In full BlueMotion guise, Volkswagen's Passat can deliver a very efficient proposition indeed. The experts at Car & Driving check it out.
Ten Second Review
In fully fledged BlueMotion form, Volkswagen's Passat gets a more frugal emphasis, using a package of proven technologies to achieve reduced emissions and improved economy. Unlike most eco cars though, performance isn't compromised despite emissions being low enough to avoid car tax and economy being as high as 76mpg.
The eighth generation Volkswagen Passat is an inherently efficient car, one of the cleanest and most frugal options you could choose in the Mondeo segment. The standard 1.6-litre TDI diesel version manages over 70mpg on the combined cycle and 106g/km of CO2, figures you might think were very good. But they weren't good enough for Volkswagen. Hence the introduction of the cleaner, more frugal BlueMotion variant we're going to look at here. Here, the 1.6-litre TDI engine is basically the same, but the car has been tweaked with a package of more specific BlueMotion technologies: things like super-optimised low rolling resistance tyres and a revised bumper for better aerodynamics. It's all enough to improve running costs to 76.3mpg on the combined cycle and push the CO2 figure well below the important 100g/km level. There isn't even any downside if you opt for the estate bodystyle rather than the saloon. Sounds promising doesn't it?
You wouldn't expect the BlueMotion tweaks to significantly affect the driving experience on offer here - and they don't. The lowered sports suspension necessary to improve this car's aerodynamics slightly firms up the ride over poorer surfaces. And the low rolling-resistance tyres don't offer quite as much grip as the standard items but, to be frank, you'd be doing well to notice the differences. Thanks to those sleeker aerodynamics, this BlueMotion variant actually betters the standard 1.6TDI Passat model's top speed by 1mph, achieving 130mph. The 0-62mph figure remains the same though (at 10.8s), despite longer gearing and a smaller powerband. Volkswagen really has created an eco-minded business proposition that doesn't require much compromise to achieve its targets. As with standard models in the range, this one concentrates on giving its occupants a smooth, refined travelling experience with a standard of ride that's difficult to better in the class. Long distances melt away in Jaguar or Lexus-like style, helped by the exemplary refinement and the superbly supportive seats. Think in terms of a model that's smooth, refined and low-stress in this segment and you'd have to start here first. It's a formula Volkswagen has perfected over many years with this car and they'd be mad to divert from it.
Design and Build
You'd have to know this eighth generation Passat model very well indeed to spot the visual changes that create this BlueMotion variant - the lowered sports suspension, unique bumpers and airflow-optimised 17" alloy wheels. Otherwise, this version is as elegant and imposing as other variants in the range, whether you opt for the saloon or estate bodystyle. BlueMotion trim doesn't affect the cabin, which is based upon entry-level 'S' specification but still manages to look quite up-market. As usual, the quality of the materials and the interesting use of air vents as a major design cue really make this Volkswagen feel special. The seats, as in most Volkswagens, initially feel unyielding but are supremely comfortable over longer distances. Take a seat in the rear and the surprise lies in the fact that despite this MK8 model's reductions in exterior length and height, it actually feels more spacious than its predecessor. It is too, with more room for legs and heads thanks to a lengthier wheelbase that's enabled Volkswagen's designers to package this car more effectively. The boot measures an enormous 586-litres (up from 565) while the estate gets even more, with 650-litres available under the tonneau (up from 603).
Market and Model
There's an £880 premium to own a fully-fledged 'BlueMotion' 1.6-litre TDI diesel Passat, rather than a standard 1.6-litre TDI model merely using lesser 'BlueMotion Technology'. That means an asking price of just over £23,000 for the BlueMotion variant in saloon guise, with a premium of just over £1,500 if you want the state version. That compares reasonably to more frugal diesel version of rivals like Ford's Mondeo, Vauxhall's Insignia and the Mazda 6. Based on the entry-level 'S' trim level, all BlueMotion Passat models feature a Post-Collision Braking System, mis-fuelling prevention and a Driver Alert system that prompts you to stop for a restorative coffee if the electronics think you're getting drowsy. There's also Volkswagen's excellent 6.5-inch 'Composition Media' infotainment system.BlueMotion stuff runs to an engine Stop/Start set-up and the usual battery regeneration system. Plus the BlueMotion package includes 17-inch 'Soho' alloy wheels with super-optimised low rolling resistance tyres, sports suspension (lowered by 15mm), unique front and rear bumpers, special badging and chrome grille highlights. More familiar standard kit runs to daytime running lights, LED tail lamps and an alarm. While inside, there's keyless start, brushed chrome dash inserts, air conditioning, a trip computer and a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel from which you can control a high quality eight-speaker DAB stereo system. There's also Bluetooth 'phone compatibility and an SD card slot.
Cost of Ownership
Let's start with the headlines: pay the extra to get your 1.6-litre TDI diesel Passat in fully-fledged BlueMotion form rather than in standard guise and your combined cycle fuel economy will improve from 70.6mpg to 76.3. And your CO2 return will improved from 106g/km to 95g/km. There's no reduction with the estate bodystyle. The figures will inevitably fall if as a driver, you don't do your part and keep an eye on features like the gearshift indicator provided on the dash. If your car is fitted with the optional 'Driver profile selection' system, you'll want to remember to keep that in its most efficient 'Eco' mode on a regular basis. Here, the engine management, air conditioning and anciliary systems will all be controlled for maximum efficiency. There's also an 'Eco' function on the central infotainment screen to aid more frugal driving. And Passat owners who want to go further and have specified the 'Discover Navigation Pro' infotainment system will also want to download the clever 'Think Blue.Trainer' app which proactively coaches you with eco driving tips.
If you need supermini-style running costs, yet want these in a medium range model with the class of an Audi A4 and the price of a Ford Mondeo, then this Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion model looks to be a strong offering. It looks classy, is very refined and has quite performance for everyday needs. It's true that there are more exciting choices you could make in this segment. But if for you, head rules heart when it comes to these kinds of decisions, then you'll like ths contender. It's very Volkswagen. And perfectly Passat.