The Passat Bluemotion is part of a burgeoning range of eco-Volkswagens. The Polo Bluemotion started things off, but it is the dearer, more mainstream stuff - like the Passat - that will make VW money. Indeed, UK stocks of the Passat and Golf are already sold out for months.
What have they done to make Blue go green?
More than you may think. Old-school tricks include lengthened gear ratios for the five-speed transmission, a gearchange indicator and low rolling resistance tyres. Interestingly, a revised ECU has lowered the idling speed, Aero resistance has also been reduced, with a smoother underbody, lower cooling system drag and a 15mm lower suspension at the front, 8mm at the rear creating a slippery shape with a drag coefficient of Cd0.27.
Does it all work?
You bet. Officially, combined economy improves, in the estate we tested, from 47.9mpg to 54.3mpg. That’s superb for a large family car. It is 2mpg better than a Mondeo ECOnetic. What’s more, it’s realistic. The trip computer topped 60mpg in our hands on long runs. Even heavily loaded, it was doing high 50s. The saloon is even better, returning 55.4mpg. Impressive stuff, as is a sub-140g/km CO2 figure for both.
OK, but how does it feel on the road?
Not as bad as you’re thinking. Miss the tiny Bluemotion badges and you’d mistake it for any other Passat. Golf-derived underpinnings ensure it’s stable, safe and confident, perfect for eating up high miles without free. There are also great seats and a decent ride. It’s tauter than you’d expect too – the lowered suspension sharpens the dynamics slightly. But only slightly – it’s still no Mazda 6 or Mondeo.
The engine delivers its power in a switch-like rush, like all PD TDIs, but so forceful is torque at very low revs, you don’t suffer for the long gear ratios (3rd to 5th are stretched). The gearbox also has a decently slick shifts action. Oh, and better insulation of vibrations means the frustrating ‘overgeared’ feel of other Bluemotion is less of an issue here. Mind you, it is still all too easy to ‘drive by revs’ and find yourself doing 50mph in third…
Is the interior as unnecessarily mean-feeling as the Golf?
Not a bit of it. Where the Golf Bluemotion takes feature-stripping to petty levels (No painted doorhandles? No feature trim in the dash? No sliding cupholder cover? It’s almost as if they want it to feel grim…), the Passat is different. The plastics have a quality feel, and the detailing is just as plush. The list of luxuries is not as long, but you still get aircon as standard.
That 1.9 TDI should be drawing its pension soon…
Yes, the old Pump-jet unit is old hat now as it’s clattery soundtrack and on-off torque delivery demonstrates. But in the Passat it’s almost acceptably hushed. This car is much smoother and more refined than its smaller relatives, and far less of a culture shock to those soothed by common rail refinement.
Green is good, then?
This is, arguably, the best Passat in the range – and certainly the most interesting. Sure, the Highline variants get leather and a silky common-rail 2.0-litre TDI option, but they can’t best the Bluemotion’s fuel economy. We also like how the eco changes press enthusiast buttons. Lowered suspension, slippery drag factors and F1-style smooth underbodies are far more interesting than climate control and folding door mirrors.
They work, too, with hybrid-beating economy without the compromises. Which means a normal-feeling car, far from pious, that will save cash. At £18,405 for the estate (£17,270 for the base saloon), it’s also one of the cheapest Passats you can get, yet is plush enough not to feel stripped-bare. Good on you, VW, for pricing it down, rather than up.
Others drive better, but in the large family green car stakes, only the much more expensive BMW 318d beats the surprisingly good Passat Bluemotion. It is far less compromised than other eco-VWs, and uses intelligent solutions to become the smart money alternative to the overhyped Toyota Prius. Would you be surprised to learn there is a waiting list..?
Are small steps on big-selling models the real way to tackle emissions and economy, or are low-volume hybrids the way forward?