VW plays it smart with CC

Volkswagen has facelifted its coupe-like CC but the most obvious difference is the name changes, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

Once a maker of simple, honest cars, recent years have seen Volkswagen step up its game to be a major player in almost every sector of the market. The evolutionary process has been a steady one, with the result a constantly expanding line-up of increasingly competent and desirable cars.

A case in point is the Passat CC – a more streamlined and upmarket alternative to the regular Passat saloon. Viewed by some as a more affordable and less flash Mercedes CLS, the Passat CC's coupe-like profile, refined cabin ambience and mature driving manners earned it a place in the hearts of many seeking to escape the predictability of a conventional three-box saloon.

Facelift time has seen a few things added to the car's skill set and one noticeable subtraction – the Passat name. In keeping with the original car's American naming convention, it's now just Volkswagen CC.

Although partly to keep things simple, this is also to help distance the car from the Passat. It's hoped buyers will view the car in its own light, and with the subtle exterior design changes make a stronger connection to VW's flagship Phaeton saloon than the mass-market Passat.

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It's certainly a clever mind trick and, crucially, one that works once you clap eyes on the CC's new grille and headlights – its resemblance to the Phaeton is no coincidence. At the back there are new tail lights and a reshaped bumper but, in reality, little else has changed outside.

VW's new focus is on ramping up refinement, which has resulted in improved levels of soundproofing. The aim was to make the already quiet Passat CC even better. The good news is it has succeeded. Despite the CC's posh exterior its predecessor was a firm favourite with company-car drivers, and this car's motorway cruising behaviour has been further enhanced thanks to the extra soundproofing.

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Maintaining the 'premium value' theme more kit is now available, with the car's standard specification including Bluetooth, DAB, xenon headlights and sat-nav at entry level. Leather seats, adaptive dampers, cruise control and parking sensors can be found on the higher-spec GT.

A long list of options includes an adaptive high beam headlight mode, heated and cooled front seats, blind-spot warning, a reversing camera, a 'city safe' urban auto braking function and the ability to open the car's boot by sweeping your foot under the rear bumper – great for when your hands are full.

Make no mistake, VW knows what it's doing with the CC.

This generous level of standard and optional kit plays right into the hands of buyers seeking a plush-looking executive car with one eye on their modest budget. None of the more expensive traditional German choices can compete at this level.

And it's inside the CC where its high-value character really comes to the fore. All the materials you can touch and see are a cut above anything else in its (almost) sub-�30,000 price point. Then again this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone already familiar with modern-day VW interiors.

Driving the CC is just as satisfying as sitting in it and admiring the fixtures and fittings. Save for the standard-fit addition of VW's trick electronically-controlled XDS differential on cars with more than 170 horsepower – that means the high-output 2.0-litre diesel – little has changed since this model dropped the Passat name.

As before, the CC delivers a refined and mature ride – even on the GT's large 18in alloy wheels – yet also proves engaging enough to raise a smile on twisty backroads. VW isn't promoting it as an all-out performance saloon, but the CC is a willing companion boasting more agility than its size suggests.

Part of this performance is down to engine choice. There are 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol units offering 160 and 210 horsepower respectively, but it's the 2.0-litre diesels in 140 and 170 horsepower guise that will prove the most popular. CO2 is a low 125g/km for the 140 and 139g/km for the 170 horsepower motor respectively due in part to engine stop-start brake energy-regeneration technology.

Factor in a smooth-shifting DSG auto gearbox for a small CO2 penalty and you've got yourself an extremely polished and financially-rewarding ownership experience

VW's been smart enough to change only the few details that needed polishing, proving the CC was a fundamentally-sound car in the first place. And long may it remain so.

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