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Volkswagen Passat Saloon review

2011 - 2014 (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 54.5
” Thoroughly sensible Passat saloon is a thoroughly sensible used buy, too “

At a glance

Price new £20,245 - £27,755
Used prices £2,115 - £9,688
Road tax cost £20 - £320
Insurance group 16 - 26
Get an insurance quote with Mustard logo
Fuel economy Not tested to latest standards
Range 554 - 1047 miles
View full specs for a specific version

Available fuel types



Pros & cons

  • High quality interior
  • Good range of engines
  • Incredibly efficient BlueMotion models
  • Bland styling
  • Not as fun to drive as Mondeo
  • Low-powered engines need to be worked hard

Written by Richard Kilpatrick Published: 13 December 2022 Updated: 15 August 2023


Blink, and you might miss the 2011 Volkswagen Passat Mk7 saloon when buying a used car. Not because it’s unusually fast, or invisible, but because as a sensible four-door car it had a short production run before the impressive eighth-generation Volkswagen Passat replaced it. Why? It’s actually a substantial facelift of the Passat Mk6, launched in 2005, and based on a Golf-derived platform first introduced with the VW Touran in 2002. For loyal Passat drivers, this was the second time the big VW had swapped from sharing tech with the upmarket Audi 80/A4, and it’s very much ‘a big Golf’.

Not that this is a bad thing – it means a used VW Passat Mk6 or Mk7 has excellent spares availability, well-understood engines and gearboxes, and for the most part, proven reliability. But as it gets older, when browsing larger saloon cars for sale you may find the shopping for a newer Passat Mk8, bigger Skoda Superb, or even an upmarket Audi A4 offer better value, depending on your priorities.

To keep the Passat relevant as it aged and introduce a new style for VW, the Passat Mk7’s front end is dominated by prominent horizontal chrome fins, flanked by new, squarer headlights that feature LED signatures. The rear receives new tail lights with subtle chrome highlights. It’s 4mm longer, and every body panel apart from the roof is different. VW claimed that the B7’s suspension was also tweaked to sharpen the driving dynamics against rivals.

New or used, driving a Passat Mk7 projects an image of down-to-earth sensibility.

Volkswagen Passat Mk7 known faults and common problems

A popular car for users doing high mileages, Volkswagen Passats have millions – if not billions – of miles of real-world experience for VW’s service and specialists, and you are unlikely to find a problematic Passat that no-one can fix unless you choose something exotic. However, those high-mileage users expected long service intervals and often had no personal attachment to the car, so neglect is commonplace.

When looking at a VW service history there are two service schemes. If the car has been on variable, long-life intervals the correct oil is vital. We have first-hand experience of dealers charging for long-life and putting the cheap stuff in. Look for a shimmering, rich green oil on the dipstick if it doesn’t have services less than 12,000 miles / 12 months apart.

1. Passat Mk7 diesel engines – 2010 to 2015

Naturally the diesel is the one to buy if you want a cheap-to-run family car, but this is a VW diesel, and where they were once famous, they are now notorious for emissions cheating. As a used car buyer, it’s up to you if the morals of your tailpipe emissions matter – the truth is if you use any diesel for short journeys it’s going to pollute, and the fuel consumption of a warmed-up, well maintained Passat on a motorway journey is why company car drivers love them.

The EA189 is a very well known engine used in an immense range of vehicles, so few problems are catastrophic on it. Look for smoke, poor throttle response, hesitation and rough running under load, make sure the timing belt has been changed on time, and if the emissions cheat fix has been applied, check when and what mileage. Due to increased failures of EGR and related systems after the technical measure was applied, VW cover relevant components for up to 24 months after the modifications, up to 160,000 miles.

VW Passat Mk7 buying guide: diesel engine
VW Passat Mk7 buying guide: diesel engine

Very few Passat Mk7s will be ULEZ compliant, so look to a petrol model or a Mk8 if you live or work in a clean air zone. Look for BlueMotion if you want a chance of an early Euro 6, but the only way to be sure is to check the registration against TfL (London) or UK clean air zones (other cities) websites.

2. Passat Mk7 petrol engines – four cylinder

For the Mk7, the selection of petrol engines was reduced. You’ll find the 1.4 TSi at 120hp at the entry level, and the 2.0-litre TSI producing 210hp at the upper level if you want to stick with simplicity and low running costs. The 1.8 is a particularly nice balance of performance and economy, and like the 1.4-litre it uses the seven-speed DSG gearbox in automatic form.

Listen for timing chain rattle on all models, and check the condition of hoses and pipes after lifting the plastic cover off the engine. While the core of the engine is generally robust, the turbocharger, ignition, injection and cooling systems can all give trouble if neglected.

3. Passat V6 4Motion – UK buyers, denied

Not officially offered in the UK in B7 form, the Passat V6 can sometimes be found as a personal import. Early examples of the Passat CC were available to UK buyers wanting four doors and stealthy performance without R36 prices, but it too went four-cylinder only in 2012.

Where the Passat Mk6 had the R36 and a V6 4Motion version, the Mk7 made do with an uprated V6 where it was offered. The 3.6-litre VR6 produces 300hp and 350Nm (just a little less than the R36). It’s a stealthy fast car, but needs a lot of maintenance. Look for evidence of water pump replacement, new coils every 30-50,000 miles, and new coil packs. Timing chains do wear – frequent (more than the service interval) oil changes with good oil can help, but if there’s any untoward rattling, misfiring or generally feeling slower than you might expect, think hard before buying as it’s a serious undertaking.

