All Grounds Covered | Volkswagen Passat

BY Azfar Hashim

Volkswagen promises value in a premium package with their new Passat, but the question is, can it really deliver the goods?

Photos: Low Fai Ming

When you drive a car such as a BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi, many will change the impression they had about you. They would probably say things like, “Hmm, doing good I see!”, “Well done Sir!”, or even maybe (just maybe) “You inspire me”.

But then, due to the current COE trend, such premium sedans are becoming even harder to reach — case in point, the “base model” Audi A4 1.8T, BMW 318i and Mercedes-Benz C180 costs $193,773, $178,800 and $189,800 respectively.

But before you get all disheartened, do you know there's another premium sedan, the Volkswagen Passat, that could be yours for less than $175k?

Looking more conventional now (read: better), the extensive changes to its exterior definitely give a classier and more mature image — all thanks to (a) a grill that integrates into the headlights, (b) bumper with chrome bits added, (c) a well-balanced side profile and (d) a more attractive pair of tail light.

But what’s strange though are those 17-inch rims wrapped in 235/45 R-17 Continental ContiSportContact 3 high-performance rubbers. Considering the Passat stands at 4,769 millimeters long, it does seem undersized...

The cabin is an interesting piece of work. Build quality and plastic used for both dashboard and door easily justifies the price. Praises should also be given to its cockpit, courtesy of control buttons that are within easy reach for the driver.

The Passat's steering wheel, also wrapped in leather, doesn’t look out of place. Complimented further by those two-tone seats with colour-coded leather and Alcantara (that are so comfortable), it hugs your body as though you’re on your sofa at home. For rear passengers, they will be able to enjoy the extra headroom and legroom — it’s more than adequate to accommodate three adult passengers. The boot is one of the largest in its class, big enough to store both your travel and golf bags.

However, all is not perfect. Those signal and wiper stalks obviously came from the general parts bin, and do seem a tad loose. Plus, although Volkswagen installed an analogue clock on the dashboard (inspired by Aston Martins, maybe) to provide more class, the angle is - quite simply put - odd.

Under the hood lies a turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder, 16-valve engine. Matched to Volkswagen’s ubiquitous 7-speed DSG, it produces a total of 160bhp and 250Nm of torque. With all that torque kicking in from as low as 1,500rpm, you should know that maximum power is conveniently available from low engine speeds — hence explaining why it takes only 8.5 seconds to accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h.

When driven along the expressway, it’s difficult to find any sort of fault with the way it works. Why so, you ask? Firstly, you don’t need to floor the accelerator just to accelerate to three-figure speed. Secondly while cruising at, say, 100 km/h, the cabin is brilliantly quiet with no intrusive engine or wind noise.

Here’s another surprising fact about the Passat: for its size, the suspension is properly balanced between I-need-comfort and I-like-to-attack-bends. While cruising, road undulations are absorbed with aplomb and your passengers won’t get thrown about like rag dolls. Then when you go a little faster into a sweeping bend, it grips onto the road with good body control and under steer kept at bay. Come to think of it, it slots nicely between the 3 Series and C-Class in this aspect.

But here’s one particular area VW needs to improve on: although the steering is sharp, it feels less accurate when driven enthusiastically.

So yes, this Passat is not all perfect and there are still some areas of improvement. But for now, it certainly promises a good alternative to other premium sedans like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-class. The cheaper price tag is sure to attract the attention of drivers who are now still driving a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry…