New Passat closer to

premium rivals

VW Passat GTE front static
VW Passat GTE full front
VW Passat front action
VW Passat GTE rear action
VW Passat GTE side action
VW Passat GTE dashboard
VW Passat estate side

HAVING built 30 million of them so far, Volkswagen must be doing something right with the Passat.

In fact, with an unbroken span of 46 years in production, it's the longest-running model in the current VW range, beating even the Golf.

But times change, and the Passat is changing with them.

The latest version of the car, now on sale, takes a step forward in terms of quality, design and technology and moves it closer, as an overall package, to higher-priced rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

The new design, while retaining the unmistakeable Passat silhouette, is sharper and has more presence than the outgoing car, especially at the front where LED running lights below the grille give it a fresher, more sporting look.

The clean lines extend to the interior, which looks classy and modern. A new, larger touchscreen can be specified which is just over 12 inches wide, and provides one of the clearest and easiest-to-use displays on the market. It's well worth considering spending the extra money - it's an impressive piece of kit.

Seats - available with some fancy trim options - are almost endlessly adjustable and if you can't make yourself comfortable in a new Passat you probably just need to read the manual more carefully.

As with pretty much any new car launch at present and for the forseeable future, technology is at the forefront of the model's smart new re-design - smart in more ways than one.

There's a long list of onboard tech to keep you entertained and informed, but there are also developments in safety technology.

All models get Travel Assist as standard, a suite of safety features including a system that allows the car to be driven at up to 130 mph - where legal - in a partially automated mode.

It also features active, adaptive cruise control and more intelligent sensor systems. These can not only warn you that you're veering out of lane, but can also detect hazards like kerbs and grass verges.

New phone app integration systems are clever, too, allowing music and some sat nav apps to transfer seamlessly from phone to car when you climb aboard.

Volkswagen expect one in four of all new Passats sold to be the GTE plug-in hybrid model, compared with one in 10 of the outgoing model.

The new GTE is actually cheaper than the previous version (by about £2,500, making the saloon £36,390 and the estate £37,920) and also has an extended range in electric-only mode (43 miles, up from 31 miles).

The increase in range may seem small, but it will cover the daily commute for most people - one of the key factors in a decision to go electric.

Besides the hybrid, Volkswagen say they have "simplified" the Passat range to eight UK variants - which gives you some idea how long the list was previously.

Petrol engines range in power from 150-272ps, while the diesel engines range from 120-240ps. Top petrol and diesel engines have DSG transmission and 4MOTION all-wheel drive as standard.

The UK top-seller is predicted to be the Passat Estate SEL 2.0-litre TDI 150ps, with six-speed manual gearbox (£32,270).

When everything else on the road seems to be an SUV, it's good to see the more traditional estate, with its useful load-lugging space, is still popular.

Prices for the Passat start at £25,370 for the 1.6-litre TDI 120ps seven-speed DSG saloon and go up to £45,210 for the R Line Edition estate with 2.0TDI 240ps engine and seven-speed DSG 4Motion transmission.

But with its competitive pricing and extended range, the GTE hybrid is going to be an attractive option for many.

Particularly in the last few years, the Passat has carved its own niche in the executive car market - ahead of the Mondeo and Insignia but not on a par with BMW and Audi.

This new version might still not match the more expensive cars in all areas, but it's a lot of car for the money.

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