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VW Arteon long-term test: our verdict after seven months

Published: 24 January 2019

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Month 7 of our Volkswagen Arteon long-term test: the conclusion

There’s nothing worse than a bad boring car. The Arteon, however, is a brilliant boring car.

If circumstances deny you delectable steering feel and a naturally aspirated engine that revs to 9000rpm, lumbering you instead with a need for comfort and convenience, it sucks to know you’re being short-changed. It’s all too easy for manufacturers to turn out dross with an indecipherable infotainment system and a design so depressing that opening the garage has you feeling like you’ve just collected the keys to a bottom-of-the-rung rental car. 

That’s not the Arteon. It’s shone in its months with us – literally so when the sun reflects off the paint. That colour is part of the feelgood factor, showing off the chiselled lines to full effect and causing members of the public to flock to it. Forget your Astons and your Ferraris, I’ve never had so many comments from so many people, at petrol stations, in car parks, even coming out of the house one day to find two random passers-by admiring it in the street. No one guessed it was a posh Passat.

Those gorgeous lines hide the hatchback. Nearly every executive saloon sticks to a conventional boot, but bucking the trend is a boon for the Arteon. We specced our car with the optional electrical tailgate (£900, which included keyless entry too), and one flick of your foot under the rear bumper has the huge fifth door rising to reveal the enormous (563 litres) luggage area. We didn’t once struggle for space, and it came into its own on our annual Sports Car Giant Test (SCGT), swallowing the crew’s kit for the week and proving the perfect tracking vehicle for photographer Richard Pardon. 

That event was an acid test for the Arteon’s overall abilities. It’d been given short shrift at the Our Cars Away Day earlier in the year – when everyone just wanted to thrash Mark Walton’s shiny new M5 around North Wales – but a long schlep to France and back revealed where it excels. The long wheelbase (2837mm) meant anyone could fit in behind my 6ft 5in frame with room to spare. So when the choice was hours in the Alpine’s passenger seat, or squeezed into the back of the M2 Competition, or the tough ride of the Porsche GT2 RS, the Arteon kept finding itself four-up and leading our convoy. 

Which is why we found ourselves shadowing exotica such as the McLaren Senna (below).

Our VW Arteon chases a McLaren Senna at Sports Car Giant Test 2018

And away from SCGT, I only adored it more. A smidge under 200bhp is enough for London life (and the overall mpg reflected its stop/start life) and long motorway cruises gave 40mpg and 500 miles between fills. The seats are great, the infotainment system exemplary, and the high-quality interior has just enough buttons – there’s no need to dive into the central touchscreen for even the simplest of commands. Case in point: the button on the dash that lets you activate the (optional £765) 360° cameras in an instant, which is particularly useful given the frequency of width restrictors and dicey on-street parking manoeuvres in London.

That option is a must-have, but I wouldn’t spec the panoramic sunroof (£935) again because it’s tiny, and it never got cold enough to use the heated front climate windscreen (£305). I also defaulted to leaving the £820 adaptive dampers in their softest setting, only dialling up Sport mode when it was on camera car duties at the Circuit de Charade (which was also one of the few times the £195 electronic differential lock was given a workout). But the reversible fabric/rubber mat for the boot was worth every bit of the £140 we paid for it, and the same goes for the £595 yellow paint. 

In short, you might not be in the market for a ‘normal’ car, but if you are, I can’t recommend the Arteon highly enough.

By Ben Pulman

Count the cost: VW Arteon depreciation

Cost new £40,600 (including £6220 of extras)
Private sale price £30,875
Part-exchange price £29,700
Cost per mile 17.2p
Cost per mile including depreciation £2.31

Logbook: VW Arteon R-line TSI 2.0 DSG

Price £34,380
As tested £40,600
Engine 1984cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4180rpm, 236lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission 7-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
Performance 7.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph, 135g/km CO2
Miles this month 1149
Total 5323
Our mpg 34.7  
Official mpg 47.1  
Fuel this month £222.59  
Extra costs None


Month 6 living with a VW Arteon: family prep

Hot on the heels of exciting support-car duties at last month's Sports Car Giant Test, the Arteon and I have returned to a more mundane life, namely going back and forth to Mothercare. First with my wife, where we found our pram. I was sold on the 'aluminium and magnesium alloy chassis' and 'puncture-proof tyres'. Mrs Pulman liked the fact it had a cupholder and came in a fabric that matched her approved colour scheme. As a bonus there was even space for an actual baby. Into the Arteon's big boot it went, along with countless babygrows.

Baby child seats in the VW Arteon

Then I went back on my own to fuss over car seats. And then I was back again, because so caught up was I in the prospect of a swivelling car seat (to aid loading baby in and out) that I'd forgotten to get a nappy bin. Then I was back again, to bother the sales assistants about car seats once more, and to bore them about how the Arteon's long wheelbase and correspondingly long doors would make the process of testing the Isofix seats in their car park much easier than usual.

