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Volkswagen Passat engines, drive and performance

2015 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 3 out of 53.0

Written by Keith Adams Published: 1 March 2020 Updated: 9 March 2023

  • Impressive 1.5-litre petrol
  • Strong 2.0-litre diesel
  • Plug-in hybrid no longer offered

Petrol engine

Petrol Passat buyers are offered a single choice these days – the 1.5-litre TSI unit that develops 150hp. It’s an excellent power unit offered in a wide variety of Volkswagen Group products from the Skoda Fabia up to the Volkswagen Arteon, and is well regarded for its fuel economy and performance.

That’s a relatively small engine, but it’s more than powerful enough to heave the Passat along at a fair lick if you’re looking for this. There is ample low-engine speed muscle and unless you’re five-up, full of luggage and driving up the side of an Alp, it won’t be a struggle at all. The good news is that it’s quiet and unobrusive, and at motorway speeds, it recedes into the background as a gentle hum.

Diesel engine

Those who regularly fill the car or are likely to be better served by the 150hp 2.0 TDI, which provides reasonable refinement and lots of punch even at low revs. This power unit is really well suited to the Passat, and although it lacks the smoothness of the petrol, once rolling it’s just as quiet, and delivers better fuel consumption in the process.

It manages to balance a high torque output and high fuel economy figures well enough to suit most buyer’s needs. This engine is perfectly fine for most people in regards to performance, and while the automatic gearbox isn’t as responsive as we’d like, especially at low-speeds, it still betters most Audi models fitted with an automatic box.

Hybrid engine

The plug-in hybrid Passat GTE went off sale early in 2023, which is a shame because it’s the one to have if you’re looking for a swift, tax-efficient alternative to the above. It 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.

Volkswagen Passat Estate review (2023)
Volkswagen Passat Estate review (2023)

What’s it like to drive?

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

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 steering and comfort-biased suspension set-up when cornering fast, it’s a refined and comfortable drive otherwise. Particularly impressive is the refinement level in the cabin.

One of the biggest contributors to the Passat’s level of comfort is down to its suspension setup. While it’s not the softest-riding estate on the market, it absorbs bumps well and avoids transmitting any uncomfortable thumps into the cabin. Specifying the Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive suspension means you’re given the choice of how comfortable you’d like the car.

In Comfort mode it’s deeply impressive, while Sport sharpens up the handling and keeps the body better in check at the detriment of ride quality – which can become fidgety.

Models with the standard suspension and smaller wheels, however, are impressively comfortable, so there’s no need to spend more on Dynamic Chassis Control with these in regard to maximising comfort. We’d avoid fitting the largest alloy wheels to the Passat Estate, though, as reducing the amount of rubber between you and the road makes the car’s ride less settled, especially over rough roads.