Passage to refinement. Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI Highline
Text and Photos by Regan Ong, SgCarMart.
Improved in almost every area, the eighth generation Volkswagen Passat has new competitors in its sights.
One will never expect the day to come when we'll call the Volkswagen Passat a niche product and, yet, stating that about the eighth generation Passat isn't too far off.
Volkswagen's sedan has become the definition of the family sedan segment, but with this new model codenamed B8, it somehow moves into uncharted territory.
The new Passat now plays in an area slotted in between the mainstream and the premium areas of the segment, therefore appeasing a larger demographic.
What this means is that the Passat is moving further away from the likes of the Ford Mondeo, the Opel Insignia and the Peugeot 508, getting closer to offerings such as the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. That is an important step in the vehicle's life, but can such a scheme actually work out?
You could argue the new Volkswagen Passat echoes the design of its predecessor, but park them side by side and the sleeker, more grown-up eighth generation model is clear to see.
With the engine mounted lower in the car, the bonnet has been lowered and the windscreen angled rearwards, which help give the nose a sportier look, while the upmarket four-bar chrome grille and swept-in headlamps add to the Passat's more confident face.
Measuring 4,767mm x 1,832mm by 1,456mm (L x W x H), the new Passat is 2mm shorter, 12mm wider and sits 14mm lower than its predecessor. As a result, the shorter front and rear overhangs combine with tauter lines to give the Passat a more dynamic stance than before.
Yes, despite the evolutionary looks, this car is a serious departure, in much the same way as the Golf Mk7 moved the game on significantly from the Golf Mk6.
The cabin is a genuinely premium affair, especially on the Highline version we tested.
As you step inside, you'll find that the Passat is a step above what you expect from a family car. The car has always been a more refined take on the family sedan, but the latest iteration feels decidedly more upmarket.
Dominating the dash is a neat touchscreen system that helps to reduce clutter, while the materials used - and the way in which they're assembled - set the Volkswagen apart from its rivals such as the Ford Mondeo, the Opel Insignia and the Peugeot 508, and stand comparison with what you'll find in the likes of the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Other lovely touches include the way the vents merge into chrome-like lines that run horizontally over the width of the dash, the stylish analogue clock and the flat-bottomed steering wheel and wrapped-around ambient lighting that runs along the doors.
Although the latest Passat is 2mm shorter than the previous model, a longer wheelbase means head and legroom has grown by 33mm, which is obviously better felt in the rear where three Asian adults will fit in comfortably.
The deep and long boot, which is accessed via an enthusiastically sprung lid is still decently proportioned and its capacity has increased by 21 litres over its predecessor to an outstanding 586 litres, while the rear seats can be flipped down via levers to yield 1,152 litres.
Driving the front wheels of the Passat is a 1.8-litre TSI motor that makes 178bhp and 250Nm of torque and it is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
It's an engine that many will be familiar with from other VW products, and it is now a relatively sweeter unit that delivers its torque in a much more linear fashion than the previous motor.
Meanwhile, it is business as usual for the gearbox, which feels typically decisive during hard driving, and more aggressive in sports mode, but also well-behaved in the moments of stop-start driving in the city.
Sharing the same wonderful MQB platform with the Golf, the car here sports a longer wheelbase, a lower centre of gravity and improved torsional rigidity, and is thus more dynamic than before.
It shares the same unflustered cornering composure and linear steering feel as its smaller hatchback sibling, while body control is excellent with ample grip. As before, the ride focuses on comfort and the Passat impresses with its excellent bump absorption, suppressing smaller undulations without fuss.
More importantly, Volkswagen has spent a lot of time ensuring the Passat serves up class-leading refinement. The suppression of road and wind noise is excellent and this makes the cabin hushed and comfortable for all on board.
Both in looks and in the way it behaves on the road, the new Passat is a significant improvement over the outgoing model.
It also breathes new life into the family sedan market, a class that has lost serious ground to crossover and SUV competition.
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