A CAR as good as the Volkswagen Passat did not need to change radically to keep up with the latest trends and design thinking. After all, it is the world’s most successful mid-sized model.

And so it is that the new estate and saloon versions exude only subtle differences but bring to the party a more capable plug-in hybrid version that should account for a quarter of sales.

Most buyers will opt for one of the three petrol or four diesel units – including a new 2.0 TDI Evo 150PS – but the plug-in hybrid utilising a turbocharged 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine offers a genuine alternative for those daily commutes or trips down the motorway.

Previously the 115 PS electric motor could power the car alone for 31 miles, but the new version can travel 43 miles, thanks to the improved battery capacity. The petrol engine delivers 156 PS and, when working in tandem, the two combine for a total output of 218 PS.

Being performance-oriented, the GTE models in both saloon and estate forms can achieve top speeds of 138 mph, while reaching 62 mph from a standstill in 7.4 and 7.6 seconds respectively.

In addition, the official fuel consumption figures range from 166 to 188.3 mpg, dep depending on specification and body style, and CO2 emissions are as low as 34g/km.

Punchy performance is available on tap when you select the GTE mode – in which you also get an artificial engine note – but for most journeys it is the E-Mode that will prove most attractive.

In whichever setting, the GTE quietly and smoothly goes about its business while you relax in the comfortable and supportive seats.

In E-Mode, the GTE will glide you through urban areas purely on electric power without a drop of CO2 spilling into the atmosphere.

For longer distances and above 87 mph, the powerful electric motor supports the GTE’s TSI petrol engine. The electric thrust acts like an additional booster, unfolding its very own dynamic, especially in sporty GTE mode.. For power transmission, the GTE is equipped with front-wheel drive and an automatic six-speed dual-clutch gearbox (DQ400E) developed especially for use in hybrid vehicles.

The GTE’s battery can be charged externally via a plug in the front grille. If the battery were completely empty, charging would be completed in about five hours when connected to the 230 volt grid via a standard charging cable, but the charging time falls to roughly three hours and 30 minutes with a wall box or a charging station.

So what else is different about this new Passat? Well, you might not notice at first glance but the front and rear bumpers, radiator grille and the Passat logo, now located centrally at the rear, have all been enhanced. In addition, new LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights and LED tail light clusters come as standard and there are three new body colours and four new styles of 17, 18 and 19-inch alloy wheels. Particulate filters are fitted on all engines, too.

Inside the spacious, big-booted and refined GTE there are new trim finishes and fabrics, redesigned door trims, a new trim colour, new instruments and the new multifunction steering wheel, fitted as standard.

Gone is the analogue clock, while the centre console has a large, open storage compartment with an optional interface for smartphones and USB-C connection and wireless app connection. The digital cockpit has been upgraded, the third generation VW entertainment system has been installed and the adaptive cruise control can not only adjust to speed limits but also recognise kerbs and grass verges.

But subtlety is key to all these improvements. The longest-running nameplate in the VW stable may now be available in thoroughly modern guise but remains one of the best uber cruisers money can buy. Thirty million motorists cannot be wrong.


Volkswagen Passat Estate GTE

Price: £40,470 (Passat range from £25,370 to £45,210)

Powertrain: Plug-in hybrid. Turbocharged 1.4-litre TSI four-cylinder petrol plus lithium-ion battery and electric motor producing combined 218PS.

Transmission: Six-speed DSG gearbox driving front wheels

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 7.6 seconds; top speed 138mph

Economy: 180.8mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 39g/km


Performance: ****

Economy: *****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: ****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ***