Volkswagen has been gradually replacing the pumpe düse engines with new common-rail units. Ian Robertson tests the new powerplant in the Passat
The Volkswagen Group has high ambitions, and during this downturn, it is a real possibility that VeeDub will overtake the mighty Toyota Corporation in selling more vehicles than any other maker in the world. That’s no mean feat, especially while remaining profitable, but considering the range of brands they have at their disposal and the wide ranging platform sharing, it is a distinct possibility. Traditional market segments are becoming blurred, and manufacturers are having to look at more innovative ways of selling their wares – especially when you take into account that traditional market sectors like the large saloon market are shrinking year-on-year.
When the Passat was first revealed back in 2005, VW had backed the pumpe düse horse, but the growing need to meet new emissions regulations has meant that the German maker has now unveiled a brand new 2.0-litre TDI engine featuring the latest common-rail technology. Initially available in 138bhp and 168bhp power outputs, a lower-powered 108bhp version has recently been revealed, to replace the entry-level 1.9 TDI models. As soon as you turn the key, the low noise and improved refinement is instantly recognisable. I was lucky to be able to compare both the common rail and PD engines back to back and the difference is night and day. Gone is the excessively harsh and noisy diesel rattle for a smoother, more hushed engine note. The new unit feels willing and gutsy, and works well with the positive six-speed manual gearbox. Grip levels are good and handling is above average, with the driving experience only let down by steering that lacks the agility and overall feel of rivals like the Ford Mondeo. The Passat makes light work of motorways and cruises with confidence. CO2 emissions are superior compared to its main rivals, and fuel economy a couple of miles per gallon better.
There’s plenty of room inside, but the saloon body can’t quite match the levels of versatility offered by its hatchback rivals, nor outright boot space. Both Citroën’s C5 and Ford’s Mondeo offer more room for luggage than the Passat, but even so, there’s still more than enough boot space for a family of four. The dashboard layout is simple but well thought out, with the metal trim giving the whole ambiance a real lift. The quality of materials used is first rate as you would expect, however, the key press start is fiddly to use, often needing a second push to get the engine going. The electric parking brake works well, with the button logically placed. At the same time as the new common rail units were introduced, Volkswagen rejiggled its model line-up, replacing the SE versions with a new model called Highline. This translated into higher equipment levels, with 17-inch alloy wheels, electric and heated leather seats, cruise control and four electric windows all coming as standard. This added to the Passat’s competitive edge, offering better equipment levels than its direct rivals.
RIVALS: FORD MONDEO ZETEC 2.0 TDCi, HONDA ACCORD 2.2 i-DTEC ES, VAUXHALL INSIGNIA SE 2.0 CDTi 16v
- Engine: 1968cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 138bhp at 4,200rpm
- Max Torque: 236lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,800kg
- Combined Consumption: 50.4mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 146g/km (F)
- 0-62mph: 9.8secs
- Max speed: 130mph
- Insurance group: 10
Overall quality and feel of solidity, CO2 emissions and fuel economy better than rivals, good value for money
Push start key can be fiddly, steering lacks precision of rivals, bland looks