The D-segment in Malaysia is not as big as the C-segment, but the competition is no less fierce. With the prices of some Asian contenders creeping up, buyers are tempted with the continental offerings that fall within the same price range, if not cheaper. What we have here is one of the continental opponents, the seventh-generation Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI.
Introduced here back in October 2011, the Passat brings the latest European technology into the Malaysian D-segment market. Things like the downsized and turbocharged engine paired with a dual-clutch gearbox is not something you could get from any of the Asian contenders, so the Passat was seen as a very interesting prospect combined with an attractive sticker price. In 2012 Volkswagen Group Malaysia (VGM) introduced the CKD Passat with a price reduction, making it more irresistible to those who were in the market for a D-segment sedan.
|Name||Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI
|Segment||D-Segment 4-door Sedan|
|Engine||1,798cc 4-Cylinder, Turbocharged|
|Transmission||7-speed direct shift gearbox|
|Max Power||158 hp @ 5,000 – 6,200 rpm|
|Max Torque||250 Nm @ 1,500 – 4,200 rpm|
Recently VGM updated the CKD Passat based on customers’ feedback, with additional equipment to keep it relevant for the current Malaysian market. The updated Passat now comes with electric folding side mirrors, anti-theft alarm with electronic immobiliser, 12-way powered driver seat with memory function, and Bluetooth connectivity. On top of that, the 7-speed DSG now uses mineral oil that is said to remedy the well-known issue that has been plaguing the gearbox.
The exterior is not something you would call pretty especially when it’s painted in Reflex Silver like on our test car; it looks relatively dreary. The Passat boldly represents itself as a sedan with its traditional three-box shape, unlike some rivals that go for a sleeker coupe-ish looks with low roofline like the Hyundai i40 we tested earlier. Having said that, there’s the Volkswagen CC.
The use of horizontal lines and the seemingly endless front and rear overhangs make the Passat look longer than it actually is, but in reality it’s shorter than the Peugeot 508. As mentioned, the side mirrors that incorporate the turn indicator and a puddle light can now be folded electronically, but it won’t fold itself upon locking. The wheels are still the same 17-inch ‘Minneapolis’ alloys wrapped in 235/45 R17 Continental ContiSportContact5 tyres.
At the front, the Passat gets a pair of active bending xenon headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights, a pair of foglamps that double as turning lamps, and yes, more horizontal lines. At the other end of the car there’s the two-piece LED taillights on each side, a VW logo in the middle that’s also a boot release lever, and subtle twin tailpipes protruding at the bottom left of the bumper. It’s all very serious-looking.
Why so serious you ask? Well how about some flashes of chrome on the grille, side window surrounds, and a strip that runs alongside the lower edge of the body; that ought to help lift up the staid exterior, no?
The main star has got to be the 12-way powered driver’s seat with memory function. If you feel cold, you’ll be glad to know that both front seats have heating function to keep your bottom toasty on your chilly drive up Genting. Just don’t forget to switch it off when you’ve reached KL.
There’s enough space for five on board, with three-point seatbelts for everyone. Occupants are protected by dual front airbags, front side airbags, and curtain airbags. The seats are covered in black ‘Vienna’ leather, although the cushion does feel a tad too firm. Rear passenger space is good and there’s a couple of aircond vents, but the Passat only comes with dual-zone climate control that can only be controlled from the main controls on the dashboard up front.
The rear seatback split 60:40 and folds down to extend the boot space, or you can just fold down the the middle seatback to reveal a tiny door behind it. The middle seatback also functions as an armrest, complete with extendable cupholders and storage space underneath. The boot space is commodious at 565 litres and yet it comes with a full-sized spare tyre underneath.
Back to the front, from the driver’s seat you can see the clear and sharp instrument cluster through the multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel that’s equipped with shift paddles. The middle of the dashboard sits the RCD 510 7-inch touch screen display, which now supports Bluetooth pairing but still without a navigation system. An analog clock right smack in the middle of the brushed metal-effect strip adds a touch of sophistication to the sombre dash.
The cabin is fairly practical, with enough cupholders, numerous storage space, and deep door pockets that will accommodate a water bottle each. The use of electronic parking brake frees some space on the center console too.
A 1.8-litre engine in a 1.5 tonne vehicle might not sound much, but the 4-cylinder 1,798 cc TSI in the Passat is surprisingly punchy. Producing 158 hp at 5,000 – 6,200 rpm and 250 Nm of torque at 1,500 – 4,200 rpm, the power delivery is linear with minimal turbo lag even at the lower rev range. You won’t really feel the sudden rush when the power comes in, which is a good thing for a mid-sized executive sedan.
