Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Volkswagen Passat

Years built: 2010 to 2015
Bodystyles: Four-door saloon, five-door estate, four-door coupe

What is it?

VW Passat 2The Passat is the sensible shoes saloon that brings with it a touch more class, and a hefty amount more cabin quality, than most of its rivals. While it is, at its most basic form, a fairly plain car, it does have about it a dash of style and is certainly more comfortable inside, and roomier, than many of the competition. Volkswagen is currently in the process of launching a new Arteon — a four-door coupe based on the current Passat, but that seems a little over-styled (and over-priced) when you see what kind of Passat you can get for reasonable money.

Which one should I buy?

VW Passat 3We’re talking specifically here about the ‘B7’ Passat, which was launched in 2010. Now, the B7 is effectively a re-skin and facelift of the old B6, which dates back to 2005, and the two cars are very closely mechanically linked, but the B7 was different enough to warrant a new model designation, and you can tell it apart from the older model by its wider, shallower grille and the square front and rear lights (B6 models had round lights).
It is worth upgrading to a B7 though, as not only was the cabin given a good going over (and had its already impressive quality increased again) but it came with some new high-tech options, including, on top-spec models, adaptive chassis control and one of the earliest autonomous emergency braking systems.
While it’s not quite as sophisticated as the current (and hugely impressive) Passat, the B7 is still a very good car, with exceptional comfort and refinement and lots of cabin space. The estate (or Variant, if you prefer) is roomier still with a massive 603-litre boot, which converts to 1,731-litres if you fold the back seats flat.
The most popular Passat model was the trusty 1.6-litre TDI diesel with 115hp, and that’s hardly surprising. It has just about enough power to keep the Passat rolling happily on main roads, and yet is exceptionally frugal. This author once managed to drive one from Galway to Glasgow and back on one tank of fuel, for instance. The larger 2.0-litre TDI (originally in 140hp and 170hp forms, later in 150hp and 180hp) is a good choice for those who cover mega-miles, while the 1.4 TSI turbo petrol is a good, and surprisingly economical, version for those who either live in town or just dislike diesel.
You should always go for as high a spec as you can with a Passat, or the cabin can feel quite bare. Comfortline is good, but Highline is better.
How much should I spend? Passat prices hold up very well, with even 2014 cars still advertised at above the €20k mark, but if you spend circa €15-16,000, that will get you a 2012 1.6 TDI Comfort-line, Bluemotion or high-miles Highline.
Here’s one we found:
2012 Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Highline, 96,000km, two owners, €16,00 from a main VW dealer.

What goes wrong?

VW Passat 4Cambelts need changing every 130,000km or eight years, while the clutch can develop an annoying judder. The electronic handbrake (standard across the range) can stick on, while if second gear is sticking or is hard to engage, then the gearbox oil needs changing and the car may need a software update.
Beyond that, Passats are very reliable, in fact one of VW’s best-built cars, which is really saying something. However, there are two other areas to keep an eye on. If the car has the DSG automatic dual-clutch gearbox, then you need to remember that that is a highly complex piece of equipment and needs careful, regular servicing. The other is that VW is still in the midst of its controversial diesel emissions issue, and recalling models to have their engines updated. Check to see if that has been done for the car you are purchasing.

Anything else?

VW Passat 5The Passat CC (later just CC) is a low-slung, slinky four-door coupe that’s actually only slightly less practical than the Passat saloon itself in real terms. There is a little less headroom in the back and a slightly smaller boot, but if you’re not buying for family reasons, then it’s a good choice and it’s slightly more engaging to drive than the standard car as a result of a lower, stiffened suspension setup.
And when you’ve found your perfect Passat don’t forget to get it history checked by