As an expectant father, until baby arrives, this is about the only job I can do. Being rather keen on cars, I took pride in choosing the right seat. I eventually found one the motoring journalist in me can approve of. It swivels and the baby seat lifts out of the base too, the only one to do so. Better yet, it's not made by Joie or Maxi-Cosi or any other baby company, but Recaro. A proper car brand. Somehow, I tell myself, this will ignite her interest in what daddy does for a living.

Given I'm banned from dressing our imminent arrival in a Liverpool kit, and my choice of name (which would have given her the initials ESP) has been outlawed, this is my chance to foist my passion upon my daughter. It's either that or I'll be doing the night feeds in front of NBA games...

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: VW Arteon

Price £34,380
As tested £40,600
Engine 1984cc turbo 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4180rpm, 236lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission 7-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
Performance 7.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph, 135g/km CO2
Miles this month 608
Total 4174
Our mpg 34.2
Official mpg 47.1
Fuel this month £116.70
Extra costs £5.50 (screenwash)


Month 5 living with a VW Arteon: comparing with our Kia Stinger

VW Arteon meets Kia Stinger

I was never going to overturn Ben Barry’s verdict on the Volkswagen Arteon – ‘It’s just transport, isn’t it?’ – at our annual Our Cars gathering in Wales, not when the deserted roads of Snowdonia were all around us and Mr B likes lots of power and rear-wheel drive.

Now, however, away from our favourite playground, it’s a chance for him to re-evaluate his choice (or double down on his initial thoughts…) and for me to see why he’s so excited about his Kia. (Clue: the Stinger has lots of power and rear-wheel drive.) 

Read the full story on our Kia Stinger long-term test review

Arteon and Stinger are remarkably similar in some ways. Both are ‘brand builders’, designed to get their respective marques above the parapet in a crowded market. And both have ignored the temptation to be SUVs, and are instead saloons with coupe-esque lines. Or ‘scoupes’, as my wife has taken to calling them.

From there they start to diverge, though, as the Arteon has a sensible choice of four-cylinder engines (ours is a 2.0-litre petrol with just under 200bhp) and drive goes to the front unless you pick a powertrain combination that necessitates four-wheel drive. 

Ben B’s Kia is resolutely rear-wheel drive, and for the same list price as my Arteon you can have it in a yellow that’s just as vibrant, and with a 2.0-litre petrol that’s even more vibrant. Or for the price of our Arteon with options (sunroof, widescreen sat-nav, around-view camera and adaptive dampers) you can have Ben’s GT S, which has all of that kit as standard and a stonking 360bhp and 376lb ft. At which point you can make a rational case for a rear-wheel-drive saloon with a large-capacity V6 and a Kia badge.

The VW Arteon: a good-looking hatchaloon

When you drive it, you can’t really fault it either. There are a few foibles (heavy steering that’s a tad too quick, a dead spot atop the throttle, and I wouldn’t want to foot the fuel bill) but it’s fast, comfortable, with a good driving position set amid an interior that is lovely to behold. 

Kia’s sold big saloons elsewhere before – so it’s not an absolute bolt from the blue – but it’s quite a car. It could have been an enlarged Optima with all-wheel drive. Or a big American barge, given the origins of the platform beneath. Yet Kia’s done it properly, with real confidence, and the ex-head of BMW’s M division overseeing the project. 

By comparison, VW’s take is straighter. The Arteon is a big Golf beneath and it hasn’t got the likes of Ben Barry all excited. But as ‘just transport’ it’s better than the Kia. Practicality is underrated. Comfort is too often a dirty word. Everything works so simply and sensibly. Maybe it’s the difference between living in London (me) and out in the countryside (BB), but I’d rather the Arteon’s qualities than the option to occasionally turn off the traction control and bugger about with the back end.  

Then again, it might also be the difference between someone who’s about to have a child, and someone who’s emerging from the early years of parenting and wants something entertaining for the part of the school run when he’s alone…

Either way, whether enough people will buy either of these £40k ‘scoupes’ for them to be declared a success remains to be seen, but I like them both – and I like mine more. 

By Ben Pulman


Month 4 of our Volkswagen Arteon long-term test review: details like sunroofs

The ‘panoramic sunroof’ in the Arteon isn’t really that panoramic. It only stretches as far back as the B-pillars and does nothing for those in the back – which isn’t good enough for £935.

VW Arteon: not quite a panoramic sunroof

Then there’s the auto handbrake. It’s a fantastic invention, allowing you to come to a halt and take your foot off the brake while leaving it in Drive. But it doesn’t work well here. When it’s time to move, it holds on too long, the revs rise, and then you’re suddenly released, shooting off like a jerky learner. 

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: VW Arteon

Price £34,380
As tested £40,600
Engine 1984cc turbo 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4180rpm, 236lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission 7-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
Performance 7.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph, 135g/km CO2
Miles this month 480
Total 3202
Our mpg 34.5
Official mpg 47.1
Fuel this month £82.79
Extra costs None


Month 3 of our VW Arteon daily driver test: Tim Pollard's verdict

Drove Ben Pulman's Arteon a fair bit as the support car during Sports Car Giant Test 2018 in France. It's a real sleeper hit, this car: never fails to turn heads (at home and abroad) and its ochre Turmeric Yellow paint job suits its handsome lines down to the tee. It's probably the best-looking Volkswagen on sale today.

VW Arteon long-term test review

That tailgate is the secret to its success. This is a whoppingly commodious hatchback, with all the practicality advantages that brings: you can store a lot in the boot and the rear seats have something of the Skoda Superb about them. It's a useful, family-friendly device, despite having an executive-alike exterior sheen - and this suits its regular keeper, new dad Ben Pulman, just fine.

But there's substance to the drive, too. Granted, it's no thrill-a-minute car, but then why should it purport to be? It's sensible, stolid transport and I find the refinement, the decent ride quality, the substance of the interior to lend a real quality to the VW Arteon. 

It's telling that few grumbled when they fell out of a supercar on the SCGT and into the clutches of the heated, pampered Arteon. It's a very homely car.

By Tim Pollard


Month 2 living with a VW Arteon: a conversation starter

What do all my previous long-term test cars have in common? None has started as many conversations with complete strangers as the Arteon. 

A security guard at a British car company has twice stopped me, first to ask what I was driving, and then again to commend me on the colour. The driver of a Maserati was equally keen. In fact, he wanted to wrap his Levante SUV the same hue. Desperately late for my wife’s 20-week scan, I didn’t have time to tell him it wouldn’t work; the Maser’s yellow brake calipers were akin to Colman’s whereas the VW’s Turmeric Yellow really is more Dijon.

Arteon: not a familiar car badge, yet

Now closer to baby arriving, we can’t fly, so off to Anglesey we went for a week’s holiday. On day one a couple approached in the pub car park to praise the design; on day two a chap at the petrol station told me my new Phaeton was gorgeous; and three days later my dad was wondering why a whole coach load of German tourists in Beaumaris were watching us put on our walking boots – until I pointed out it wasn’t us they were interested in. 

The attention continues back home: I just popped out to the Arteon to retrieve the fuel book, and my neighbour across the street congratulated me on driving a car that isn’t black, grey or silver. 

So much for a big VW saloon being anonymous.

By Ben Pulman


Month 1 of our Volkswagen Arteon long-term test review: the introductions

Volkswagen reckons it’s ‘an avant-garde gran turismo with svelte fastback styling’. My colleague Tim Pollard calls it a ‘coupaloon’ (and desecrates the English language in the process). And on our first trip out in the Arteon, I told my wife ‘It’s like an Audi A5 Sportback’ – which drew a blank look from someone already exasperated with my attempts to explain the visual differences between a Porsche Boxster and Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet. 

The VW Arteon is actually a replacement for the old Passat CC – but don’t let that put you off. The current Passat is really rather good, and the Arteon wades into the much-diminished Mondeo market with bloody good looks, a wheelbase stretched to almost three metres, and all the interior quality and elitist appeal a German badge offers above its common-or-garden competitors. 

VW Arteon long-term test review by CAR magazine

Prices start at just over £31k for a 1.5-litre with 148bhp, and go up to 40 grand if you want an Arteon with four-wheel drive and a detuned Golf R engine. As much as we do, we’ve settled for a 2.0 turbocharged petrol (this is a post-Dieselgate world) putting 187bhp through the front wheels. With another £195 spent on VW’s ESP-based, diff-apeing XDS system, I tell myself it’s a stealth Golf GTI.

Except for the colour – that’s not stealthy at all. VW calls it Turmeric Yellow Metallic, a £595 extra which looks great on the Arteon’s chiselled lines – and unlike my old black Focus RS, I’ll never lose it in an underground car park. 

The Focus RS – or more specifically, its appalling ride quality – is also the reason we’ve gone for Volkswagen’s £820 Dynamic Chassis Control, aka adaptive dampers that can cycle through Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. It’s familiar VW fare, but on the Arteon there’s now a Bentley-esque slider control so you can go even softer or even firmer. Currently I’m deep in the OAP end and so comfortable. 

Our Volkswagen Arteon interior: ours is R-Line spec and jolly comfy

Ours is in R-Line spec, which means a beefier bodykit and inch-bigger alloys (now 19s), while inside there’s nappa leather. Although the wheelbase is not quite on a par with a Mercedes S-Class, it’s almost as roomy in reality. We’ve opted against 20-inch wheels, or spending four figures on a stereo upgrade, or adding any more safety tech, as the Arteon already has adaptive cruise control and lane assist. But we have spent £895 for VW’s top-notch 9.2-inch touchscreen, and £935 on a panoramic sunroof that disappointingly seems no bigger than any other sunroof. 

We’ll get into the other options over the coming months, but for now it’s off to Wales. Had I still been in the Focus RS I’d have been dreading the 500-mile round trip but salivating at the prospect of a thrash through Snowdonia. This way around, I’ll enjoy the entire trip. I’m happy with that. 

By Ben Pulman

Browse more of our long-term test reviews

Logbook: VW Arteon

Price £34,380
As tested £40,600
Engine 1984cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4180rpm, 236lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission 7-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
Performance 7.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph, 135g/km CO2
Miles this month 348
Total 564
Our mpg 40.2
Official mpg 47.1
Fuel this month £45.97
Costs None


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