This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Volkswagen Passat Estate review.

Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Basic petrol offering is a 100 bhp 1.6 litre unit - adequate, but lacks the punch to get this big middleweight on its toes when sparring with nimbler 1.6 rivals. The Golf donated the 1.8 20V engine, which suits the Passat well. This popular choice puts out 125 bhp - 25 per cent more up on the 1.6 - but is only a little thirstier (it gives 32.8 mpg on the Combined cycle).

The secret of its success is having five valves per cylinder instead of the normal two or four. The 1.8T 20V (150 bhp) is the pick of the Passat units. With 25 bhp more than the non-turbo 1.8, it's lively and fun to drive, yet more economical - the Combined consumption figure is.34.9 mpg. Other performance choices are the 2.3 VR5 (150 bhp) and four-wheel-drive 2.8 V6 Synchro/4MOTION (193 bhp).

Though relished by enthusiasts, these never sold all that well in the UK. Three 1.9 TDI diesel units generate 90, 110 and 115 bhp respectively. The newer TDI PD115 (Pumpe Düse) from late 1999 is impressive: powerful at low revs, with a Combined consumption figure of 53.3 mpg. The 2.5 V6 TDI is ultra-refined, quick (0-60 in 9.5 seconds) and still gives 42 mpg, but it's rare in the UK (fleet managers were largely unwilling to shell out £25,000 on a VW).

Five-speed manual, four-speed auto or five-speed Tiptronic sequential shift transmissions are available.

The heavier estates offer slightly less crisp responses, except the sporty VR5 and V6 models, which are fine driving machines. It's also well suited to the motorway, thanks to responsive, torquey engines, a smooth ride and a natural driving position.