Quite the teacher's pet: impressive engines with stop-start technology, confident handling and comfortable suspension
Seats could be more supportive and the electronic handbrake button is enough to drive you crazy
Plenty of airbags, anti-whiplash head restraints and ISOFIX child-seat fittings to keep you safe; an alarm to keep the car safe
VW badge means reliability, so shouldn't be too many worries
Four can stretch out and relax, a fifth must straddle the chunky tunnel in the rear footwell. You'll have to try hard to fill the boot
All have air-con, alloys and Bluetooth, but parking sensors cost extra even on top-spec models. Other optional systems help the car park itself or stop if you're about to have a collision
When it comes to driving, the Volkswagen Passat estate's school report would make any parent proud. It's a thoroughly accomplished car on the road and a pleasure to drive. Engines range from perky to punchy our favourite is the 2.0-litre 140 diesel which is smooth, powerful and impressively economical. All have stop-start technology to keep bills down. Only a little wind noise threatens to disturb the peace, but you could opt for laminated side windows which improve refinement and act as a safety feature, too.
The Passat Estate is almost top of the class for space (only the Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb outdo it). There's 600 litres of space which almost trebles if you fold the seats flat. The middle rear passenger draws the short straw because foot room is obstructed. The front seats are not as supportive as we would like, but there's plenty of adjustment to suit all shapes and sizes of driver. Most of the controls are straightforward and intuitive to use, but the push-button handbrake and hill hold button are fiddly and difficult to get used to. Even entry-level S models have plenty of kit, including air-conditioning, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a USB port and four electric windows. However, it's worth upgrading to Highline trim, which adds sat nav, automatic headlights and wipers, climate and cruise controls, and front and rear parking sensors. Sport trim includes cosseting front seats and lowered suspension.
Probably not. In the latest JD Power ownership satisfaction survey, the Passat was awarded above average marks for mechanical reliability.
To help protect you if the worst does happen, every version has stability control, six airbags and active anti-whiplash front head restraints. When Euro NCAP tested the Passat it received an impressive 91% for adult safety but a slightly disappointing 77% for child protection. A Toyota Avensis or a Skoda Superb is safer for kids.
The relatively high price is reflected in higher resale values. There's more good news - those economical engines mean that running costs should be reasonable. All models are decently equipped, however we'd go for the higher-spec SE model which adds cruise control, electric driver's seat adjustment and offers more comfortable front seats.