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Volkswagen Passat R-Line TDI 103 wagon

 

The addition of an R-Line equipment package makes the Volkswagen Passat a little middle-of-the-road. We test it in turbo-diesel wagon form.

Base price: $51,990.

Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four, 103kW/380Nm, 6-speed automated dual-clutch transmission, front-drive, Combined economy 5.2 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 8.6 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4771mm long, 1516mm high, luggage capacity 603-1731 litres, fuel tank 70 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 235/40 tyres.

We like: Refinement, economy, equipment and value for money.

We don’t like: Not exactly exciting, right at the end of its model life.

How it rates: 7/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Volkswagen New Zealand has upgraded its Passat range, offering extra equipment for no increase in retail price.

This is ostensibly to celebrate the brand’s 60th year here, although it has as much to do with the fact that Passat is in its last year – an all-new model has already been revealed in Europe. So a bit of added value helps to keep the car moving out of showrooms as it enters the twilight of its model cycle.

The Passat now comes with the R-Line package as standard, which VW says adds about $12,000 worth of value. It comprises a body kit, 18-inch alloys, sports front seats, special cabin trim, the premium driver information touch-screen display and parking radar with reversing camera.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Passat is about as middle-of-the-road as European cars get: think of it as the German Toyota Camry. We mean no disrespect by that (hey, nothing wrong with a Camry), but the point is that the Passat is designed to tick as many boxes as possible for as many people as possible.

Once upon a time VW tried to market the Passat as a premium product, but in recent years it’s come to its senses and aimed the car at Japanese and Korean models – hence the $52k pricetag for our wagon.

That helps put the driving experience into context. Our test car was powered by the familiar 103kW turbo-diesel engine used in a plethora of VW Group models, matched to a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It’s a very slick powertrain, although without the verve of a Mazda6 diesel.

Same goes for the chassis. The Passat is incredibly polished and arguably a class-leader for ride and refinement, even with the larger R-Line wheels. It’s competent in corners without doing too much to entertain.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? This is where the Passat comes into its own. As you’d expect of a VW, the cabin is beautifully simple, well laid-out and finished in top-quality materials. It’s outwardly sparse but quite elegant, right down to the analogue clock in the centre console.

The R-Line seats are supportive without being overtly sporting in shape; the border of suede-like microfibre around the centre-section of velour is a nice touch, too.

The only annoyance is VW’s signature push-in key: you insert the remote into a slot and then push to start. You push again to stop the engine, at which time the key pops out. It’s all a bit fiddly – especially with the delay in starting up a diesel from cold – and seems to be a case of being different for the sake of it.

The wagon (as tested) accounts for 60 percent of Passat sales and rightly so: it’s better-looking than the sedan and superbly practical, which should come as no surprise because at 4.8 metres long it’s verging on Holden Commodore size.

The boot is massive and comes as standard with aluminium rails in the floor. There’s also a sliding tray, which you can bring forward to load and then slide your cargo to the back of the load area – a simple but very clever idea, especially on a car with such a long load bay.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? The next-generation Passat is still some time away, so it’s a bit unkind to call this one a runout bargain – but that’s essentially what it is.

You cannot argue with the Passat’s breath of abilities, build quality or value-for-money. It’s a tempting alternative to a Mazda6 or Hyundai i40 – not as overtly sporting or stylish, but more refined and very easy to live with.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Air conditioning: Dual climate
  • Audio: CD, iPod compatible
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Cruise control: Yes
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Gas discharge headlights: $2750
  • Head-up display: No
  • Heated/ventilated seats: No
  • Keyless entry/start: $1000
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Leather upholstery: No
  • Parking radar: Front and rear
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: No
  • Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
  • Remote audio controls: Yes
  • Satellite navigation: $4200 with multi-media system upgrade
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: $750
  • Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: Yes
  • Trip computer: Yes

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