Pure Class for the Family – Earlier generations of the VW Passat got the job done, but weren’t that exciting. Enter the new 1.8 TSI BlueMotion with class, character and excellent ride quality, even in mist and rain…
Words: Stephen Smith
Pictures: Stephen Smith and Supplied
I drove through a swarm of bees the other day. The first I knew of it was a machine-gun staccato on the windscreen, followed by a macabre collage of greasy streaks. I was devastated, but hopefully the monarch didn’t become one of those splatters and led her swarm somewhere beautiful where they established a new colony and lived happily ever after. The only reason I tell you this sad news is that it was the long, broad windscreen of a VW Passat upon which so many little lives were lost.
I was driving to Pietermaritzburg, cruising along with the (optional) adaptive cruise control keeping me a safe distance from the car ahead of me, the economical engine (5.8ℓ/100km) whirring along in the background, thinking why the Passat doesn’t sell more units in South Africa, when the splatter of bees interrupted my reverie.
The Passat has been around for decades – I remember my grandfather had one in the 80s, with a St Christopher prestiked (prestuk?) to the dashboard – but they have never really taken off locally. It’s strange, because the Passat is a spacious, handsome car from one of the country’s most popular manufacturers. And while its obvious rivals are the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Volvo S60 and Mazda6, there’s a part of me that believes that the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 are well within the reach of the upper-specced Passat models. It’s that good a car.
The Passat is at heart a family vehicle, and a brilliant one at that. Families need big boots, and just take a look at the Passat’s boot. Our pram slotted in lengthways, and left enough space in front of it for a bag, never mind the remaining 60 per cent of the boot’s width.
The spaciousness was mirrored in the vehicle’s interior, where every passenger is blessed with an abundance of leg, elbow and headroom, and fantastically comfortable quilted leather (again optional) seats. Despite all this space, the new Passat is lighter than its predecessor, which means better performance, handling and fuel efficiency.
As all our readers know, our countryside is full of forgotten gems, and Queen Elizabeth Park is one of them. Situated just outside Pietermaritzburg on the way to Hilton, QE Park is the headquarters of KZN Wildlife. But it’s also a beautiful little reserve with lovely walks (or trail runs), a scattering of wildlife, and a variety of indigenous and exotic plant life. When you have a small baby, you seek out these safe open spaces, with roads for prams and animals for the loin fruit to gaze at. Not even mist or rain will disrupt a planned outing and the possibility of keeping junior entertained for an hour or so.
It was on the patchy roads of QE Park that the supple suspension of the Passat tapped us on the shoulder and brought itself to our attention. The ride quality really is excellent, and is nicely complemented by entertaining handling at faster speeds and excellent engine/gearbox combinations. There are three Passat models available locally, and all come with VW/Audi’s excellent DSG automatic gearboxes, with a choice of 1.4 TSI, 1.8 TSI or 2.0 TSI BlueMotion petrol engines. Power outputs are 110kW/250Nm, 132kW/250Nm and 162kW/350Nm respectively.
The early generations of the Passat lacked colour and character and were, let’s face it, a bit boring. Let’s call them the accountants of the car world – they got the job done, but there wasn’t much going on other than that. And while the latest, eighth generation isn’t wildly charismatic, it is imbued with enough class and sophistication to have real character.
Interestingly, a Passat Alltrack is available overseas, bridging the gap between SUV and sedan in much the same way as a Volvo XC70 or Audi Allroad does. It would be nice to see VW South Africa adding that to the model line-up, but the popularity of the normal model would presumably need to pick up for that to happen.
One thing that I did notice was the amount of kit that was optional in the 1.8 TSI Highline, and it often included features that you’d think should be standard. That said, cruise control (the normal one, not the radar-enabled adaptive cruise control), climate control, a touch-screen entertainment system, multi-function steering wheel, park distance control and loads more is included in the price.
Prices start at R423 500 and the model we slaughtered bees with costs R472 400 without extras. Prices include a 5-year/100 000km maintenance plan and a 3-year/120 000km warranty.
- Name: VW Passat 1.8 TSI BlueMotion
- Body type: Large sedan
- Engine capacity: 1.8 litres
- Power output: 132kW
- Torque: 250Nm
- Price: R472 400