Volkswagen's CC four-door coupe has evolved into a very sleek proposition indeed. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
Volkswagen's sleek CC is a four-door coupe that offers a sleeker, yet still very practical alternative to a medium range saloon like the Passat on which it's based. It's a design now styled with much more of its own identity, plus recent tweaks have made it more efficient, sharper to drive and better equipped. It's a high class car that doesn't need a ridiculously expensive bootlid badge to stand out. And a very desirable one indeed.
Uniqueness is a quality you usually have to pay royally for, especially when it comes to cars affordable enough for you and I to consider. Once upon a time, drivers seeking it in the Mondeo medium range market would pay a premium for a prestigious badge and feel themselves special with an Audi, a BMW or a Mercedes on the driveway. But in an age where so many now do just that, you begin to wonder these days just how special that would be. So what if uniqueness - specialness - in a car of this kind were to be not in the badge on your keyfob but in the design of the car itself? Something very different from anything else you could buy for the money. Something like this, the Volkswagen CC. It's now a model in its own right, Volkswagen's clear alternative to BMW 3 Series-style compact executive saloons. Hence the loss of the 'Passat' reference in this improved model's name so as not to put premium people off. The underpinnings of course remain solidly based on those of Volkswagen's mid-ranger - but then so are those of an Audi A4. It's the dressing that counts, which in this case is now even smarter than before and built around a whole raft of more efficient high technology. Let's check it out.
'CC' in this case stands for 'Comfort Coupe'. So, does it feel sporty and coupe-like at the wheel? You might not think so - unless you were jumping straight into this car from an ordinary Passat, in which case it'll probably feel very sporty and low-slung indeed. Which wouldn't be a total illusion for thanks to its sports suspension, this car does actually sit 15mm closer to the ground than Volkswagen's standard mid-ranger. Not a recipe, you might think, for the kind of magic carpet ride a 'Comfort Coupe' ought to provide. Actually though, the CC rides rather nicely, especially if you opt for the ACC Adaptive Chassis Control system that's standard on plusher GT models. The engines on offer are a willing bunch, entry level buyers choosing between a 1.8-litre TSI petrol with 170PS or the unit that takes the vast majority of sales, the familiar 2.0 TDI diesel with 140PS. In both cases, there's a pokier XDS differential-equipped option, for petrol people the 210PS 2.0 TSI engine from the Golf GTI: for diesel folk, the 2.0 TDI re-tuned to 170PS. So, potential powerful. Without being especially sporty. Passat underpinnings never were and nothing's changed in that respect here. The steering's precise but not especially communicative. The bodyroll kept well in check but not taut enough to encourage you to throw the car around. But why would you want to do that in a 'Comfort Coupe' anyway?
Design and Build
You'll buy this car because of how it looks: of course you will. There's no other reason to pay a £3,000 premium over the kind of mechanically identical Passat that's slightly shorter, slightly narrower and slightly higher. And this CC looks doesn't, on paper at least, seem to have changed very much from what was offered in the original version, with very few sheet metal tweaks, apart from a revised bonnet. So there are still the same frameless doors and still the same flowing side profile lines, the roof flowing towards the rear in a gentle coupe curve that extends from the A pillars to far beyond the C pillars. In the metal though, I'd have to say that things are a little different. It isn't just in the name: this car really does now have its own identity. And inside? Well, let's start on the back seat. The annoying two-person-only rear bench of the original Passat CC has long been ditched in favour of this more conventional three-person back seat. As usual with this class of car, there's plenty of space for two adults with impressive reserves of legroom. And behind them, an extendable 452-litre boot. Up front, the beautifully made cabin is as solidly built as you'd expect from a Volkswagen and there's an extra touch or two of class with features like an analogue clock in the centre of the dash.
Market and Model
Pricing for this car will see most variants sold in the £25,000 to £30,000 bracket. Whichever CC model you choose - 1.8 or 2.0 TSI petrol or 140 or 170PS 2.0 TDI diesel - you should find it well equipped. All variants come complete with bi-xenon headlamps, daytime running lights, sports suspension, a tyre pressure indicator, alloy wheels, auto headlamps and wipers, 2Zone electronic climate control that also cools the glovebox, sports seats with six-way electrical adjustment for the driver, satellite navigation, an eight-speaker CD stereo with a DAB digital radio, iPod connectivity and an AUX-in socket linked to a five-inch colour display screen, a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth compatibility for your mobile 'phone and a trip computer. Amongst other thing, GT models add front foglamps, parking sensors, cruise control, leather upholstery and the ACC Adaptive Chassis Control system. Safety-wise, all the main bases are of course covered, so as well as anti-whiplash head restraints and ISOFIX child seat fittings, there are twin front, side and curtain airbags and the usual electronic assistance for braking, traction and stability control to hopefully ensure that you'll never have to use them. There's also a driver alert system that monitors your steering and driving beaviour, then warns you if it thinks you need to stop for a restorative coffee. Oh and a neat 'brake disc wiper' system that in wet weather keeps your brake discs dry and optimally effective.
Cost of Ownership
Volkswagen used to charge a hefty premium for its eco-friendly 'Bluemotion' versions of mainstream models but at least that's becoming a rarer thing these days. With this CC, you get the 'Bluemotion Technology' package of tweaks as standard with both diesel variants. That means brake energy recuperation and a start/stop system to cut the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights. As a result, the 2.0 TDI 140 variant - the one that over 60% of buyers choose, manages 60.1mpg on the combined cycle and 125g/km of CO2, figures that are hit by about 10% if you order your car with the 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Given that over 90% of CC models ever sold in the UK have diesel engines, I suppose we should be grateful that Volkswagen continues to offer British buyers any petrol-engined alternatives at all in the current line-up. Actually, there are a couple of TSI units to choose between, a 170PS 1.8-litre variant that manages 39.8mpg on the combined cycle along with 165g/km of CO2. And the 2.0-litre model that returns 38.7mpg and 171g/km. What else? Insurance groupings vary between 24 and 29. And maintenance costs can be kept in check thanks to a choice of two different servicing regimes.
So, is this CC worth its premium over a standard Volkswagen Passat? If you can afford it, then I'm guessing you'll think so. If you can't, then you'll probably agree with one of my road test colleagues who, when the very first version of this car was originally launched, commented that never in the field of automotive manufacturing had so much been changed to so little effect for the benefit of so few. It's a valid point of view, but it's not mine. The idea of a practically-sized four-door coupe might sound like a contradiction in terms but it's been interpreted here in a form that's created one of the classiest models that Volkswagen makes. True, the changes that make up this improved model aren't especially great, but they're enough to give this CC a much more distinct, much more up-market identity than it ever had before. It's also, to my mind anyway, far more desirable than the entry-level versions of BMW 3 series-style compact executive saloons that you can't quite buy for this kind of money. Here then, is a car that's come of age. Style, it seems, is not about the badge on your bootlid. But if you're a potential CC buyer, then you probably already knew that anyway..