Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI | VW’s New Opus

BY Azfar Hashim

VW’s latest contender in the large sedan segment hits the right notes, but the only challenge now is to sway buyers into its direction

Photos: Azfar Hashim

In my humblest opinion, the new Passat is the 'in-between' car; it sits comfortably between the Asian contenders (Mazda 6, Honda Accord, Nissan Teana, Toyota Camry) and the more premium models (BMW 520i, Mercedes-Benz E200 and Audi A6 1.8 TFSI).

And I’m saying this based on its price tag. The Passat 1.8 TSI in Highline spec here commands $156,300 with COE.

The Asians: Nissan Teana 2.5 is priced at $143,000, Toyota Camry 2.5 at $149,888 and Honda Accord 2.4 at $171,900. The Germans: BMW 520i Business at $233,800, Mercedes-Benz E200 Elegance at $244,888 and Audi A6 1.8 TFSI Ultra at $245,800. See what I mean?

But in a surprising twist, dimensionally speaking the Passat is the most compact among all its contests; the 2,719 mm wheelbase is also the shortest.

That, however, doesn’t mean the Passat is cramped and uncomfortable inside. Besides the respectable build quality, Volkswagen’s clever cabin architecture provides ample leg, head and shoulder room for three average-sized adults at the rear; then again if VW could adopt an almost flat floor like most of the Japanese, it would make it an even better package as, currently, the transmission tunnel is a tad intrusive.

That aside, the seats are comfortable without feeling overly padded like the ones seen in the post-$200k Germans. To add a further degree of comfort, rear air-con blowers with its own temperature setting comes standard too. And this being the higher spec’d model, a sunroof comes at no additional cost.

Boot space is a strong selling point. At 586-litres, it is actually the biggest compared to any of the models mentioned above. Which means if you have that habit of organizing and storing documents, along with extra set of clothes in your boot, you can rest assure it's more than cut out for the job. And if you regularly plan road trips with some shopping involved, this car would come in really handy.

The cockpit doesn’t come across as pretentious or overly fancy, and that also equates to your typical VW ergonomics: The leather-wrapped steering wheel is perfectly sized, displays are clear and control buttons are idiot-proof in terms of both position and labeling. Only missing here is a pair of paddle-shifters; it seems as though spirited driving is highly not encouraged here...

Powering the Passat is a 1.8-litre turbocharged lump mated to a 7-speed DSG ‘box. With that pairing, it churns out 178 bhp and 250 Nm of torque, executes the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in 7.9 seconds and has a top speed of 232 km/h.

Numbers aside, the Passat proved itself to be a highly refined sedan when driven along the expressway; if you have sampled and came away impressed with the standard seen in Nissan’s Teana, you would get the same from this car as well. It seems Volkswagen has shifted the goalpost this time around, focusing more on driving comfort; you could also feel how it gets a softer suspension set-up compared to its predecessor.

Road undulations are then absorbed with aplomb and to complete the package, the cabin is brilliantly insulated against wind and road noise; tyre roar coming from the performance-biased 235/45 R-18 Continental ContiSportContact5 rubbers remains quite audible though.

All that comfort does come at the (slight) expense of handling finesse though. Despite the sharp steering that remained as before, body movements are a little more obvious now especially during quick direction changes, and at the same time, the front end of the car seem to dip more obviously when you enter a corner at speeds.

So there you have it, a new large Volkswagen sedan that gets (a) a more handsome exterior, (b) sorted interior with good build quality and (c) an extra touch of driving comfort. It has its shortfall(s), mainly in the slight compromise when you drive the Passat a little harder, but with that price position, it’s something you could easily live with. If you are looking at your first large sedan, you could do no wrong with it.