Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI Review: Middle of the pack

Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI Review: Middle of the pack

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
15 May 2011
What we like:
pros
Citroen: Exemplary ride
pros
Gallic charm
pros
most affordable to tax
pros
superbly equipped Ford: Inspiring handling dynamics
pros
strong performance
pros
reasonable price tag Volkswagen: Classy looks and feel inside and out
pros
efficient drivetrain
pros
good ride/handling compromise
pros
refinement
What we dislike:
cons
Citroen: Cat A price advantage negated by expensive options on Exclusive model
cons
lacks dynamism
cons
performance not as strong as its rivals
cons
not as roomy as the Passat inside Ford: Uninspiring engine note
cons
slightly lurchy gearbox at low speeds
cons
fiddly to use stereo Volkswagen: Expensive
cons
too clinical in its execution
cons
uninspiring looks


Ford's cabins are known not to be as well put together and as classy as Volkswagen's and the third generation Mondeo ‘s is no different but with the facelift, the Blue Oval has put in more effort to spice up the interior of its big saloon model a tad to bring it closer to Volkswagen levels of quality, fit and finishing.

The Mondeo's upgraded interior features a revised centre console, door trims, a new central overhead console with ambient lighting and LED courtesy lights, a new engine start button next to the instruments labeled ‘Power', new instruments with an integrated widescreen LCD display for the HMJ (Human Machine Interface) system and so on. The centre console houses a factory fitted Sony head unit as well as the controls for the dual-zone climate system. The steering wheel, adjustable for both reach and rake is a tad fussy, with various buttons for the stereo and cruise control on the spokes. New details like the HMI screen within the instrument cluster and silver accents on the dash do lift the Mondeo's overall cabin ambience a tad and makes it closer in perceived luxury and quality to the Passat's classy and superbly built interior.

The C5's cabin is at least on par with the Belgian built Mondeo's when it comes to perceived luxury and overall build quality, which speaks a lot indeed for a French car. The exterior styling's Gallic charms continue on the inside. The instrument cluster is a nice design feature - the dials feature needles that point from the outside circumference of them instead of from the inside. Integrated within the speedometer is a colour LCD screen that displays an electronic speedo, trip computer readings as well as settings for the Hydractive 3+ suspension. The ergonomics look a tad haphazard at first sight, especially the myriad of buttons located on the fixed hub steering wheel - you'll take some time to remember which buttons on the wheel are for the all-important horn.

The C5's driving position is comfortable and the seats are plush and offer a myriad of electrical adjustments to offer the perfect driving position for all body shapes. The Exclusive model even comes with easy access for the driver's ease of ingress and egress, a feature which both the Mondeo and Passat lack.

The Passat's well-executed interior is the epitome of class and elegance in this company. The overall design of the cabin is basically similar to that of its predecessor's with only the new instrument cluster, the new analogue clock taking centre stage on the dashboard, the repositioned hazard lights switch and the redesigned console between the front seats with the new Audi style engine start/stop button and new gear lever the most noticeable features to mark out the new car's cabin from the old. Volkswagen's RNS510 radio navigation system is a standard fit on the Passat - it not only looks better than the Mondeo's factory fitted Sony headunit but also is also more intuitive to operate thanks to its touch screen function.

At the rear, the Mondeo offers the most generous room of the trio here thanks to its larger exterior dimension while the C5 offers the lest knee room here with the Passat somewhere in between the two. The Volkswagen though, offers the most voluminous boot as the Mondeo's is marred by obvious wheel arch intrusions.

Besides the cosmetic changes and improvement in refinement on the new Passat, it also features several new technological innovations including the standard fit Fatigue Detection. Whilst it is a common feature in higher end models like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, this is the first time such a system is used in a Volkswagen model as well as the first in the Passat class. The system detects waning driver concentration and warns the driver with an acoustic signal while a visual message appears in the instrument cluster recommending the driver take a break from driving. So how does Fatigue Detection sense if the driver's concentration is waning? The answer; by analyzing the driver's characteristic steering behaviour each trip and if the monitored parameters indicate a deviation from the usual steering behaviour, the system will output its warnings.

On the equipment front, the Passat comes standard with keyless operation, sat nav, cruise control and so on. In Titanium trim, the Mondeo only lacks the more expensive Passat's sat nav and the abovementioned Fatigue Detection. It fights back with LED daytime running lights and HID headlamps on the standard fit luxuries front. The C5 in Exclusive trim though, is the most well equipped car here. It comes standard with Hydractive 3+ suspension, electrical adjustments for the front seats, HID headlamps, easy access, cruise control, Bluetooth handsfree, LED daytime running lights, seven airbags, 18-inch wheels, dual zone climate control, auto headlamps and so on. The Exclusive's Hydractive 3+ suspension, HID headlamps and other kit comes at a price though - it is a significant $22k more than the less well-equipped Dynamique model, which makes the Exclusive's pricing pretty close indeed to less well equipped Cat B competitors like the Passat and Mondeo here, thus negating its advantage in the lower priced COE Cat A.

The Passat is roughly $15k more expensive than its two rivals here. Its more sophisticated feel, classier image and overall refinement certainly makes its premium price justifiable in this company but the Passat is just too clinical in its execution, thus making it lacking in charisma and charm, something that the very French and smooth riding C5 has in spades. The C5 though, lacks the Passat's complete all-rounded package.

At the end of the day though, the car we'd pick from this bunch is the unassuming and under rated Mondeo - we'd choose it over the classy Passat for its ability to entertain its driver, strong performance and last but not least, for the fact that it is the most affordable car in this company.

Credits: Story and photos by Raymond L

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