17 November 1995

NOT CHIC PERHAPS

– BUT DEPENDABLE

In this months Country Car Andrew Faulkner tries and fails to get under 50mpg from VWs frugal

Passat, while Tessa Gates drives Fords new flagship,

the Scorpio Estate. Andrew Pearce tests SsangYongs Musso 4×4 and gives tips on fault finding when towing electrics start to play up

SALAD with no dressing, strawberries without cream; one without the other adds up to something rather bland. Something like the Passat.

Quite why VWs flagship estate has developed this reputation for dullness is difficult to explain. Perhaps it is the clean, uninterrupted profile or the functional if somewhat spartan interior. Or even its popularity amongst middle-aged professionals with whom it ranks somewhere between the Peugeot 405 and Audi 80 for "uppish"-market family transport.

Image aside though, the Passat estate does everything, with few exceptions, rather well – particularly the 90hp CL TDI version tested here. Engine, gearbox, cabin comfort and equipment levels are all strong points while the short load area and a somewhat dated look are not.

An update was made last year, when the Passat got a new grille and, more importantly, the TDI engine from the Audi 80 under the bonnet. The grille has smartened up the nose but as for the rest of the cars outer look, nothing much has changed.

Dont be fooled by the pics; the alloy wheels and roof rails fitted on the test CL are not standard. Those cosmetics, although effective, will set you back a hefty £1145 and £225 respectively.

Standard spec inside the cabin is now generous – particularly for a German. Even in CL trim, the estate has twin airbags, electric windows front and rear, drivers seat height adjuster, central locking and an eight-speaker stereo.

The Sony stereo is worth a moan of its own. When other manufacturers are moving to steering wheel-mounted controls for greater safety, it does seem crazy to fit a stereo with buttons the size of rapeseed and no remote operation.

The only other gripe is also in the cabin. The luggage cover is both flimsy and difficult to use, while the covers guide rails intrude into load bay area. VW has a reputation for build quality and is capable of better.

Back to Passat pluses of which there are plenty. The TDI diesel, for example, is a proven peach.

Performance matches most of its rivals, with a 0-62mph time of just over 14secs. Maximum torque is 149lb ft which peaks at a lowly 1900rpm, giving the Passat good pulling power through the full rev band.

The verdict: A dependable performer that does the important things well, the Passat just lacks the panache, chic and all-round attractiveness of its smaller siblings, the Polo and Golf.


Model: VW Passat estate CL TDI.

Price: £16,098.

Engine: 1.9-litre intercooled turbodiesel.

0-62mph: 14.4secs.

Top speed: 107mph.

Test fuel consumption: 51mpg.

Insurance group: 13.

Despite its bland reputation, VWs Passat remains an impressive all-round performer. Strengths include a lively but frugal engine, and class-leading space for rear passengers.