Another year, another class win for the Volkswagen Passat Estate. This makes it four awards in a row for the VW.
It’s going to take a very good car indeed to beat it, as the Passat has few weaknesses. It’s great to tow with, easy to live with, spacious and practical.
First and foremost we’re interested in how well a car tows, and the Passat remains the benchmark for mid-sized tow cars. Stability at speed is a given, and the VW feels settled and calm at 70mph in breezy conditions that had other cars wandering at 60mph.
The emergency lane-change test underlines the Passat’s stability, grip and composure. Even on a damp track it remained secure at high speeds, quietly but firmly showing the caravan who was boss.
We’re hard-pressed to find significant fault with the Passat’s hill start, either. The electronic parking brake held car and caravan still on the 1-in-6 slope. This year’s test car was fitted with Volkswagen’s Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), which means there’s no clutch pedal to worry about – if anything, this made tackling the hill even easier than in previous years.
Although towing ability is the bedrock of the Passat’s success, it’s just as impressive when the caravan is safely parked on your driveway. It handles neatly, rides comfortably and is impressively quiet at speed.
It’s practical, too. The 603-litre boot is big enough for our test load of holiday luggage, and with the rear seats down, that load space extends to 1731 litres. A full-size spare is another plus point in our book.
Comprehensive equipment, a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP and good fuel economy are also strong arguments in the Passat’s favour.
1.6 i-DTEC SR
1.7 CRDi 134 '3'
4 2.2D 4x4 Auto
2.0 Blue HDI 150 Allure Auto
2.2 SD4 190PS Prestige Auto
2.0 TDI CR 170PS DSG Elegance 4x4
2.0 TDI CR 170PS Elegance 4x4 DSG
2.0D SX Lineartronic
1.6i 16v Direct Injection Turbo (170PS) Start/Stop
2.0 TDI Bluemotion Technology 177PS Executive Style