VW Passat proves class act

IAIN DOOLEY checks out Volkswagen's Passat, a premium quality compact executive saloon for the masses.Engines - Being a VW there is no shortage of choice here.

IAIN DOOLEY checks out Volkswagen's Passat, a premium quality compact executive saloon for the masses.

Engines - Being a VW there is no shortage of choice here. Both petrol and diesel fans are well catered for, with the latter engines especially good for anyone who racks up the miles or does the occasional towing. Frugal and gutsy, the diesels make a lot of sense. For a slightly quieter life the petrol alternatives are also good.

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Exterior - Smooth lines and a sophisticated road presence help perpetuate the belief that the Passat is a worthy member of the executive car club. Less flashy than a Mondeo but smart enough to stand should-to-shoulder with a BMW 3 Series, the Passat is a class act.

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Interior - Volkswagen has a habit of producing dark, sombre interiors and this Passat is no different. For some it might be too dark, but others will appreciate the cabin's durable nature. It's a great place to be on a journey and there's no shortage of space fore and aft. Quality-wise it's right up there with cars from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

Driving - With more of an 'edge' to its character than models of old, this Passat strikes a pleasing balance between luxury and driving pleasure. Equally at home on the motorway, a twisty B-road or crowded city street, the Passat is a great all-rounder. The diesel engines offer the best of both worlds - performance and economy - making the default choice for many first time owners.

Ownership - A durable and reliable car, the Passat shouldn't pose any problems. Solidly built and with a widespread dealer network for support, the aftersales service matches the car's elevated, executive-level position in the market. On a day-to-day basis, the Passat is roomy and refined, while its boot is easily capable of swallowing the family shopping. Opt for a diesel and you'll see genuine savings at the pump, too.

What to look for - A favourite in the company car fraternity, choice isn't an issue but securing a car with the right specification and a comprehensive service history should be your priority. Parking dents should be minimal, while kerbed wheels should have you looking elsewhere - plenty of choice, remember.

Soiled interiors won't be cheap to repair but don't be put off by high mileage cars if the history and condition checks out.

Model history - 2005, Volkswagen launches all-new mid-size Passat. Wide range of petrol and diesel engines offered, plus good choice of standard and optional equipment. Pitched to rival Ford's Mondeo plus upmarket German opposition (Audi, BMW). Spawned an estate variant plus CC - upmarket four-door fastback.

Reasons to buy - Solid, dependable, stylish, refined, affordable, diesel economy.

Reasons to beware - Unadventurous styling, sombre interior.

Pick of the range - Passat 2.0 SE TDI.

What to pay - 2005 05 �7,300; 2005 55 �7,575; 2006 06 �8,400; 2006 56 �8,800; 2007 07 �9,725; 2007 57 �10,250; 2008 08 �11,800; 2008 58 �12,500; 2009 09 �13,850. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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