Over the past six generations, Volkswagen has clearly learnt what it thinks the Passat should be: refined, hushed, capable of delivering a driving experience noteworthy mostly for its lack of noteworthiness. If that’s the intention, the latest Passat delivers on it. As a motorway cruiser, a company car to tackle 20,000 or so motorway miles a year, it is unrivalled in this class - especially with the 137bhp 2.0-litre diesel's excellent frugality.
That said, whether you go for the 2.0-litre or 1.6-litre diesel you’ll be getting a car with exceptional economy and, therefore, keep company car tax bills low. The 1.4TSI will do the same for petrol engine fans, even if performance isn’t exactly scintillating.
The estate is similarly hard to fault: refined, economical and with plenty of usable space, even if there are cars with larger load bays. Build quality is strong, even if there are some low-rent plastics lower down in the cabin. And the equipment roster, while being beaten by Skoda, is good enough. There are even some clever gizmos, like the automatic boot-opening function in the saloon where you only have to wave your foot under the back of the car to pop the boot lid.
However, Volkswagen is capable of making cars that involve and engage their driver, so it’s obviously a conscious decision that the Passat doesn’t. Fair enough: the Passat is fit for its purpose, and we like it very much. But we don’t feel the car is quite ready to assume the role of white good just yet. And given that large family cars are often a driver’s only wheels, it’s a shame to reduce the experience to one merely of travelling rather than one of driving.