Quiet, refined, economical and a perfect companion for eating up a thousand miles in a week

What is it?

Warm petrol engines, such as the 158bhp 1.8 turbo in this VW Passat, are something of an anomaly in repmobiles these days. Whereas in decades gone by it was all about power and performance for the typical insurance salesman’s company car, 2011 requires most to run an ultra-efficient diesel to keep CO2 emissions, fuel bills and benefit-in-kind rating to a minimum to please their employer.

Volkswagen has a history of warming over the Passat to please the more enthusiastically minded company car driver, the 20-valve 1.8-litre turbo model from the turn of the century being the best example.

This latest warm Passat, VW’s closest offering to the BMW 320i, can crack 0-62mph in 8.5sec and return 40.9mpg at the pumps, while CO2 emissions are 160g/km. On paper, it seems like performance with a conscience.

What’s it like?

While a turbocharged 158bhp petrol engine may sound like a good starting for turning the Passat into the enthusiast’s mid-size saloon of choice, this doesn’t turn out to be the case.

The performance isn’t the issue; the Passat feels plenty quick enough and the 185lb ft of torque is available from just 1500rpm, making acceleration feel brisk and overtaking a simple exercise. The real-world economy is also decent, the 40.9mpg quoted combined figure being easily within reach with a sensible head on.

It’s the chassis that dulls any whiff of excitement. The steering is devoid of any real feel and gives very little feedback as to what’s going on with the front wheels, except from which way they’re pointing. This translates to dull handling that makes the Passat feel like one its more sensible diesel siblings.

This Passat does share two more positive traits with its diesel siblings, however: excellent ride quality and superb refinement, particularly on the motorway. The ride is supple and composed at almost all speeds, while the engine is almost inaudible when it settles into a long motorway run.

The interior isn’t inspiring to look at, but is functional, comfortable and spacious, with an excellent driving position. Much like the rest of the car, then.

Should I buy one?

This Passat is very good at what all other Passats are very good at. So it’s quiet, refined, economical and a perfect companion for eating up a thousand miles in a week.

But there’s very little to distinguish this particular Passat from any of the other models in the range, given the disappointments of the matching the engine’s sporting potential.

You’re best off spending an extra £1000 on the more economical (61.4mpg), lower emitting (119g/km) and almost as quick (9.8sec to 62mph) 2.0-litre diesel, which is the best Passat at being a Passat.

Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI SE

Price: £21,375; Top speed: 137mph; 0-62mph: 8.5sec; Economy: 40.9mpg (combined); CO2: 160g/km; Kerb weight: 1502kg; Engine type, cc: 4cyls in line, 1798cc, turbo, petrol; Power: 158bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 185lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox: 6spd manual

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, autocar.co.uk website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
JezyG 3 October 2011

Re: VW Passat 1.8 TSI

optimal_909 wrote:
Old Toad wrote:
So am I right in thinking this engine is set to replace the 158bhp turbo and supercharged 1.4 which I thought was for the chop as it was too expensive to produce .
It is a brand new design set to replace the 2.0 TSI, and has nothing common with the old 20-valve unit as far as I know
It not quite a brand new design more an improved and upgraded EA888 1.8 and a tweaked EA888 2L is already in some Audi's.

The EA888 replaced the EA113 which in turn replaced the 1.8 20VT R4 (EA827).

The 1.4 twin charger will be replaced by a 1.6 turbo only engine and the 1.4 122 is to stay. They are still struggling to get more power out of the EA888 so the EA113 in higher powered form will stay short term - Golf R, S3, Cupra R.

theonlydt 3 October 2011

Re: VW Passat 1.8 TSI

toptidy wrote:
Not sure where you got your information from but I am not aware of any Leon having a 5 cylinder engine
The Leon got the 2.3 V5 - a 5 cylinder engine.

toptidy 3 October 2011

Re: VW Passat 1.8 TSI

Fidji wrote:
The previous generation Leon came with this engine, leon having a 5 cylinder enginebut with five cylinders rather than four, as well as the common four cylinder variant, with varying power outputs.


Not sure where you got your information from but I am not aware of any Leon having a 5 cylinder engine. I had a 2000 Leon Cupra which had the 180 bhp version of the 1.8; the later Cupra R had a 225 bhp version of the same engine, as per the TT.

I believe that the Europeans were able to buy a Leon with the 2.8 litre V6 that the Golf had at the time but we did not get that in the UK, unfortunately.