Every major component has been tweaked on the Passat, though. Most significantly, suspension components are lighter and refinement is said to be improved.
What's it like?
Our test Passat, a 138bhp diesel, was pretty representative of a UK fleet car. We're pretty familiar with Volkswagen's 2.0-litre turbodiesel, but there are new engine mounts and the promise of smoother and quieter performance.
That's true enough, too. The Passat idles quietly and its drivetrain engages and operates with slickness and efficiency. The shift is light and positive, the controls deftly and progressively weighted.
It also rides. Whatever changes have been worked to the suspension have left the Passat supple yet well controlled, and with a surprisingly good level of crash-free bump absorption, so you hear but don't feel most imperfections.
Whatever you think of the Phaeton luxury car, it's pretty clear to me that the lessons haven’t been wasted. The Passat feels like a mature, sophisticated car, with a high-quality feel to the interior.
Both saloon and estate go on sale this month, and both are more or less the same size as before. In estate form, as tested, that means a sizeable 603-litre boot with the rear seats in place. They can be unlatched by switches just inside the tailgate, then dropped by nudging them forward with your long luggage. Handy.
What the Passat isn't, though, is particularly engaging. Your perch is wide, flat and firmly comfortable, the environment ergonomically sound and exceptionally quiet. There's a clock within easy read. All admirable qualities in a bedroom, but the enthusiast will be left wanting more from a car. The chassis proves capable at stopping, going and turning, but there's no reward to be gained by doing any of them.
Should I buy one?
Volkswagen has the ability and resources to make a car entertaining if it chooses to, so it's clear that it doesn't expect or want those qualities of the Passat. For those whose interest in driving extends no further than it being a requirement of their job or family life, the Passat will prove close to class leading. If it were the equivalent of a fridge or a lawn mower, we'd have no hesitation in recommending one.
The enthusiast, though, will also want something else in the garage to be satisfied.
Volkswagen Passat Estate 2.0 TDI SE BlueMotion
Price: £22,875; Top speed: 132mph; 0-62mph: 10.0sec; Economy: 61.4mpg (combined); CO2: 120g/km; Kerb weight: 1571kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Installation: front, transverse, FWD; Power: 138bhp at 4200rpm; Torque: 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual