Driven - November 2015

Volkswagen South Africa’s new launched Passat, is it a game-changer?

Not just a great personality: Volkswagen South Africa’s new Passat.

Most people have experienced what it’s like to be set up with a potential boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. When this happens, there is usually a build up to the first “date” and this build up often involves a great deal of selling. Your friend or friends that are facilitating all this tell you about all the good things and they omit the bad. At this point, it’s a known fact that if the phrase “he/she has a great personality” is the biggest selling point, chances are the person you’re being set up with is not good looking. We’re not supposed to be shallow in life and focus purely on beauty, but it’s always easier to get to know somebody who is easy on the eyes. The person does not need to look like a model, but it’s nice to see that he/she tries to do the best with what they’ve got.

This has been part of the problem for Volkswagen South Africa when it comes to the Passat over the years. The car has always been the one in its segment with “the great personality” and as a result in South Africa, it’s always battled to get a date to the matric ball. As mentioned before we shouldn’t be shallow when looking for relationships but when it comes to cars, we have every right to be. A car needs to have a want factor, something that makes you say “that’s hot” and the Passat has lacked that over the years. Not to say it’s been an ugly car, but it can be likened to the introverted girl or guy who doesn’t put much effort in presenting themselves to others in an appealing way. This has been the opposite with its competitors, the “big three” who have always made an effort to be dolled up and present themselves as the “cool kids”, making them the popular ones in school or in this case, the roads.

The new Passat has been launched by Volkswagen South Africa recently and it has undergone an extreme makeover. The nerdy glasses have been replaced with contact lenses, the old polo neck and sweatpants have been done away with and replaced with a new wardrobe. The results? A car that makes you say “that’s hot”. This is especially the case when the new Passat is kitted with the R-Line Package, this package acts as the little black dress that makes everyone look. The “think new” slogan that’s marketed with the new Passat shows that Volkswagen has thought deeply about the importance of creating a “want one” factor for the car, something the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Audi have accomplished over the years with their cars.

So we’ve established that the car looks good, but besides that, what’s new in the B8 Passat? Everything. The car is built on the MQB platform, which makes it lighter through the use of more lightweight materials such as metals found in the engine and suspension. The total weight difference between the new and old model is 85 kg’s. Despite the car’s new physique, it’s longer on the inside yet shorter on the outside as well as lower than the car it replaces. As a result the car offers great interior space for its five occupants. The extra space comes with a great view as the cabin is a great place to sit in physically and aesthetically, with modern lines and good quality materials creating a premium feel.

To add to the interior experience, the new Passat comes with a host of new features which modernise the car even further. One of the most notable being the optional Active Info Display which is a fully digital instrument cluster that offers the driver various modes to view such as  navigation, entertainment and economy. The cluster adapts to whatever mode it’s set in and is automated with the centre 6.5 inch colour infotainment system which comes standard with Bluetooth. The option of Head Up Display is also available in the Passat, which enhances the technological prowess of the car too.

Since the new Volkswagen Passat has undergone such drastic changes, does it mean that the car has lost its great personality? Not at all. The new Passat retains a comfortable ride quality but adds some nifty driving aids such as Automatic Multi Collision Braking System (which applies the brakes on the car after an accident has occurred to prevent a secondary collision), Adaptive Cruise Control and Driver Alert System. Driver Profile Selection is standard on all Passat’s, allowing you to choose between economy, sport, normal and individual mode to suit your driving style.

The engines in the Passat are very refined and quiet, with a 1.4 TSI (110 kW), 1.8 TSI (132 kW) and the current flagship 2.0 TSI (162 kW) being the choices to choose from at the moment. A 2.0 TDI option will be available mid 2016. The current offering is well matched to the car, with all the engines providing enough power to get the car moving smoothly and comfortably. All models except the 1.4 TSI are fitted with the DSG gearbox as standard, with the 2.0 TSI being given the faster 6- Speed DSG found in the Golf GTI. In the case of the 2.0 TSI, the Golf GTI DNA has been imprinted in the car, giving it a sporty edge that the other engines cannot match.

The 2.0 TSI also comes as standard with lovely the R-Line package, but the R-Line kit is available from the 1.4 TSI up-words. The new Passat’s handling characteristics are impressive, combining suppleness with sportiness very well. At speed the vehicle is quiet, giving you the illusion that you’re doing much slower speeds than you really are. Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) which adjusts vehicle damping is standard in the top of the range 2.0 TSI which also comes standard with the XDS limited slip differential to improve handling dynamics. The 2.0 TSI is a sure rival for the likes of the BMW 330i, the Mercedes C300 and the recently launched Lexus IS 200t. Whereas the other models are sure to create some competition for the big three’s lower end models.

Overall the new Passat is a wonderful vehicle in its segment. It has already claimed the title of Eurpean Car of The Year 2015 which speaks for the car immensely. This comes as no surprise as the car offers a great deal of features and quality for the segment it operates in. The new Passat also happens to be priced competitively compared to its rivals. Being that as it is, the deciding factor is how the market receives this new Passat in South Africa. Has it managed to get out of the “old man” stigma it has carried for a long time now? We certainly think so. Now it’s up to Volkswagen South Africa to market the car as something hot and not the fact that it only has a great personality. If they can succeed in changing people’s perception of the Passat, maybe people can finally see that blind dates aren’t always a bad thing.

 

Prices:

1.4 TSI Comfortline 110kW Manual                                                                                R378 800

1.4 TSI Comfortline 110kW DSG                                                                                     R398 800

1.8 TSI Highline 132kW DSG                                                                                           R444 200

2.0 TSI R-Line 162kW DSG                                                                                              R476 800