Fashion may dictate that certain body styles are in vogue. But in every area of automobile design compromises need to be made, and there are some very good reasons why the sedan shape has remained popular in all this time.
The Volkswagen Passat is a very good example of that. The large sedan from Wolfsburg, now in its eighth-generation, has almost five decades of maximising the good and minimising the bad, which is why it’s evolved into one of the best cars for the money.
To find out just how it achieves that, we had CarBuyer contributor Deyna Chia get behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI R-Line for a week.
As a working man, founding member of driving enthusiasts’ club, The Traction Circle, father of three, avid mountain biker, and more, he tells us in his own words, why it would be foolish to pass-up the Passat.
It packs proper, plentiful performance
Yeah, everyone loves SUVs these days, but for proper driving, give me a sedan or coupe any day! People think ‘big sedan’ means boring and slow, but they’d be wrong, as the Passat has proper, sporty performance.
To start, it’s armed with the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine (220hp, 350Nm) as the Golf GTI, and sprints 0-100km/h in a quick 6.7 seconds.
In ‘Normal’ drive mode, it’ll eagerly sprint off the line with wheels chirping – without a hint of unruly tram-lining either. Much to the bewilderment of other commuters, and the enjoyment of the driver!
It handles just the way you want it
The Passat has a great base, since it all starts from VW’s MQB platform, and adds the latest, second-gen Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive suspension.
It feels really light on its feet, not at all ‘big’ as the segment name suggests, and makes easy work of bumps taken at speed, and minimising body roll and movement.
I liked it best in Normal and Sport, although Comfort works too when you’re trying your best to be in chauffeur-mode with the missus on board.
It’s geared to go
“The Passat has the tried-and-tested six-speed DSG gearbox, it’s part of how the car can easily change its character with the push of a button.
In Normal or Comfort mode, it’s classic DSG, with shifts happening so quickly and smoothly you hardly know it’s done.
But put it in Sport, and it holds the gear up to the redline of 6,000rpm. I knew it did well when there was silence from the backseat – despite there being three kids there – with a following chorus of “Woah, yeah! Faster, Daddy, faster!” ”
And it’s a king on comfort too
I may be getting a bit carried away with the dynamic driving – but I really did enjoy it! Everyone else can rest assured the Passat doesn’t skimp on refinement one bit, as it’s right up there with luxury cars.
The noise, vibration and harshness is managed superbly, with little perceivable tyre roar or wind noise. The engine is whisper quiet when cruising, while the build quality among the best we’ve seen, no creaks or squeaks, the interior fit and finish is exemplary.
Space is premium, not at a premium
The design of sedans means lots of boot space, but hatches and SUVs have the advantage with taller loading space. Yet, I had no problems with the Passat: The 586-liter boot swallowed our child seat, mountain bike boot rack, motorcycle cover and paddock stand without having to fold the (‘60/40 split’) rear seats down, and with room enough for a child or small person.
Speaking of monkeys, the rear seats accommodated all three children comfortably, with the boys noting it was more spacious than our SUV.
Proof? Big brother could sit with his legs crossed, and avoiding the typical squabbles and jabs and screaming that would follow. Me, I’m just happy the Passat keeps outside noise – and inside noise – to a minimum!
It’s made with practicality and comfort in mind
I’m a fan of the interior design – VW’s headed toward clean, almost clinical surfaces, but I much prefer that to clutter. The car’s got lots of space, but the design – and the sunroof – make that space seem even bigger. As a driver, everything’s very logically placed and exactly where I needed it to be.
The soft Nappa seats were a nice touch, but even better was the ergoComfort driver’s seat even has lumbar massage function. When you’re getting out of the car, it even retracts when the engine is turned off to allow easier exit. Like everything else on the Passat it’s quite well-made, thoughtful, and adds to a driver’s daily ease.
It’s a technology leader
The first thing I saw noticed – and my wife too – from the driver’s seat is the Active Info Display – basically the instrument panel which is now fully digital (a 12.3-inch TFT display, says the brochure). It’s very useful in daily life – especially for navigation, as the map and cues are all shown right before you.
The infotainment system – Discover Pro – has navigation as standard and another plus: Through the feature called App-Connect I could play music, listen to messages from my iPhone through the main system’s touchscreen, all without fear of ‘handphone driving’.