SOMETIMES it's nice to get back to basics and away from the SUV-mania that's currently all the rage - the VW Passat Estate offers that opportunity while delivering a gentle reminder that practicality needn't impact upon performance.
I'm not saying there is anything basic about the larger-than-life Passat Estate, especially in GT guise, but it makes a very pleasant change to drive something that's not high-sided.
Priced at £33,085 (£40,170 with options), the Passat Estate has plenty of road presence thanks to its streamlined styling, daytime running lights, tinted rear windows, dynamic rear lights, chrome decorative trim, roof rails and 18-inch alloys.
The interior is clutter-free in its layout, but there's a wealth of technology on hand with the likes of full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a Discover Navigation system with eight-inch colour touchscreen, DAB digital radio, eight-speaker sound system, plus internet access for weather updates and the latest news reports.
The Active Info Display allows you to personalise the details you see in front of the steering wheel with the option of traditional dials and readouts, or navigation directions and phone contacts just a few of the possibilities.
The upholstery is a combination of Alcantara and leather and the car has an upmarket, quality feel to it with brushed aluminium decorative inserts in the dashboard and doors, plus piano back trim on the centre console.
There are lots of soft-touch surfaces and the ambient lighting is another neat feature. An additional extra was the ergoComfort front seats that introduced 14-way power adjustment with memory and massage setting.
Clearly anyone choosing to drive a car measuring more than 4.7 metres in length has practicality high on the agenda and the Passat Estate delivers on all counts.
The boot has a capacity ranging from 650 to 1,780 litres - that is large enough to carry a mountain bike without removing the wheels.
Storage options throughout the cabin are also thorough with deep door bins front and back, a decent-sized glovebox, central cubby box, cup holders and some handy trays.
Powering this giant of a car was a 2.0-litre 190ps diesel engine mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
It could complete the 0-62mph dash in a very respectable 7.5 seconds, maxed out at 146mph and could deliver combined fuel economy of 48.7mpg (WLTP) with carbon emissions of 120g/km.
When it comes to performance, the Passat Estate strikes all the right chords. The acceleration through the automatic transmission is smooth and responsive with steering wheel-mounted paddles when you fancy taking over.
Driving modes called Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual alter the way in which the car responds, but whatever the setting, the ride and handling is excellent.
It's a car with handling abilities that belie its dimensions with rapid responses out on the fast moving country lanes with lots of twisting and turning into bends. The road holding is excellent and there is no sign of any body sway into tight corners.
It eats up the motorway miles with ease making it an excellent choice for fleet managers, and it also proved quite agile when manoeuvring through busy city centres, although you will need an extra long parking space.
The Passat Estate is also very quiet with barely any engine, wind or road surface sounds filtering through into the cabin. In addition, the effective suspension system does a fine job of smoothing out any bumpy road surfaces.
The driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility and there is space in the back for three adults to travel in comfort. Light floods through into the cabin via the panoramic sunroof making for a bright and welcoming cabin environment for all occupants.
And the car boasts all the latest safety specifications expected from a VW these days. Features include anti-lock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability control, automatic post collision braking, driver alert, pre-crash prevention and a full suite of airbags.
An optional Driver's Assistance Pack Plus costing Â£1,255 added the likes of high beam assist, lane assist, predictive pedestrian protection, blind spot warning and traffic sign recognition.
It's also worth noting the car is ideal for towing a caravan or trailer and for Â£920 a swivelling towbar with electric release can be added. There is also the option of Trailer Assist including Park Assist for Â£490 to help reverse a trailer into its allocated bay.