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The Passat is the largest Volkswagen available. It was redesigned three years ago, specifically for the North American market, and is now built in Tennessee.
The Passat comes with a choice of three engines in three trim levels and is among the largest cars in the mid-size class in terms of interior space.
While people space was increased as a result of that redesign, prices were reduced to put the Passat in a more competitive position.
The base model starts at $24,000 with a five-cylinder engine and five-speed manual gearbox.
The mid-level Comfortline comes in at $26,000 and the Highline just under $31,000.
Part of the move to a North American-exclusive Passat was an attempt to match the competitors in terms of features.
The Passat still trails in this area with a rear-view camera optional on most models and no blind-spot warning system or park sensors.
But it has upped the ante, compared to the old Passat.
Standard equipment includes heated front seats, 16-in alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, wireless connectivity, power heated mirrors, power windows and locks, tilt/telescope steering wheel and cruise control.
Our top-trim tester had larger alloy wheels, satellite radio, power driver’s seat, power sunroof, faux leather trim, remote keyless access with a start/stop button, 400-watt Fender audio system and touch-screen navigation. The latter is slow to react and can be frustrating at times.
The clean and contemporary look is carried over inside where there are fewer hard surfaces and loads of space.
Fit and finish are first rate. The instruments are clear and highly legible day and night and most switches and controls right where you look for them instinctively.
The front seats are wide and adjust in a number of directions. A six footer can sit behind a six-footer and have room to cross their legs!
If you frequently carry rear seat passengers, the Passat should have a place on your shopping list for this purpose alone. The trunk is spacious as well.
The low belt line, upright structure and amount of glass provide a light and airy ambiance and excellent visibility in all directions. The engine lineup includes the aging 2.5-liter five-cylinder, 2.0-liter turbo diesel and 3.6-liter V6. The inline five is on the way out, no longer competitive in either performance or fuel economy. It will be replaced in the coming months with a new 1.8-liter turbo-charged four.
The test vehicle was a 2014 model in the top trim level with the most desirable engine in the lineup in my opinion — the TDI (Turbocharged Direct Injection) diesel.
The Passat may be mired mid-pack in terms of sales, but it leads them all when it comes to fuel efficiency when equipped with the TDI engine.
Transport Canada gives it uses 6.9 liters every 100 km in the city and a measly 4.8 on the highway.
As usual, my numbers didn’t come close to those as my driving tends to be more directed at miles per hour than miles per gallon.
But I did average slightly under 7 liters/100km during a week of mostly city driving in very cold conditions, a number that was considerably better than anything else I have driven in the same conditions and one that would be acceptable in a hybrid.
As usual the beauty of the diesel is the abundance of low-end torque making acceleration from rest or when passing a breeze.
The TDI is not a high-performance engine. It is actually slower to 100 km/hr than even the old five-cylinder. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The diesel impresses more in everyday driving with instant throttle response and a strong shove in the back during those brief moments when you want to cross an intersection, merge with traffic or are pulling out to pass.
And of course, there is the matter of doing that while using far less fuel. If your bladder holds out, you can go 1,000 km on a tank.
Another area where the new NA-only Passat has been improved shows on the road. There is more give to the suspension providing a more supply ride. But this was done without sacrificing much of the European feel and responsiveness — taut, but not too stiff.
The long wheelbase contributes to the excellent ride quality and the electric power steering have been tuned for god feedback and heft. The mid-size family car segment is one of the most hotly contested.
AdBlue helps Passat TDI meet tougher emissions standards
The Passat TDI is the latest generation clean diesel. It uses AdBlue to meet the new, tougher emission standards.
This liquid additive, a combination of de-ionized water and urea, is injected into the exhaust system ahead of the catalytic converter to reduce the amount of NOx (nitrogen oxides) produced by diesel combustion.
When it goes through the converter it is heated to a vapour creating a chemical reaction resulting in the production of carbon dioxide and ammonia.
The ammonia reacts with the NOx changing it to water and nitrogen.
The AdBlue fluid has to be topped up every 15,000 km or so.
Normally, this is done by the dealer during regular service intervals. But the owner can do it easily.
2014 VW Passat TDI Highline
- Price: $35,150 base, $37,580 as tested including freight and PDI
- Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel, 140-horsepower, 236 lb.ft. of torque, six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel-drive
- Transport Canada says 6.9 liters/100 km city, 4.8 highway
- Dimensions: length, 4,869 mm; width, 1,835 mm; wheelbase, 2,803 mm; height, 1,487 mm
- Weight: 1,542 kg
- Competition: Buick Regal, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry