VOLKSWAGEN is a company very much on the ball with the latest fuel efficiency technology. With its BlueMotion sub-brand it boasts some of the most economical cars on the market.
There’s a lot of doubt around about how economical these eco-specials can actually be, though, and it’s true that around town and under heavy right boots they won’t return anything like the claimed figures. Few real-world situations allow the official figures to be matched, but you can still get incredible results.
Take this Passat BlueMotion. It has all the usual Passat benefits like space, solidity and impressive residual values, but on a 100-mile motorway run I hit 68mpg dead at an average of 67mph, which regardless of any claimed figures is absolutely brilliant. This is a big old car, remember.
It hits these heights courtesy of a 1.6 turbocharged diesel with all of Volkswagen’s eco-friendly alterations to reduce friction, keep revs low and generally squeeze as much energy as possible out of every drop of fuel.
Although it’s a small engine for a car of this size and its 104bhp, 184lb.ft output won’t set the world alight, the drivetrain is tuned to be as economical as possible. It’s quite highly strung in that while a gentle and thoughtful approach can return the big numbers, if it’s treated a little less kindly to compensate for the power loss relative to a 2.0-litre TDI model its figures will be nowhere near where they should be.
As with all Volkswagen’s latest diesel engines it fires up easily and settles into a quiet idle immediately. It’s a very refined and smooth unit that’s a credit to its makers even if it doesn’t improve as much as you might hope on the Passat range’s peak efficiency.
It comes in saloon and estate versions with the saloon slightly the more frugal and clean, dipping to 109g/km of CO2 compared with the estate’s 113g/km. Its trump card is that thanks to its lowered suspension and low-friction tyres it sits a little lower on the company car tax scale than the 1.6-litre TDI with BlueMotion Technology – a car that has the engine mods but not the aerodynamic ones.
The suspension is lowered to reduce the bulk the engine needs to push through the air, but the ride quality is still good on the standard 16-inch steel wheels. Alloys of the same size and larger are available too, to smarten the look up a bit.
The seats are on the firm side, as is normal for Volkswagen, but they do offer good long distance comfort. The driving position is fantastic too, with an uncommonly large amount of adjustment on offer particularly from the steering column. Being a Passat estate there’s also a huge amount of rear legroom and enough boot space to host a Jacobean banquet.
In terms of practicality space isn’t everything and the Passat is a bit old-hat in the way its rear seats fold. Rather than folding flat in one motion, the headrests have to come off and the bases folded up first before the backs can be pushed flat. There are other cars out there that make it easier, but it should only be a real consideration if you need to fold them a lot.
There isn’t a lot of standard equipment on this model which leaves it feeling a bit utilitarian. It’s an excellent cruiser but lacks cruise control among other things and it feels Spartan; more like a mere tool for a job compared to some more luxurious models in the range.
Safety and security equipment is in no short supply though, including a key that differs from the usual Volkswagen style in that it pushes into the dashboard and interfaces with the car entirely electronically, making the car almost impossible to steal without the key.
Plenty of airbags and electronic traction and stability control systems are standard, including an electronic handbrake that won’t release if you’re not wearing your seat belt.
This model needs a few options adding to feel like a complete car; chiefly cruise control, alloy wheels and satellite navigation. With those added it becomes an ideal, if pricey, motorway car that can hit fuel economy figures you never thought possible from such a leviathan.
With the Passat BlueMotion, Volkswagen is striking directly at the company car market. Its CO2 emissions make it tax-friendly and its efficient diesel engine make it cheaper to keep in fuel. It’s more sensitive to the way it’s used than diesels of old and you need to drive it with care, but the rewards are as handsome as the car itself – with the optional alloy wheels, at least.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI 105 BlueMotion, £21,620 on the road.Engine: 1.6-litre turbodiesel producing 104bhp and 184lb.ft.Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.Performance: Top speed 122mph, 0-62mph in 12.5 seconds.Fuel economy: 65.7mpg.CO2 rating: 113g/km.