Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Impressive 1.5-litre petrol
  • Strong 2.0-litre diesels
  • GTE: 30+ miles electric range

Volkswagen Passat Estate performance comes courtesy of a range of petrol and diesel engines plus a petrol plug-in hybrid, which can run on electric power alone for up to 33 miles.

Petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options

The range kicks off with a 120hp 1.6-litre diesel, followed by a 150hp 1.5-litre petrol and 150hp 2.0-litre diesel. Next in line are 190hp 2.0-litre petrol and diesel options.

Topping the range are 2.0-litre 240hp diesel and 2.0-litre 272hp petrol versions. Alongside this is the GTE plug-in hybrid that features a 156hp 1.4-litre petrol engine and a 115hp electric motor, which together produce 218hp.

The 2.0-litre TDI 190 is expected to be the most popular, but we find the 150 version manages to balance a high torque output and high fuel economy figures well enough to suit most buyer’s needs. This engine will be perfectly fine for most people in regards to performance, and while the automatic gearbox isn’t as responsive as the TDI 190 at low-speeds, it still betters most Audi models fitted with an automatic box.

VW Passat Estate: impressive 1.5-litre petrol

While small in size, the 1.5-litre petrol offers enough low-engine speed muscle to be a surprisingly fitting choice for the Passat Estate, unless you regularly fill the car with people and heavy luggage or use the car to tow, at which point it may struggle.

Those who regularly fill the car are likely to be better served by the 150hp or 190hp diesels, which in previous forms have provided good refinement and lots of punch even at low revs.

As for the range topping 272hp petrol and 240hp diesel, these come solely with seven-speed DSG automatic gearboxes and standard-fit all-wheel drive, which both bump up the price. While you can expect very strong acceleration, the extra power seems unnecessary in a car that prioritises comfort over roadholding.

That makes them a niche choice for only those who need all-wheel drive traction or simply must have the fastest version, whatever the cost.

GTE makes for a fun hybrid to drive

Unlike some hybrid cars, which can suffer from a relaxed engine tune to maximise fuel economy, the 1.4-litre petrol unit in the GTE remains responsive enough when driven in Hybrid mode around town and stop-start traffic.

In full-electric mode, the instant acceleration from the motors makes this large estate quite easy to thread through traffic, while the pedals are responsive to inputs.

Switch to the Passat’s sportier GTE mode and the sharpened-up response that best combines the electric motor and engine’s performance makes for a fun-to-drive estate that’s eager to accelerate again and again.

There are paddles on the steering wheel to override the automatic gearbox, but we found that we hardly used them during our time of testing. Perhaps it’s the relaxed driving style you become accustomed to when piloting a hybrid vehicle after a certain amount of time, but the gearbox is otherwise slow to downshift and you may use the paddles to the speed up the process. It’s also worth noting that under full acceleration, the gearbox will only change down by a single gear, so you may use the paddles to access an additional one for extra power.

The only major gripe we find is that reverse gear takes a while to engage, so can feel a little clumsy when it comes to parking and other low-speed manoeuvres.

Handling

  • Soft comfort-oriented setup
  • Safe and confidence-inspiring
  • Not engaging to drive

Volkswagen Passat Estate handling is very much a game of two halves. On the one hand, we’ve driven 4x4s that are more exciting around corners. On the other, the Passat Estate provides such great comfort levels that the absence of a sharp driving experience is hardly relevant.

What you need to know is that the Passat Estate feels safe and assured. It’s composed, and while it won’t win any performance car awards for its numb (yet accurate and well-judged) steering and wallowy body control when cornering fast, it’s a refined and comfortable drive otherwise.

Furthermore, it’s a step forward from the previous generation Passat Estate. Crucially, the car is 75kg lighter, so it is more agile than before. The chassis and steering have been improved too.

When tested with the Dynamic Chassis Control system, which is a form of adaptive suspension standard on the 240hp diesel version and optional on all others, Sport mode does tend to provide far more level and measured cornering characteristics.

VW Passat Estate DCC drive modes 2019

In Comfort or Normal modes the car can roll around a bit, but it’s not going to make your passengers feel nauseous. And the pay-off for that, of course, is far better ride quality over our woeful roads.

GTE reveals a slightly less sensible side

Press the GTE button and this drive mode will add weight to the steering to feel more involving. It's quite pleasant to use in this setting as it strikes a well-judged balance without being over-the-top - something that BMWs can suffer from without actually adding to the experience. This mode also makes use of the regenerative braking to slow down the vehicle sooner when you lift off the throttle pedal, which can be otherwise activated in normal driving conditions by nudging the gearlever downwards from the D position.

The brake pedal itself takes a while to get used to, though, as you sense some initial bite as you apply the pedal, but becomes somewhat deceiving as it doesn’t progressively build up as you apply more pressure. This sometimes means you can end up wishing you’d started braking sooner as you head towards a junction at a higher-than normal speed.

Four-wheel drive option available on top-spec models

If ultimate traction is a consideration – for instance if you need to tow a horsebox over wet fields – then a four-wheel drive model is a wise choice. While unobtrusive when driving normally, this system affords the Passat a huge amount of sticking power when grip is limited.

You might also want to investigate the incredibly clever Trailer Assist system, which when coupled with a factory fitted towbar will take care of the steering of your trailer into a space when reverse parking. You simply operate the brakes and throttle. It takes a bit of learning, but it’s brilliant once you get the hang of it.

More than this, the Passat Estate can pull up to 2,200kg, making it a capable tow car. That should be more than enough for a typical single horsebox or even a reasonably hefty caravan.