Could this be the perfectly practical and economical load-lugger?
We know that the Passat Estate is a big, comfy, well-equipped car from Volkswagen. And we know the deal under the bonnet is hardly new to the range – the now-familiar 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine and an electric motor. The former makes 154bhp, the latter 113bhp. But in the realities of life, how does this all stack up and, more pertinently, exactly how economical is it?
You’d think that a long journey, which is meat and drink to the Passat Estate, would be the most economical way to travel. But in this hybrid the reverse seems to be the norm. It’s surprisingly difficult to work out exactly what your costs are, given that the electric motor and the petrol engine are sometimes cutting in, sometimes out, and it’s not always under your control.
The petrol engine seems to cut in when we wouldn’t expect it to, such as with a light load, low demand in the cabin, and with a full battery. It’s confusing to be honest. But there’s no doubt that the longer you go the worse the overall figures look.
On a 36-mile commute the car seems very frugal, but then it’s using up much of the battery power. That battery doesn’t take long to charge, taking 2.5 hours plugged in at the office, or 4.5 hours at home simply through a three-pin plug – slightly more complicated if you live on the second floor of an apartment block.
But on a longer journey it does get depleted and then you’re hauling around quite a large vehicle with a not particularly large petrol engine. The in-car trip computer reckons we’re doing 60.9mpg overall, which is pretty good, but we’re going to see if we can improve that by switching modes more often and generally just tuning in more to how it works at the optimum.
There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a big car, and that does have its upsides even if it doesn’t in terms of running costs. The cabin is vast, with a boot you could probably fit a nuclear power station in if you didn’t mind having the grubby protesters along for the ride.
They’d probably make a mess of the trim since we’ve gone for the full Advance package, which adds a generous amount of kit including Discover Navigation Pro for the eight-inch touchscreen, fully configurable 12.3-inch TFT instrument display and lots of safety tech like adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. We’ve added more, because we could, like Dynamic Chassis Control, Driver’s Assistance Pack and even St Tropez leather trim – it smells of burning pine.
You don’t need all that kit of course but it does make that huge cabin even more desirable. And it bumps up the costs. As you see from the spec panel, the base price of £39,770 has jumped to £42,360, both costs taking into account the government grant. But there’s a sting in the tail. You’ll note our car is over the £40,000 limit at which the new tax rules will clobber you. Bear that in mind.
Overall we really like the car, love the cabin and all who sail in it, and love the fact that we’re doing our bit to keep costs and fossil fuel emissions down, at least at the end point of use. But there are still some questions to be answered, not least being is this really economical over the long distance, and how much does it really cost compared to either petrol or diesel? We’ll let you know when we do.
VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT GTE ADVANCE DSG ESTATE
Price £39,770 (after £2,500 gov’t grant) Price as tested £42,360 (after grant) Options Driver’s Assistance Pack Plus (including emergency assist intervention, dynamic light assist, lane assist, predictive pedestrian protection and traffic jam assist) £1225, Dynamic Chassis Control £725, metallic paint £595, rubber boot mat £45 Economy 60.9mpg Faults None Expenses None