Volkswagen revealed an updated version of the Passat at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, which brought in a new emphasis on tech.
The key selling point was a new ‘Travel Assist’, which is essentially high-speed adaptive cruise control that offers partially automated driving. It’s the first time such a system has been seen on a Volkswagen. Emergency steering assist also features, as do matrix LED headlights, which promise a greater view of the road ahead.
Another big improvement is the touchscreen, where the Passat is more connected than ever with the latest version of Volkswagen’s App Connect media interface. The system integrates smartphone apps to the main touchscreen, and allows some of the car’s functions to be accessed remotely.
Volkswagen also improved the range of its plug-in hybrid GTE model by around 10 miles, meaning it will be able to travel further on electric power.
The German manufacturer celebrated the launch with a limited-edition ‘Variant R-Line’ version, which comes in a new Moonstone Grey paint finish, as well as black styling accents, 19-inch alloy wheels and tinted rear lights.
*Please note that at the time of writing, no pricing or spec details were available for the updated car*
Looks and image
The Passat is a car for those who are not fussed about standing out from the crowd, which means you get quite a plain but functional design inside and out. There’s little to be excited about, but that’s no bad thing, as it simply aids the Passat’s practicality. That said, high-spec GT and R-Line models are more stylish; they feature LED headlights, revised front and rear bumpers and larger alloy wheels.
It’s much the same story inside. The Passat gets a well-built and ergonomic interior, albeit one that’s lacking in flair and imagination. That said, the interior offers a level of luxury above its rivals, thanks to the high-quality materials used throughout. It feels just as premium inside as a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class, which sits in the class above the Passat.
All models benefit from an eight-inch touchscreen with excellent smartphone connectivity, too. High-spec versions with leather seats and the excellent digital cockpit also help to give the VW an upmarket feel, which you won’t find with direct rivals from Ford, Mazda and Volkswagen.
The Passat is more tailored towards comfort and refinement, which results in it being a sublime cruiser, particularly when fitted with the efficient 2.0-litre diesel engines, which seem a perfect fit in the Passat.
Even with the larger 18-inch wheels found on the GT and R-Line model, the ride remains supple. It’s effortlessly comfortable to cover long distances in, which is why it’s become a favourite with the fleet market. The Mazda 6 is a more enjoyable car to drive, but the Passat’s dynamics have improved over the last car; a fact that is highlighted by limited body roll and decent feel from the steering.
Volkswagen likes to remain with model nameplates that are proven sellers, which is why the Passat name has been around since 1973.
It’s been hugely popular in the UK and the US, where the Passat is a top-selling car. The UK gets a different version than the one seen in the North American market, and while Brits tend to favour smaller hatchbacks and crossovers, the Passat is still a popular model for families needing more space than they would find in a smaller Golf or Polo.
The Passat has religiously been offered as a saloon and estate, but over the years it has also stemmed performance versions, and more recently four-door Coupe model called the CC. A rugged Alltrack version based on the estate, is also offered.
Impressively, we’re now in the eighth-generation of Passat, with this model — codenamed B8 — first going on sale in 2020. Based on the MQB platform, which underpins a number of Volkswagen Group products, it was the first Passat to be fitted with a plug-in hybrid; this model was known as the GTE, but is no longer available.
The Passat model shares much of its underpinnings with Audi’s more premium A4. A number of driver assistance systems – such as self-parking and autonomous emergency braking – were also introduced on the B8 Passat.
The plug-in hybrid GTE will be the best bet for those wanting to reduce their running costs, as Volkswagen claims the model is capable of 156mpg, and has CO2 emissions of just 40g/km. That said, in real-world conditions, it likely can’t match these claims.
The diesel engines will likely be the best option for most drivers, with the 1.6-litre and lower-output 2.0-litre units being the best options for many drivers. The former returns up to 76.3mpg, and the 148bhp variant of the latter unit manages 67.3mpg. CO2 emissions range between 95g/km and 109g/km for these, with increased efficiency if you opt for Bluemotion spec.
The petrol engines are not quite as frugal, but offer good enough efficiency for drivers covering shorter journeys and fewer miles.
Servicing costs should also be affordable, while only those looking at the range-topping engines should worry about their cars incurring an additional £310 in road tax for five years after first registration, because of a list price of over £40,000.
Insurance groups range between 12 and 28, and entry-level S models are surprisingly more expensive to insure because they don’t come with autonomous emergency braking as standard.
Space and practicality
The Passat is a very spacious model regardless of whether you choose the saloon or estate, though the four-door bodystyle means it’s not quite as practical as rivals with hatchback boots, such as the Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb.
In saloon guise, the Passat offers a huge 586-litre load bay, which beats most rivals, although accessing it isn’t the simplest task because of the boot’s relatively narrow opening. Should you want a more practical shape, there is also the option to have the Passat as an Estate, which upgrades the space to a mighty 650 litres, which is again one of the largest in its class.
In a welcome deviation from the norm, the GTE isn’t any less practical than the standard Passat in this regard.
The eighth-generation Passat adds an extra 79mm to the wheelbase, which results in a far more spacious interior. Rear seat space is excellent, even for taller adults, thanks to a plentiful quantity of legroom and headroom. The transmission tunnel does impede on the middle-seat passenger’s available space, but that’s the case with most petrol and diesel models.
The Passat was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP when tested in 2020, with high scores recorded in all categories. Unfortunately, safety tech has moved on a lot in that time, which means the Passat feels a bit outdated now by not being fitted with tech such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard.
Value for money
In a world where small crossovers can easily cost considerably more than £20,000, the Passat seems quite affordable with its starting price of £22,195.
Standard equipment is also decent, with 16-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone connectivity, Bluetooth and DAB radio. Keyless start is also included for the price. It does miss out on features such as parking sensors and cruise control, but these are offered on the keenly priced SE Business model, which starts at £23,985.
Those in need of cheap family transport will find used Passats for as little as £500, but our main focus is the latest eighth-generation model. As the Passat is a popular fleet car, you’ll find that many have covered a lot of miles, with the cheapest 2020 cars being for sale at under £7,000, albeit with well over 100,000 miles on the clock. Something with around 70,000 miles on the clock will slot in underneath £10,000.
There are also some superb deals to be had on nearly-new examples, with cars less than a year-old costing as little as £14,000 — that’s £8,000 off list price! It’s worth paying around £1,500 more, though, for a higher-spec SE Business model.