This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Volkswagen Passat Saloon (15-21) review.

Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

A wide range of engines have been available in the Passat since it was launched so it can be easy to get confused by the line-up. Initially the entry-level model was a 1.6 FSI engine with 115bhp which provided only adequate performance along with a 2.0-litre FSI that provided a more potent 150bhp. Shortly after it was launched a 2.0T FSI engine (shared with the 2005 Golf GTI) with 200bhp was added to the range along with the thirsty but smooth 3.2-litre V6 that boasts 250bhp (the latter only available with the 4MOTION four-wheel drive system).

At the end of 2007 the 1.6-litre FSI was replaced with a 1.4-litre TSI engine. The smaller engine uses a turbocharger to provide more power (122bhp) but returns better economy and lower emissions. It’s a peppy engine but shortly after a 1.8-litre TSI engine was also launched and it’s this 160bhp unit which is the pick of the petrol bunch. Free-revving, smooth and eager it’s an impressively enjoyable engine to exploit and offers strong acceleration with a 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds, while returning a respectable 37mpg.

Of course it’s the diesels that are more common in the Passat, especially among company car drivers. There’s a 1.9-litre TDI with 105bhp and this engine is also used in the Bluemotion model, which thanks to weight saving measures, longer gearing and aerodynamic changes, emits less CO2 and is more economical than the standard version. The 1.9 TDI offers decent in-gear pace, but it is noisy and feels coarse when pushed hard.

The 2.0-litre TDI is a little smoother and comes in two outputs of 140bhp or 170bhp with both versions offering punchy in-gear pace and very swift progress. The power delivery can be a little sudden however and around town there can be an annoying lag between gears if you find yourself too low down the rev range. In early 2008 the 2.0 TDI was replaced by a much more refined common-rail engine (that’s also used in the Audi A4) that offers 140bhp or 170bhp – it’s still badged as a 2.0 TDI but you’ll easily know the difference as it is far smoother and quieter.

This is a superb engine and one of the best diesels around plus it addresses many of the issues of the previous TDI with a more predictable power delivery, less vibration and lower noise levels. In late 2008 the Bluemotion 2 model was introduced which features a Stop/Start system linked to the newer 2.0 TDI 110bhp common rail diesel engine. This replaces the 1.9 TDI and thanks to aerodynamic changes, a lower ride height and engine tweaks can return 58mpg and emit 128g/km of CO2.

The 1.6 FSI, 1.9 TDI and Bluemotion models come with a five-speed gearbox but all other cars get a six-speed – however both are slick and positive. Automatic options include a six-speed Tiptronic for FSI models, a six-speed DSG on TDIs or a seven-speed version on the 1.4 TSI.

Out on the road the Passat shows excellent road manners with composed cornering and plenty of grip. The steering is nicely weighted but does lack feel so although driving the Volkswagen is a comfortable experience it’s not particularly involving and the car lacks the agility and precision of models such as the Ford Mondeo. However body roll is kept well in check and all the controls such as the clutch and gearbox work with real precision, reinforcing the Passat’s upmarket feel.

Its natural home is the motorway and here it excels with a compliant ride and low noise levels making long journeys comfortable. Sport models comes with lower suspension which mean that potholes and rough roads are more noticeable in the cabin, but the reward is more focus in corners.