Thursday, September 27, 2012

Car review: Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI Variant Comfortline

Technical Data

Model (Code / Model Year): Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI Variant Comfortline (B7 / 2012)

Engine: OM 642 DE 30 LA / 1390 cm³ / R4 / petrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission
Paintwork + Interior + interior trim + wheels: Black Oak Brown metallic paint + Cloth black "Matera" + Trim iridium printed + 16-inch alloy wheels "Alicante"

Optional Equipment:
  • Comfortline package:
    Chrome front bumper strips / Chrome front bumper strips / 
    Multifunction steering wheel (3 spoke)
    ParkPilot - Parking sensors front and rear
    Driver alert system
    Radio RCD 310 Radio/MP3 compatible CD player

    €665,00 RNS 315 touch-screen navigation
    €0,00 Front seats with lumbar adjustment 
    €0,00 Exterior badge deletion (only engine badge)
    €290,00 Tinted glass 65% from B pillar backwards
    €0,00 Air conditioning, 'Climatic' semi-automatic control
    €0,00 Rain sensor 
    €0,00 Daytime running lights with coming home function
Performance: 112hp (83kW) / 200nm
0 to 100km/h: 10,3sec
Top speed: 205km/h (128mp/h)
Fuel consumption in liter / 100km (U.S. miles per gallon): 8,5 liter / 100 kilometer (27,67 mpg / US) (click the link for the fuel consumption test)
Price (Germany): €29.960,00

In 1973 Volkswagen introduced its first Passat, while the 6th generation Passat (B7 / type 3C) has been brought to the European market in 2010. Altough the new Passat shares its platform with its predecessor, almost none of the visible parts remained unchanged. Apart from the slightly enlarged wheel base, the drag coefficient has also been reduced.

The estate, called "Variant", represents about 70% of all Passat sales in Germany, while the Passat also is the most popular company car on the German market. 

1. Exterior

Volkswagen has initiated congruent design among its several models, and the Passat is not exception. The chrome grille can also be found on other VW models, while the rest of the car is has been styled in a neutral way, in order to attract a broad customer base. 

In order to individualize the car, Volkswagen offers the Trendline / Comfortline / Highline package, each sporting a slightly different design. This particular car has been equipped with the Comfortline package, sporting extra chrome strips along the bumpers and windows, 16-inch alloy wheels "Alicante" as well as some extra options.

2. Engine, transmission and handling

In order to reduce CO2-emissions, downsizing has proved to be a very popular strategy among many car manufacturers. Thus Volkswagen has fitted this Passat with a 4-cylinder 1390cm³ petrol turbocharged engine (TSI = Turbocharged Stratified Injection). 

During most driving conditions in cities, local roads etc. the engine performance is fine. Only when driving at speeds above 100km/h the acceleration becomes noticably slower. When considering the fuel consumption, it becomes obvious that the engine is optimized to perform well in the lower rev ranges, when the turbocharges has to work in the higher ranges the fuel consumption increases significantly.

Volkswagen offers both a 6-speed manual transmission and 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox on the Passat, while this particular car was fitted with the manual transmission. Shifting the gears is very smooth, yet it feels neutral, as the gearbox lacks the sharpness of a BMW manual gearbox.  But just as with the design and gearbox, this handling has the same neutral setup, which is the key to its succes in attracting a large customer base.

Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI petrol engine
3. Interior, multimedia and communication

The interior of the Passat is very bland but its layout is very logical, the driver is able to find and reach to every operation in a logical way. Seats adjustments can be made from the normal point of views, while the seat comfort is sufficient for most journeys. 

One of the features that make the Passat stand out is its storage space, not only does it have a very large booth (larger then for example an Audi A4, BMW 3-series or Mercedes Benz C-class), another treat it the easy folding down of the rear seats by utilizing two good accesible handles. There is also ample storage space for the driver. Beneath the center armrest there is a large compartment for big items (wallet, phone etc.), while the cupholders are located in front of the center armrest including some small storage space behind it.

RNS 315 navigation system with a SD-card (blue) on the left.
Another feature that sets the Passat apart from its non-Volkswagen group competitors is the RNS 315 touch-screen navigation system (the RNS 510 system being its larger counterpart). The interface of the RNS 315 system is ok, after a short period of time one is getting used to it and able to find all relevant information in the system. What does bother me is the touch-screen system, when making adjustments while driving it might be hard to hit the right spot, causing some nuisance to the driver. Luckily some operations can also performed by using the multifunction steering wheel, like changing the music track while being in the navigation mode.

Two major operations that are performed in the communication department are is the bluetooth connectivity and being able to play your own music through the cars entertainment system. Bluetooth connectivity is an option on the Passat, and unfortunately it was not checked when this car was ordered.
In order to play music Volkswagen offers several options on the Passat. Using a CD, however that disables the satnav in the way that it is not able to calculate new routes, using an SD-card in the slot next to the satnav (see picture) or use the optional media interface. Unfortunately this car was not equipped with the media interface, hence I used a SD-card to play music, which worked fine.

4.Optional Equipment

Unfortunately this Passat was only equipped with a minimum level of options, most of which have been discussed in the section before. Although it lacked so many options, there only where three which have been missed while driving this car. First there is the cruise control, it is a great option to improve comfort on longer journeys while it also helps to reduce fuel consumption somewhat. Another spot of bother it the bluetooth, as many countries nowadays make hands-free calling mandatory, every car should come equipped with this option.

When travelling with two persons that prefer different climate control settings, a dual zone climate control is a very good feature. Having travelled with two persons with different wishes, it became apperent that the one-zone system has its limitations. But the standard climate control (with one zone) is sufficient when driving alone.

One-zone climate control
Final thoughts:

"Neutral" en "practical" is the best way to describe the Volkswagen Passat. In order to attract market share in this class, these two characteristics are key to its succes. The Passat is not a particularly exciting car, but it is good value for its money. Lots of space, nice options to make a comfortable journey (altough this one missed a few), they all make this a good car.

There is still a small spot of bother, the engine is somewhat too small for what is quite a heavy car. I would rather like a diesel engine that provides a bit more punch (more torques / nM), but is more fuel efficient.

But if you add the missing options (cruise control, dual zone climate control, bluetooth) and combine it with a diesel engine, that will give you the perfect travel companion for every family. 

Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI Variant Comfortline media:

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