Review: Volkswagen Passat

A reliable, economical and easy-going family saloon or estate

29 Oct 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Low cabin noise

  • Sharp and agile ride

  • Low running costs

Cons

  • Pricier than some rivals

  • Not great styling

  • Doesn't have rivals' badge appeal

Our expert rating

The Volkswagen Passat has been around since 1973. Eight generations on, it remains a popular large family car. It comes in saloon and estate body shapes and has always been very sought-after.

Its success has been helped by its pleasing looks, solid-as-a-tank build quality and wide choice of engines and kit levels.

Performance

Whether you go for a secondhand saloon or estate Passat, responses are snappy. The diesel engines are the best for low-down pull and give plenty of shove for overtaking or commuting long distances. The 1.9 TDI is not as powerful as the 2.0 TDI, but it’s markedly cheaper on the secondhand car market, and still performs nicely.

volkswagen passat side

Ride and handling

Even on its factory-setting suspension the Passat feels agile, attentive and engaging. Sport models give even sharper handling, although some of the stock Passat’s first-rate ride comfort is lost. There is hardly any body roll on corners and cabin noise is low. Indeed, the VW Passat is happy to take corners at speed without displeasing its occupants.

volkswagen passat back

Interior space

It’s a piece of cake to get comfy in the VW Passat. Access is good, with bags of room in both the front and rear. The back seats get a pair of Isofix child seat mounting points and there are lots of places to keep bits and bobs with you in the cabin, too.

The boot in the saloon and estate versions is huge, so buggies and family luggage will fit in without any issue whatsoever.

Volkswagen passat interior

What to know before you buy

On the 2005-2011 Volkswagen Passat, there were a handful of early recalls. The most worrying involved a possibility of fire on the 2.0 TDI models fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. The car's ECU, - the ‘brain’ in the engine, also needed a software enhancement.

When buying a VW of this age it’s also vital to get the suspension checked out on high-mileage Passats, particularly if you know you will be towing or bearing weighty loads.

Oil levels also require frequent checks – above all on diesel models. If this is ignored, then dependability can deteriorate.

The steering system on secondhand Passat’s from the 2005-2011 era, has also been known to cause issues, so ensure the steering feels steady on your test drive and listen out for any odd sounds.

volkswagen passat alternatives

Alternative cars

The cabin is excellently furnished, but it still isn’t quite as high class as the Passat’s most obvious challenger – its cousin, the Audi A4. In terms of size, used alternative motors are the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra, but these don’t match the finesse of the VW. Other adversaries that are more on par for Volkswagen quality are the BMW 3 Series and the Honda Accord.

Overall verdict

Buy a used Volkswagen Passat and you will find it is generally a reliable, economical and easy-going family saloon or estate. Its build quality is superb, it has decent performance and there is more than enough room to keep everyone happy. In fact, it is the archetypal classy German motor that also doubles as a credible car for business.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall