Review: Volkswagen Passat (2011 – 2015)

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Very comfortable and refined. Good ride quality on broken surfaces. Wide range of engines including excellent TSI petrols, BlueMotion CO2 figure now 109g/km.

A thorough facelift rather than an all new car.

Volkswagen Passat (2011 – 2015): At A Glance

Volkswagen calls this the seventh generation (B7) Passat, continuing the line of mid-size saloons and estates that was first launched in 1973. In reality even Volkswagen engineers will agree this is more of a generation six-point-five and most people would regard it as a thorough facelift.

As you can see from the copy-and-paste looks, the styling is similar to the previous car that first went on sale in 2005. However, this time round it's sharpened up and taken on some of the chrome cues of the Phaeton. That's no accident, as Volkswagen is keen to present the Passat as a much more upmarket car than ever before to differentiate it more from the Jetta and to bridge the gap to the range-topping Phaeton.

Where you really notice the changes is in the detail. CO2 has been significantly reduced for both petrols and diesels and there's now stop-and-start technology on every diesel. Take a look at the equipment list and you'll notice that it's much healthier than before, with iPod connectivity, alloy wheels and a leather multi-function steering wheel on every car.

Plus there's a whole range of ‘bolt-on' extras available, including air conditioned massaging seats, a safety system that helps to prevent low-speed collisions and a boot that opens when you waggle your foot underneath the car. The Passat is also safer than ever before, with the option of a driver fatigue monitor - the first time such a device has been available on this class of car. It analyses the driver's steering, throttle and brake behaviour and recommends that you take a break if it notices changes.

On the road, it's largely the same old Passat: comfortable, assured and highly capable when it comes to mega-mile motorway trips. That should come as no surprise: the chassis engineers say that they've done little more than tweak and fettle with the settings. Company car buyers are among the key beneficiaries of the changes. Despite similar pricing to the old car, there's substantially more equipment on even base-model cars, while that lower CO2 figures make for lower BIK bills. In a nutshell, it's very good, just not very different.

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What does a Volkswagen Passat (2011 – 2015) cost?

List Price from £25,620
Buy new from £19,024
Contract hire from £211.01 per month

Volkswagen Passat (2011 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4765–4774 mm
Width 1820 mm
Height 1470–1517 mm
Wheelbase 2709–2712 mm

Full specifications

Behind the wheel it's largely business as usual and, like the exterior, there are very few surprises. Although the overall look of the interior is the same as before, it does feel as though it's been treated to a full upgrade and that's reflected in the materials used along with a better set of switches and buttons. Plus you'll notice new dials, chrome trim and a fresh analogue clock.

The driving position is familiar, though lumbar and side support in the seats has been improved. Forward visibility is good, though the thick rear pillars at the rear restrict the view when reversing. That's okay as one of the new systems on the Passat is a self-parking function that will park the car - either parallel or into a space - for you. It makes all the steering inputs, you just have to press the brake and throttle. It will even help you get out of a space when someone has parked too close.

Space is good for all passengers with decent leg and head room both in the front and back. It's noticeably quieter than the old model on the move thanks to improved sound insulation including thicker glass with an acoustic film sandwiched between the two layers.

Boot space continues to be one of the Passat's key features with 565 litres on offer, which is more than enough for the needs of most families. There's also a neat feature that opens the boot on models with keyless entry. Simply wave your foot under the back of the car and the boot lid will pop open - there's no need to take the key out of your pocket or touch the car at all. It's ideal if you're carrying heavy bags of shopping.

Specification at launch (January 2011):

S has alloy wheels, front and rear electric windows, multifunction steering wheel, radio/MP3 compatible CD player with eight speakers with USB and aux-in, electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors, climate control, aircon, driver and front passengers seat height adjustment, automatic boot opening, stability control, start/stop with brake energy recuperation, curtain system, drivers and front passengers airbag, front seat side impact airbags, halogen headlights and running lights and heat insulating green tinted glass.

SE adds 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth telephone preparation, DAB digital radio receiver, chrome front bumper strips, side and rear bump strips, chrome side window surrounds, electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors including automatic dimming function, carpet mats front and rear, driver's seat with electric six-way adjustment, front comfort seats, front passenger's seat with height and lumbar adjustment, front seats with lumbar adjustment, cruise control including fatigue detection, flat tyre indicator, rain sensor, automatic coming/leaving home lighting function, automatic dimming interior rear-view mirror.

Sport gets touch-screen navigation/radio system, dual zone electronic climate control with automatic air recirculation, front sports seats, electronic sports suspension lowered by approx 15mm, front fog lights and heat insulating tinted glass in the rear side and back windows.

Child seats that fit a Volkswagen Passat (2011 – 2015)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Volkswagen Passat (2011 – 2015) like to drive?

The Passat's biggest changes become most noticeable on the move. Not in the way it drives, but how comfortable it is. Volkswagen says that they want the Passat to feel like a car in the class above: essentially like a 5 Series. In terms of on-road comfort and refinement, it's not far off. DCC adaptive damping is now an option, buyers that choose it are able to switch between Comfort, Normal or Sport modes. The system adapts how the car responds to acceleration, braking and steering inputs and adjusts the damping accordingly. However, many buyers will stick with the standard suspension set-up, which is also very comfortable.

It's fuss-free and good to drive too, with precise gearchanges, a well-controlled body and responsive steering - essentially the same as the last car. But it's primarily designed to be comfortable on the move, which means that the Ford Mondeo continues to offer crisper handling and a more rewarding drive.

