Long-term update: VW Passat 2.0 TDI

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The plain lines of the VW Passat belie its wonderfully practical nature.

During its short time with us so far, the VW Passat 2.0 TDI Comfortline we have on long-term test has been roped in as quite the workhorse. Recently our reporter Jesse Adams used it to tow his racecar to Welkom and back – and was very happy with its lugging abilities – and then over Easter I used the Passat for a return trip between Joburg and Cape Town.

I’ve seldom enjoyed a more comfortable long-distance ride, and the two 14-hour trips – though mind-numbingly long – were at least not particularly buttock-numbing. My three passengers and I sat through the slog in a spacious, quiet and comfy-riding car that delivered us relatively fatigue-free on the other side.

The Passat scores an A-plus for seating comfort, along with a roomy cabin that elicited no squeals from passengers about lack of legroom. The boot’s huge too (and that’s with a full-sized spare) so I was able to easily fit four peoples’ holiday luggage without requiring advanced Tetris skills to cram it all in.

Also full marks for cabin stowage space. Onboard clutter accumulates like confetti on long trips like these, but the Passat’s large console between the front seats, along with several other hidey-holes, happily took it all.

A REAL SIPPER

The fuel consumption was the big winner though, and the 2-litre turbodiesel engine runs on the proverbial smell of an oil rag. It averaged just 5.7 litres per 100km on the Jozi to CT drive (keeping to the speed limits) which is very impressive and I challenge any hybrid car to do better. In combined freeway/town cycle the consumption’s still well under 7 litres per 100km, and, with fuel prices what they are these days, we love this car for its exceptional economy.

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The 2.0 TDI makes 103kW and runs on the proverbial smell of an oil rag.

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A very plush ride is another of this VW’s qualities, and another reason we arrived at our destination fresh and not-too-fatigued after a 1 500km slog. VW’s large sedan glides along in a calm and quiet reverie, with no annoying engine drone or wind noise. As part of a major revamp last year (not just a facelift as every panel except the roof is new), the Passat gained thicker side glass, a two-layer windscreen and increased sound deadening in the bulkhead to reduce noise entering the interior, and the measures have clearly worked.

The 103kW engine, without being any kind of hotshot performer, is smooth and punchy for effortless cruising at the speed limit, but when long trucks need overtaking in a hurry the burly 320Nm of torque provides some decent in-gear acceleration.

The car’s standard bells-and-whistles count is quite plentiful and includes items like dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, a radio/CD system, speed-sensitive electric power steering and an onboard computer. I like that you’re able to personalise certain features, such as setting the central locking to open all four doors in one convenient click (the way I like) instead of unlocking the driver and passenger doors separately.

Also standard are wipers and headlights that switch on automatically with the respective onsets of moisture or murkiness, as well as auto-dipping brights when a sensor detects there’s a car in front of you. A handy item is the 230V two-prong socket in the rear for plugging in items like cellphones or a DVD player – this in addition to 12V sockets in the fascia and the boot.

The safety-stuffed Passat Comfortline features six airbags, ABS brakes and electronic stability control. There’s also a drowsiness detector designed to warn the driver to stop and take a breather when they’re getting tired, but unfortunately this feature fell asleep the one time I threatened to do the same while driving.

Complete with a three-year/120 000km warranty and a five-year/100 000km maintenance plan, the Passat 2.0 TDI Comfortline sells for R322 000 in six-speed manual trim and R337 000 with DSG dual-clutch auto transmission – a premium I feel is worth paying as the excellent DSG gearbox is so quick and effortless.

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Our test car came with the DSG dual-clutch auto transmission, which is well worth the extra money.

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Several options are available including an electric sunroof, larger 17” wheels (16s are standard) and wider tyres with a tyre-pressure monitor, leather seats with heaters (unheated cloth seats come standard), and an electrically-folding towbar.

One option I miss in our test car is a parking sensor, and I’d happily pay the extra six grand for it as I found it difficult to judge where this long car’s extremities end (as much as I’m not supposed to admit this as a guy).

VERDICT

Sure, this is a prosaic family commuter that’s about as raunchy as a rice cake.

The Passat’s never been an exciting car and probably never will be. But if you seek comfort and plentiful features without wishing to make a vulgar display of wealth, along with fuel bills that leave you with money for caviar at the end of the month, the Volkswagen Passat’s your ride. -Star Motoring

Follow me on Twitter: @DenisDroppa


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