Classy and smooth, but this mid-spec petrol Passat isn’t a class-leading drive
Three years into its life cycle, the latest Passat can now be had with one of eight engines: four diesels and, suddenly, four petrols (from none, if you donâ€™t count the GTE plug-in hybrid).
This growth in petrol Passat options has probably been forced onto VW by the anti-diesel stramash thatâ€™s moved not just the car-buying goalposts but the entire new car playing field.
Whatever the reason, the all-turbo petrol choice now spans 123bhp and 148bhp 1.4-litre TSIs, a 178bhp 1.8-litre TSI and a 217bhp 2.0-litre TSI. The 2.0-litre diesel Passat churns nearly 40 per cent more torque than the 1.4 TSI 150 petrol, but it has exactly the same 148bhp as the TSI so actually works out a little slower over the 0-62mph run than the petrol car (8.7sec against 8.4sec).
Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI 150 GT
Engine: 1.4-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Torque: 184lb ft
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1387kg
Top speed: 137mph
CO2/tax band: 116g/km, 22%
The 2.0 diesel is also almost Â£2000 dearer to buy and 2 per cent dearer to tax (on current benefit-in-kind regulations) than the 1.4 TSI 150, which features Active Cylinder Shutdown technology to boost its tax-efficiency. Whatâ€™s the petrol car like to drive, though?
Before you fire it up youâ€™ll be impressed by the usual VW cabin presentation of smart comfort, tech appeal and nailed-on build quality. The driving position wonâ€™t have you wondering when the next track day might be, but knowing that the main sensation youâ€™ll experience on an everyday basis will be one of quiet satisfaction is very fair compensation.
In this GT trim there is no shortage of toys and driver aids. The Active Info Display projects digital data in a clear and customisable way onto a 12.3-inch screen thatâ€™s flanked by an eight-inch Discover Navigation infotainment screen. Thatâ€™s one rung down from the range-topping 9.2-inch Discover Pro system, but we prefer the â€˜lesserâ€™ setup over the knob-free Pro as prodding a screen to adjust volume or map zoom is not optimal and the Proâ€™s frustrating â€˜gesture controlâ€™ tends to generate the wrong kind of gesture from the driver.
VWâ€™s 1.4-litre engine is gentle in the amount of noise and power it produces at low rpm, but the flow of torque does step up noticeably between 2000rpm and 4000rpm. It will run to more than 5000rpm but thereâ€™s little performance reward in taking it there. Generally speaking itâ€™s a civilised and acceptably punchy motor that will work well on a motorway and deliver high-40 mpg figures into the bargain on longer trips.
Most Passats weâ€™ve tried have had VWâ€™s optional Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers. This time around, our test car sat on regular passive suspension and some of the rangeâ€™s bigger alloy wheels. It absorbed bumps pretty well but was a little nervy on one of Britainâ€™s less pockmarked motorways. Youâ€™ll be well isolated from most intrusions, in typical VW style, but sportier variants will feel more precise under pressure.
Classic three-box saloons arenâ€™t for everybody, but thereâ€™s no major practicality penalty for choosing this one. Having a new range of turbo petrol engines to pick through is no hardship either. The 1.4 TSI engine is smooth and strong.
Just make sure that, if youâ€™re going for the bigger wheels, you combine them with the adaptive dampers. Otherwise you wonâ€™t enjoy the Passatâ€™s full offering of substance and maturity.