Since that point, meanwhile, VW can be forgiven for addressing one or two more pressing problems than the missing half of its mid-sized saloon’s model range. Now, however, there are 123bhp and 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI turbo petrol Passats to choose from, as well as a 178bhp 1.8-litre TSI and a 217bhp 2.0-litre TSI. The more powerful of the 1.4s has Active Cylinder Shutdown technology fitted and is therefore one of the most tax-efficient cars in the whole Passat range. It’s also the one we elected to test here.
These engines have been available to Passat buyers elsewhere in the world for the past couple of years, of course, so ushering them into UK showrooms isn’t exactly a stretch. We can assume that VW’s new 1.5-litre EVO petrol will be added to the Passat range when the car gets its big mid-cycle facelift.
What's it like?
The Passat’s 1.4-litre turbocharged engine develops 148bhp (which leaves it at a slight disadvantage on power relative to some like-for-like downsized petrol rivals) and 184lb ft of torque (which is more competitive). Although VW’s identically powerful 2.0-litre diesel Passat is nearly 40% more torquey on paper, it’s also slightly slower-accelerating (8.4sec versus 8.7sec for 0-62mph) – not to mention nearly £2000 more expensive and 2% more punitive on benefit-in-kind tax (for as long as the current regulations survive).
Ignoring whichever way the breeze of public opinion is blowing, then, there are good objective reasons to prefer a Passat petrol to a diesel before you’ve even got near the driver’s seat. And once you’re installed, the Passat 1.4 TSI isn’t backwards in coming forwards with plenty more reasons. This is a smart, spacious, comfortable and very well finished modern saloon whose cabin excels with its apparent material integrity and technological sophistication. Furthermore, a relatively refined and free-revving, yet still flexible, turbocharged petrol engine suits it even better than a diesel would.
The Passat’s driving position isn’t desperately sporty-feeling but it seats you low enough to feel like your hips are fairly close to the roll axis of the car while also giving you a good view out. The fascia design is clean-lined and simple, with its complementary senses of material class and attention to detail percolating slowly through the fit, finish and feel of its mouldings, switches, fittings and controls, and through the intuitive placement and easy usability of its secondary systems. You wouldn’t call the overall effect dazzling, but it’s certainly impressive in a slow-burning, everyday-use sort of a way.
Buy the car in GT specification and you get plenty of technological sophistication as standard. The car’s flat-screen digital instruments are presented very clearly on a 12.3in screen that VW calls Active Info Display and, once you’re familiar with its various settings and menus, they can be made to display just the information you want in just the way that suits you. Alongside that you get VW’s 8.0in Discover Navigation infotainment set-up, which, although a step down from the top-of-the-range Discover Pro system, would actually be our system of choice in the car. That's partly because, unlike its sibling system, the standard set-up retains physical knobs for adjusting volume and map zoom – and also partly because VW’s headline ‘gesture control’ system on the optional 9.2in set-up is gimmicky anyway.