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Volkswagen Passat FSI Turbo

Safe and well built - but is that enough?

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar and Volkswagen Australia

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At a glance...

  • Eight airbags as standard
  • Well built
  • Optional extras add substantially to the base price
  • Driveline better on paper than reality
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The value of the new Volkswagen Passat FSI Turbo is difficult to judge.

If you’re expecting NVH far superior to an Australian built car, you’ll be disappointed. Acceleration is also similar to the locals, despite the Passat using a sophisticated direct-injected turbocharged engine. On the other hand, you’re unlikely to find a safer car in the price bracket and it is amongst the cheapest ‘prestige’ cars on the market.

But then again, it’s not that cheap!

The base price for the Passat FSI Turbo is AUD$44,990 but by the time you bring it up to the specification of the car on test (leather trim, a sunroof and electric seats with driver’s seat memory) the price balloons to AUD$51,460.

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The 2.0-litre FSI Turbo engine is positioned in the middle of the Passat range – it has more power than the 2-litre turbo diesel but it trails the 3.2-litre V6. It’s an interesting engine that combines FSI direct injection technology and a 10.5:1 static compression ratio (which is extremely high for a turbocharged engine). The result is strong bottom-end performance and a useful 280Nm of torque between 1800 and 4700 rpm. This gives effortless performance in normal driving conditions - but it’s not a sweet sounding engine when revved. Maximum power is 147kW spread from 5100 to 6600 rpm.

A six-speed (non DSG) automatic transmission provides smooth changes but its shift strategy is flawed. Hard acceleration after gentle driving will result in the transmission obstinately holding on to a low gear, rather than changing up normally. There is a sequential shift function which is useful for sporty driving.

Volkswagen claims a 7.8-second 0 – 100 km/h but we doubt that could achieved in normal conditions. Volkswagen also suggests 8.9 litres per 100km fuel consumption (ADR 81/01) but the trip computer indicated consumption in the 11s during our test, which included a large proportion of gentle country road driving. Ninety-eight RON fuel is recommended to satisfy the turbocharged high compression engine.

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The front-wheel-drive Passat chassis does an admirable job transferring the torque to the road. The traction control works overtime in wet conditions but the car never misbehaves by tramping or torque-steering. With large 235/45 17 Continental SportContact2 tyres, the handling is best characterised as grippy and safe – but it’s not a car that can be driven with fingertip sensitivity. Electronic stability control is fitted as standard.

With MacPherson strut/lower wishbone front and a four-link independent rear suspension, the Passat delivers a mostly comfortable ride, although the 45 series tyres can crash in urban potholes. We also noticed squeaking from the front suspension when passing over speed humps. The steering is well-weighted with constant feel at all steering angles. The brakes feature the latest ABS and Brake Assist technology and perform well in normal driving conditions – though the front wheels are rapidly covered in pad dust.

The new Passat is bigger than the previous generation and offers plenty of useable space for two rear passengers as well as a surprisingly large boot. Innovative boot hinges avoid intrusion into the load volume and a 60:40 split backrest can be folded forward to expand the carrying capacity.

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The equipment list is comprehensive. There are eight airbags and the optional sunroof and leather trim in our test car created a very pleasant ambience. We also love the clarity of the multi-function digital display that’s positioned ahead of the driver.

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But not everything is user-friendly. For example, the dual-zone climate control initially looks easy to operate but lacks any meaningful markings. The cruise control can also be challenging to master. There are also a couple of ‘features’ of questionable worth. First is the absence of a conventional key and barrel arrangement in preference for a small rectangular communicator which is pushed into a slot in the dashboard. We’re not sure what its advantage is. There’s also a different-for-the-sake-of-it electrically operated handbrake which makes an intrusive whirring sound when operated.

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The Passat’s body is smooth and attractive with standard 17 inch wheels and LED rear indicators and brake-lights adding a touch of sporty appeal. Paint quality is excellent, the doors shut beautifully and overall build quality is to a very high standard.

But the Passat FSI Turbo lacks spark - there are few highlights besides safety and build quality. If we were in the market for a AUD$50,000+ car we’d want something more.

The Passat FSI Turbo was provided for this test by Volkswagen Australia.

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