PH Blog


Thursday 5th January 2012


Harris won over by diesel VW estate car shocker

VW lent me a Passat estate over Christmas. It got me thinking about the role of the everyday car.

I have vacillated terribly on this subject for years, veering from championing the one-car-fits-all mantra in the form of Imprezas, M3s and the like, to thinking it far more interesting having something nuts for the weekend and plodding about in an ordinary tackle when the traffic is bad and there's little to be gained having big performance available.

The Passat obviously fits into the latter territory. It's about as exciting as wholemeal bread and doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is: painless transport.

Harris in a Passat? You saw it here first
Harris in a Passat? You saw it here first
This one was a 2.0 TDi Bluemotion with the DSG gearbox. Have to say, I thought it was one of the most complete motor cars I've ever driven. Putting aside any emotional attributes, if I wrote down on a piece of paper what I wanted in an everyday family car, it would satisfy just about every requirement. The powertrain is a work of art. The motor is incredibly refined for a four-cylinder diesel, the transmission juggles the needs of response and fuel economy better than any human could manage and it doesn't appear to use any fuel.

On a stop-start 15-mile journey it did 42mpg. On a shortish motorway run, four up, it was in the mid-50s and climbing when we got back home. Oh, and it appears to have more rear legroom than a Mercedes E-Class.

I can't help myself trying to maximise fuel economy in cars like this. There has to be a hook to every motoring experience, normally getting the most intense flavour of what the particular vehicle you are driving can do best: just as you want to bruise your kidneys in a GT2 RS and see if a Defender will climb up that hill, so I always want to know just how miserly these new diesels can be. The answer is very.

It handles well enough (on winter tyres), the ride is too firm for UK roads, the interior is another demonstration of VW indulging in just enough design to stop occupants thinking they're in a municipal swimming pool changing room. The whole thing feels like it'll take decades of abuse.

But what you have to ask yourself about the Passat is this: how would you feel if this was the only car you could drive for a whole year? I think I'd need something else, just to keep me sane. Anything, a grotty hot-hatch - so long as you could rev the blighter and grab it by the scruff. Just to release some energy now and again.

How many of us grapple with this dilemma, running something efficient and bolstering it with an occasional toy - or remaining faithful to a single, juicy, high-performance everyday car?

I still can't decide what's best. Probably never will. If I landed on the former, the Passat 2.0 TDi would be my car of choice for the daily grind.



Author: Chris Harris