Review: The facelifted Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI Elegance – true class doesn’t shout

The 8th generation compact executive sedan was first introduced in 2015 so it was about time for a mid-life refresh, and as usual such a facelift brings about a lot of significant changes in the car.

Even so, can the 2020 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI Elegance remain relevant in this increasingly tough segment?

There’s only one variant available and you’re looking at it. Priced at RM189,012 on-the-road without insurance, this is quite the departure from the seven different ones available in the pre-facelift model.

So let’s get into it. As this is a review of the Passat, we’ll focus on the day-to-day with the car so if you want a comprehensive equipment list, you can find it here.

How does it drive?
Excellently when used for daily commuting. The new 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged engine makes 190 hp and 320 Nm of torque. The grunt comes in around 1,500 rpm so it’s highly usable from the get-go.

Yes, the numbers are slightly down compared to the outgoing engine, but the difference is not as apparent as you’d think in the real world.

It’s still more than 300 Nm of twist, mind you, so whenever liberties are taken with the accelerator, the Passat will surge towards the horizon with ease.

The engine finds a capable partner in the equally new wet-clutch 7-speed DSG transmission. When left to its own devices, it is both smooth and quick, with the familiar twitch when moving off from standstill.

I really enjoyed driving the Passat around. It felt noticeably more refined and more comfortable. Harsher road conditions are filtered out well from the cabin, while the suspension felt supple through speed bumps. It’s not the last word in dynamic driving, but it can’t be faulted either.

It looks great
The word facelift means, of course, that exterior updates are to be expected and in the new Passat, the updates look great. A new bumper design on both ends give it a fresh visual appeal, while both head and tail lights have also been redesigned.

The front pair utilises LED technology only while the DRLs work overtime as sequential turn signal indicators. Meanwhile, the rear light clusters also feature the same turn indicators, and have also received a welcome redesign to resemble a wave.

New 18-inch alloy wheels called Liverpool accompany these changes, and there’s a new ‘PASSAT’ word adorning the rump just below the VW badge. This is the new trend, isn’t it.

Overall, it is a reserved update, but a tasteful one nonetheless. Subtlety is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is definitely mine.

What else is there to like?
The sombre interior loses the wood trim from the outgoing car, but gains a new 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment display that cleans up all the buttons in the centre, leaving a minimalist and appealing instrument panel. The same system supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and there are three USB-C ports by which a phone can connect to the system.

Besides that, there is a 30-colour ambient lighting system to suit any mood, although I left it in light blue all the time. The Passat just felt like a light blue kind of car. The intensity of the light is also adjustable, although once set to the desired setting, it was never touched again.

Aside from these high tech stuff, the old adjustable centre armrest makes a welcome comeback, while rear passengers can sit in comfort thanks to the sunshades – two on the windows and one on the rear windscreen – that keep out the worst of a sunny afternoon.

The dislikes
The new 11.7-inch Digital Cockpit instrument cluster does not sync with Google Maps or Waze, and instead has its own version of maps and there’s literally not a soul in the universe who will use it over the aforementioned established solutions, so it’s time to remove such features.

Aside from this, I was never quite at ease in the driver seat. The seat has a back support that seems to dig into the my upper back, and I never grew accustomed to it.

It’s clear that Volkswagen’s choice to keep only one variant in its Passat line-up is a reflection of current buyer sentiments. Demand for SUVs continue to increase, while the D-segment sedans receive less and less attention.

And in this segment, the consensus in the office is that the car to beat would be the fantastic Toyota Camry. The Passat loses in terms of dynamic driving, but on a straight bit of road, the Japanese car won’t see where it went.

The weight behind the badge is also a factor, but this is relative as it depends on where you stand in the Conti vs Jap discussion.

The new Passat is just so, both as a sum of its parts, and also due to its overall updates and tasteful execution. In a world where products demand your attention, the Passat is quietly confident that those who know, would know it’s a car worth buying.



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