Safety features have been ramped-up, with the inclusion of a 'City Emergency Braking' system, similar to that offered by Volvo on the S60. At low speeds, the car will automatically apply the brakes and bring the car to a stop if it senses that you will hit an obstacle in the road - like a pedestrian.

Also making its debut on the Passat is a driver fatigue detection system, which is usually only found on far more expensive cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS. It's fitted on SE-spec cars upwards and works by analysing the driver's steering at the start of each journey. Once on the move it takes steering angle and use of pedals into consideration too. If it senses that that the driver's behaviour has changed significantly, a dashboard warning recommends that the driver takes a break.

As ever there's plenty of engine choice, all of which benefit from CO2 reductions, with the petrols seeing significant cuts. Volkswagen's popular 1.4-litre TSI turbo kicks-off the petrol line-up. Thanks to the turbocharging technology, it's the small engine with the big power output, producing 122PS. The same direct injection technology is applied top the other two petrols, a 1.8-litre with 160PS and the range-topping 210PS 2.0-litre.

The Passat is a favourite with fleets and company car buyers, which is why there's always a huge choice of diesels on the used market. The base-level 1.6 TDI has 105PS and 184lb-ft of torque. It's the most economical engine in the range, emitting just 109g/km of CO2 and returning a claimed 68.8mpg. Most buyers go for the 2.0-litre TDI that mixes performance with economy, which is available with either 140PS or 170PS.

All engines have the option of a six-speed manual or twin-clutch DSG gearboxes. The DSG gearboxes have six speeds for the smaller engines and seven for the the higher torque models. All diesels get a stop-start technology for the first time and therefore get 'BlueMotion Technology'. This isn't to be confused with the stand-alone BlueMotion model, in this case a 1.6 TDI , which is the cleanest model in the range.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.4 TSI BlueMotion Technology 46–48 mpg 8.5–10.3 s 138–144 g/km
1.4 TSI BlueMotion Technology DSG 46–46 mpg 8.5–8.7 s 142–144 g/km
1.4 TSI BlueMotion Technology Estate 46 mpg 10.6 s 142 g/km
1.4 TSI DSG BlueMotion Technology 47 mpg 10.3 s 138 g/km
1.4 TSI DSG BlueMotion Technology Estate 46 mpg 10.6 s 140 g/km
1.6 TDI BlueMotion 69 mpg 12.2 s 109 g/km
1.6 TDI BlueMotion Estate 66 mpg 12.5 s 113 g/km
1.6 TDI BlueMotion Technology 64–66 mpg 12.2–12.5 s 114–116 g/km
1.6 TDI BlueMotion Technology Estate 64 mpg 12.5 s 116 g/km
1.8 TSI 41 mpg 8.5–8.7 s 160 g/km
1.8 TSI DSG 40–40 mpg 8.5–8.7 s 162–165 g/km
1.8 TSI DSG Estate 40 mpg 8.7 s 165 g/km
1.8 TSI Estate 41 mpg 8.7 s 160 g/km
2.0 TDI 140 DSG 47 mpg 9.8 s 158 g/km
2.0 TDI 140 DSG Estate 46 mpg 10.1 s 159 g/km
2.0 TDI 170 BlueMotion Technology 61 mpg 8.6 s 120 g/km
2.0 TDI 170 BlueMotion Technology DSG 54 mpg 8.6 s 136 g/km
2.0 TDI 170 BlueMotion Technology Estate 60 mpg 8.8 s 123 g/km
2.0 TDI 170 DSG BlueMotion Technology Estate 54 mpg 8.8 s 136 g/km
2.0 TDI 177 BlueMotion Technology 46–61 mpg 8.4–8.6 s 120–123 g/km
2.0 TDI 177 BlueMotion Technology DSG 46–54 mpg 8.4–8.6 s 136 g/km
2.0 TDI BlueMotion Technology 61 mpg 9.8–10.0 s 119–120 g/km
2.0 TDI BlueMotion Technology DSG 54 mpg 9.8–10.0 s 135 g/km
2.0 TDI BlueMotion Technology DSG Estate 54 mpg 10.0 s 135 g/km
2.0 TDI BlueMotion Technology Estate 61 mpg 10.0 s 120 g/km
2.0 TDI DSG BlueMotion Technology 54 mpg 9.8 s 135 g/km
2.0 TDI DSG BlueMotion Technology Estate 54 mpg 10.0 s 135 g/km
2.0 TSI 39 mpg 7.6 s 169 g/km
2.0 TSI DSG 37 mpg 7.6 s 180 g/km
2.0 TSI DSG Estate 36 mpg 7.7 s 183 g/km
2.0 TSI Estate 39 mpg 7.7 s 169 g/km

Real MPG average for a Volkswagen Passat (2011 – 2015)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

31–66 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Volkswagen Passat (2011 – 2015)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

I want to replace my Ford C-Max soon - what Estate do you suggest?

I'm thinking of replacing my Ford C-Max next year. The contenders are a Volvo V50, Skoda Octavia Estate or VW Passat Estate? What are the pitfalls of purchasing a high mileage vehicle (75,000+ miles and around 10 years old.) I need an estate with enough room for a large dog crate and comfortable enough for someone with a bad back.
Provided they've been serviced regularly, you'd probably be better buying a high-mileage diesel than a low-mileage one. Diesels are best suited to regular motorway driving to clear the diesel particulate filter. I'd be worried about buying one with low miles that's mainly been used for local journeys around town. Bear in mind that a 10-year-old car with 75k on the clock will only have covered 7500 miles a year, which is pretty low. Out of your shortlist, the Octavia represents the best value for money.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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