Since I started this job on R.I.D, it has always been my role to write about whatever fast or expensive car I get the chance to experience. It’s not as if I’ve arranged them, it just happens by pure chance.
And to be honest, I really enjoy writing about cars which had me jaw-dropped in surprise. It’s predictable enough to bang on about the brutal surge from a TVR Cerbera, or the smooth burble from a Jensen Interceptor.
But as sedate as the Mercedes E250 convertible seemed, that car really pleasantly surprised me. And that’s why I enjoyed writing about it so much, because my mind was changed from what I expected the car to be like.
Then there’s supercars like the Audi R8. That was the only car I’ve experienced, that you could honestly just picture the drive of in the back of your head (even if you haven’t been in one). It was a bit like practising your lines for a script, it’s just that I would be expressing them wildly when the show came around.
So, I’ve never really bothered with mundane cars. But I thought it was worth a crack, since I felt like doing a somewhat objective review, rather than a love story.
Besides, it’s typically quite rare that a car journalist actually experiences anything cool, which is why on some days I have to be doing other things. Things like going to Lincoln on a cold Saturday.
To do that, I needed to catch a train at stupid o’clock in the morning. And to do that without hassle. I needed a taxi to take me to the station. That taxi was a mundane 2011 VW Passat…… diesel.
To be fair though, there’s nothing wrong with Volkswagen’s 2.0 litre Bluemotion TDI engine. It’s highly economical, reliable and provides a decent amount of torque – and in the Passat there was 130bhp to play with. My mother has had a MK6 Golf with that 2.0 Bluemotion, and it’s genuinely a very good car!
It feels fast, effortless, nippy and very smooth. The engine works brilliantly in the Golf, and would be my personal pick, If I wasn’t buying a GTI.
In the Passat however, since it’s a bigger car and weighs not far off a boat, you can feel it struggle a bit. Which is a shame really, because in face-lifted form, this was the biggest engine you could get…
It’s an even bigger shame because before it was refreshed, Volkswagen could offer you a rather lovely 3.6 litre VR6 engine, built to rival the Vauxhall Insignia VXR! But after that model was ceased, VW pretty much gave up on a fast Passat. And it shows with this 2011 model.
Still though, mundane cars like the Passat weren’t built for speed. So what about the important stuff?
Well, you will get good economy. You’ll average 50-60 mpg, depending on your driving. In fact, it’s so quiet that you’ll be able to drive across Europe, and you’ll only realise it’s a diesel when you see that there’s still half a tank of fuel left!
Comfort is a plus too- it seems that these minicab cars always have the softest seats on the market. And the Passat is no exception, it definitely feels softer than the Golf, thus, more bearable on longer journeys. However, it’s not quite as comfortable as the Toyota Avensis, in critical terms.
Space? Well yes, there is some. Headroom isn’t as roomy as other rivals like the Avensis, yet it makes up for this with really rather excellent leg and knee room! But hey, it’s a taxi, it’s not as if anyone will be back there for long anyways!
The cabin is disappointing though. It’s built with that typical German quality, yes. But you feel that the designers sat around a table and thought; “Let’s not bother, it’s too much effort to make an interesting dash.” It’s odd, because the Golf actually has a more advanced infotainment system, and it’s overall a nicer place to be.
The only real difference between the Passat and the Golf, is that the Passat has a vulgar analogue clock slapped in the middle. And that’s no excuse from a company which has built so many great cars.
Then there’s the way it looks- there’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s no zest. No sense that someone drew this car with passion, unlike a Mazda 6. In fact, the Mazda was cheaper than the Passat, and it came with more equipment as standard, not to mention how much more interesting it looks inside and out.
The Mazda’s equivalent 2.0 litre diesel engine may have been rougher than VW’s, but there’s more style if you buy one of those. Whereas a Ford Mondeo says you haven’t thought hard enough.
To be honest, I can’t really say much else about the Passat, so I’ll jump to the conclusion-
Despite it’s niggles here and there, it’s actually a good car analytically. Comfortable, quiet, relatively spacious, and economical. And the build quality can’t really be matched by other rivals.
But… I just….. can’t recommend one. It’s too boring, there’s no soul or a sense of ‘ooh’ about it, there’s not a single thing about this car which is somewhat interesting. And if you’re a keen VW driver, you may as well go and buy the old VR6 version. But as for the 2.0 Bluemotion, I can’t justify having one over a Golf.
Let’s jump out of Autocar mode and get down to the real stuff-
If you want a practical, economical Volkswagen- buy a Golf.
If you want a car that’s built like a Golf- buy a Golf.
If you want a car that gets the best out of that great 2.0 TDI Bluemotion engine- buy a Golf.
If you don’t want a Golf and need to carry a family around with tonnes of luggage, and looking for a good, interesting car all round- buy a Mazda 6.
But if you’re somehow a Passat fanboy (although it’s unlikely)- then buy an old VR6.
And whilst you’re here check out Wai Ning’s review on the Hyundai Sonata, the left field rival to the Passat.
-Comfortable (although not the best in it’s class)
-Economical (Yet, diesel-gate has haunted it…)
-Disappointing interior that looks the same (if not duller) than cheaper VWs
-Rivals do provide more bang for your buck (alongside actual style in the Mazda 6’s case)
-Not justifiable over a Golf
R.I.D score- 4/10