The power is transferred to the front wheels via the 7-speed dual clutch DSG transmission with manual override and S mode to hold on to a gear longer and the Passat will dash from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds. The 220 km/h top speed is believable, as the Passat cruises to 200km/h effortlessly usually without you noticing until you glance down at the speedometer.
It’s pretty easy to maneuver the Passat around, thanks to the clear all round view and the inclusion of front and rear sensors. The ride is well-contained by being on the stiffer side of comfortable but driving through potholes won’t upset the Passat much. Body roll in corners is well-suppressed but the dull steering won’t inspire you to push harder; then again this is not a car you want to throw about in corners.
The Passat works better as a cruiser. At 110 km/h the cabin is hushed with the rev needle pointing slightly above 2,000 rpm in seventh gear. At speed, the DSG box and the TSI engine combo delivers a smooth gearchange and there’s always sufficient power when you want to overtake the slower traffic. Breaching the legal speed limit is rather easy so you better check the speedometer once in awhile to make sure you won’t be getting any speeding tickets. The Passat is quite potent for such a sedate looking family sedan.
However the DSG box feels clunky in slow traffic crawl, juddering your way out from stationary and making you look like you’re still learning how to drive. Feathering the throttle doesn’t help much, but switching on the Hill Hold Assist makes it a bit bearable as it will hold the car in place particularly when you’re on a gradient. This can potentially seen as a flaw that might retract most buyers from committing to a Passat.
If you do so commit, the payoff is that the Passat delivers an excellent fuel consumption despite the absence of the Start/Stop System that can be found in the smaller Golf. The official claim for the combined fuel consumption is 7.0 l/100 km but yours truly managed 6.3 l/100 km, even with the aircond switched on at all times. Talk about applying the Think Blue driving philosophy!
IS IT FOR YOU?
The Passat should appeal to those who are seeking for a car with a bit more modern engineering but at the same time wants something that looks discreet. If you frequently travel long distances the Passat is a great companion, and the excellent fuel consumption is an added bonus. To those who are still in doubt over the car’s reliability, VGM is dedicated to improve their after sales and service by taking into account the common feedback from their existing customers. If that’s not enough to convince you, the Passat is not the only car in the D-segment; if you know what i mean.
The nearest continental offering with similar price would be the Peugeot 508 Premium. The French sedan might have a slight deficit in terms of performance from the smaller turbocharged 1.6-litre powerplant but the 508 counters that with its generous kit such as full keyless system, door mirrors that actually fold upon locking, coloured head up display, and a JBL sound system.
Another challenger you can’t dismiss is the Nissan Teana 2.5 XV. Packing a bigger engine with more horsepower but less torque than the continental pair, the Teana too comes with a lengthy equipment list such as a powered sunroof and a sound system by Bose. The seats in particular have softer cushion compared to the Passat, with what Nissan claims as Zero-Gravity inspired seat that will reduce fatigueness over longer journeys. In terms of fuel consumption, the Passat is leading with 7.0 l/100 km, followed by 508 with 7.1 l/100 km, and Teana with 7.5 l/100 km.
If you’re buying the car to be driven, the Passat and Teana have comparable rear cabin space. The 508 feels pretty snug in the back due to the lower roofline, but it comes with roller blinds for side and back windows for added privacy while the Teana only offers a roller blind for the rear screen alone. The 508 also benefit from a quad-zone climate control with individual controller so each corner in the cabin can have their own preferred temperature unlike the dual-zone climate control in the Passat and Teana.
|Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI||Peugeot 508 Premium||Nissan Teana 2.5 XV|
|Type||4-cylinder turbocharged petrol||4-cylinder turbocharged petrol||4-cylinder petrol|
|Max Power||hp/rpm||158/5,000 – 6,200||156/6,000||171/6,000|
|Max Torque||Nm/rpm||250/1,500 – 4,200||240/1,400||234/4,000|
|Type||Electrical power-assisted||Electrical power-assisted||Electrical power-assisted|
|Transmission||7-speed DSG||6-speed Automatic||Xtronic CVT|
|Type||MacPherson strut / Multi-link||MacPherson strut / Multi-arm||MacPherson strut / Multi-link|
|Front||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|Rear||Solid disc||Solid disc||Solid disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyres||235/45 R17||235/45 R18||215/55 R17|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS|
|Max Kerb weight||kg||1,517||1,410||1,517|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||L||565||545||516|
|Consumption||7.0 L/100 km||7.1 L/100 km||7.5 L/100 km|
|0 – 100km/h||sec||8.5||9.2||n/a|
WILL I BUY IT?
If I’m in the market for a D-segment sedan, the Passat will definitely be in my list. The responsive engine should be more than enough for the everyday cut-and-thrust driving. On the other hand, Volkswagen has announced the eight-generation Passat that’s technologically more advanced and looks even better.