Plush Passat

The new Passat has shorter overhangs and a more spacious interior.
The new Passat has shorter overhangs and a more spacious interior.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The new Passat has shorter overhangs and a more spacious interior.
The new Passat has shorter overhangs and a more spacious interior.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Volkswagen's latest premium sedan offers more comfort and refinement

It is mooncake season. Once again, we are bombarded by those with exotic flavours, the latest being pineapple, peach and yuzu.

It goes to show that people are pretty adventurous when it comes to confectionery.

The story is quite different where cars are concerned.

Despite the array of body types - from convertibles to hatches to oh-so-fashionable crossovers - about 60 per cent of cars here are still sedans.

Although the percentage has shrunk from about 90 per cent 20 years ago, car buyers who prefer to stick with this plain vanilla shape still form the vast majority.

  • SPECS/VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 1.8TSI HIGHLINE

  • Price: $164,300 with COE

    Engine: 1,798cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

    Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch with quick shift

    Power: 180bhp at 5,100rpm

    Torque: 250Nm at 1,250-5,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 7.9 seconds

    Top speed: 232kmh

    Fuel consumption: 5.9 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Volkswagen Centre Singapore

And why not? Sedans are by and large more comfortable and regal than other shapes of cars. And they are still the only cars that draw a hard, distinct line between passengers and cargo.

When it comes to mid-size sedans, most Singaporeans think of the Toyota Camry. And perhaps the Nissan Teana, Mazda 6 and Honda Accord as well.

In recent years, the Volkswagen Passat has also become a contender. The last model had a 1.4-litre 122bhp variant, which was the only sedan of its size in Category A COE.

The new Passat is a 1.8-litre turbo that is, on paper, beefier, quicker and yet less thirsty than the previous 1.4. Of course, you do not need recent events to tell you that that may be stretching reality a wee bit.

The test car does not feel like it has 250Nm of torque at its disposal - not from 1,250rpm, in any case. Its throttle response is calibrated more for efficiency and comfort which, to VW's credit, the car delivers.

While the factory-stated fuel economy of 5.9 litres/100km is unattainable, the car is still pretty impressive, averaging 8.5 litres during a three-day test.

As for comfort, the Passat is up there with the best in its segment. While its ride is not pillow-soft like the Camry's, it still holds up to the vagaries of tarmac with aplomb.

Its chassis is steely and stout, allowing the car to withstand roll and yaw like most other European sedans. Pity it does not have the effortlessness to capitalise on this.

What it delivers, though, is utter refinement. The Passat moves like a charm, with noise, vibration and harshness levels rivalling those of a proper limousine.

The new car is up to 85kg lighter than its predecessor. It is 2mm shorter at 4,767mm, but 12mm wider at 1,832mm. Its wheelbase has also grown by 79mm to 2,791mm.

This makes for a car with short overhangs and a spacious interior. Inside, you feel like you are in a car one size bigger. Rear occupants have decent leg-, hip- and headroom. The boot, as usual, is cavernous.

The car is decently furnished. It is not luxurious, but clearly premium, with Nappa upholstery on seats and armrests. Buyers will be swayed.

The only thing they will not like is perhaps the price. At $164,300, it is way costlier than the Camry. And it looks like VW will not have a 1.4-litre option this time as the version puts out 148bhp (busting the Cat A power ceiling).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Plush Passat'. Print Edition | Subscribe