VR6 engines can display issues with misfiring that could be fuel sensors, a faulty high pressure fuel pump (HPFP), or stretched/worn chains and lobes; don’t be conned into thinking poor running will be an easy fix when buying, and make sure you discount the easy/sensor related issues before paying for major repairs.

4. Manual gearboxes, petrol and diesel models

Volkswagen’s gearboxes are, like the engines, used across hundreds of models – so failure of a gearbox shouldn’t write off an otherwise good car. There’s very little here that’s unique to VW, too, so the usual checks will suffice. Dual-mass flywheels which squawk, rumble and growl when pulling away and when changing gear should be avoided, with the 2.0-litre diesel being the worst candidate.

Check that the gears engage positively with little free play at the lever, and feel for sticky or delayed clutch pedal operation. It’s a hydraulic clutch, so if the pedal stays on the floor or fails to disengage the clutch itself may still be okay. Some methods of looking for a slipping clutch can damage older DMFs; use brakes and high gears rather than aggressive engaging.

5. Automatic gearboxes: Volkswagen DSG

When driving an automatic Passat, feel for juddering in first gear and snatching or juddering shifts. B6 and B7 Passats use the VW dual-clutch DSG gearbox rather than the older, traditional automatic found in the fifth generation Passat. This is a six-speed wet clutch system, so oil condition is crucial and frequent changes essential; by the time this car was released the DSG was reliable if serviced properly. The later 1.4 and 1.8 seven-speed uses a dry clutch system, but still needs regular changes of the Mechatronic fluid.

There’s no easy way to tell wear when driving, but a specialist with a diagnostic computer can read wear values from the ECU. DSG gearboxes can last up to 150,000 miles without problems, but neglected examples fail much earlier.

Always get a three month warranty, minimum, with DSG. Early signs of wear or trouble can be masked with a ‘DSG reset’ which recalibrates the system, and worn components will show up as it compensates.

6. 4Motion – all-wheel drive Passats (Alltrack and V6 imports)

If you want a UK-spec Passat Mk7 with all-wheel drive you need to buy an Alltrack or an import. If you do find such a Passat Mk7 with 4Motion look for tyres changed in sets of four, and Haldex coupling fluid changes (rear differential) every 20-40,000 miles if you want it to last. VW revised their service schedule, initially treating these as ‘sealed for life’.

7. Passat Mk7 brakes and safety tech

Brakes are thoroughly conventional, but check the ABS light goes out. Volkswagen introduced autonomous emergency braking (City Safe) alongside the adaptive cruise control option, if you feel brave, check it works by approaching a parked car at less than 18mph, but if there are errors in the system it will display a warning message.

Many Passats have parking assist and blind-spot monitors. Find a test route with dual carriageway and a car park to make sure these features work, as they also test the electric power steering/lane keeping and parking sensors.

8. Passat Mk7 steering and suspension

Check the wheels and tyres, looking for budget or mismatched brands as well as uneven wear. BlueMotion models have low rolling resistance tyres as standard, and need a matching spec if you want them to perform as advertised. Feel for pulling or grabbing, and make sure the steering is light when parking, but loads up at speed. Some Passats have adaptive dampers; check the modes, you should feel a distinct difference between comfort and sport. Tyre pressure and aftermarket wheels of larger size can alter or spoil the ride quality.

Knocks and rattles are likely to be worn bushes. If audible, and sharp over ruts and bumps, with no appreciable effect on handling – that’s probably the droplinks; they’re cheap and quite easy to replace. If there’s uneven wear on the tyres, pulling or changing of attitude mid-bend, then the lower arms and steering links will need looking at. Overall the Passat Mk6 and Mk7 use a simpler suspension setup than their predecessor.

VW Passat Mk7 buying guide: sat nav display for factory infotainment
VW Passat Mk7 buying guide: sat nav display for factory infotainment

9. Body and trim – finding the perfect Passat

So far the VW Passat Mk7 has not revealed any baked-in weaknesses in the body or interior, so you’re looking for accident damage and repairs. Some components are very expensive, particularly headlights, so make sure they’re working (including levelling adjustment) and free of chips and cracks. You can look for recorded accident history with an hpi check, and it’s always worth looking at the MOT history online before buying a used car.

10. Passat Mk7 gadgets and technology

Like many cars of this age, the Passat Mk7 has a lot of gadgets, and they’re very much ‘of the era’. You can, however, upgrade a lot of it. Android head units will replace the original system if you want Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support. There are plenty of still-modern feeling features, as well, like a foot-wave operated power boot lid or adaptive cruise control. Spend time testing that everything works before paying the seller.

Passat Mk7 facelifts and updates

In 2013 a new 1.4-litre petrol engine was added to the range, and the Passat R-Line was announced. The former uses VW’s ‘twincharger’ technology, where a turbocharger is assisted at low speeds by a supercharger to get more power from a small petrol engine; it makes 158bhp, and can be paired with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox. R-Line trim is a sporty styling option, which adds a bodykit alongside lowered sports suspension and larger alloy wheels in addition to the S spec equipment.

Read on for our comprehensive Volkswagen Passat review to see how it compares with contemporary rivals.