class, has eight speakers and does have an aux-in for music).
The hill-hold feature is a nice touch, but anyone who has passed their driving test will be well versed in hill starts – a better option would be parking distance sensors.
I don’t have figures to back up this particular assertion, but I suspect a lot more damage occurs to cars each year with parking manoeuvres than cars rolling backwards (but I’m open to correction on that one!)
The current Passat is the best incarnation of the car to date, the build quality is everything you would expect from the VW group, the performance is pleasing and the comfort-level is typical of the marque – a little tweak or two would simply make it feel more worthy of the price tag.