Can the “new” Passat live up to its 75mpg claim?

Once bitten, twice shy – or in  German – einmal gebissen, zweimal schuchtern.
It’s not something you’re gonna hear at the end of slick, high definition ad campaign featuring the new Passat.
No sir … but maybe you should.
You see, the marketing gurus in Wolfsberg, have been getting a lot of flack lately, and to be fair, it’s well deserved.
A couple of years ago at the glitzy launch of the “all new” Golf Mark VI, veteran motoring journalists were left scratching the top of their heads in utter disbelief.
No sooner had the dust covers hit the floor –  so did the realisation that something was not quite right.
On closer inspection inside and out – the Golf launch hit a bogey and the game was up.
The MkVI was practically indistinguishable from the MKV, bar the odd panel tweak here and there.
Basically they swiped the nose off the Sirocco and the arse off the Tiguan, welded them onto the predecessor, badged it up and …. job done.
They overlooked just one small detail – us, the motoring press.
In a bid to quell the descent, an army of engineers were rolled out to explain the whole concept of the “new” model.
They managed to blag it – only just – by concentrating on the fact that most of the “new” stuff was technology you can’t see.
Phew. So, it’s a case of lesson learned?
Not So, I’m afraid
Our pals at Das Auto have done exactly the same with the seventh generation Passat.
Initially, looking at the shiny saloon out in VW HQ in Liffey Valley, every panel bar the roof has been changed – if only ever so slightly.
Things were looking up … until I opened the door.
Oh no – a classic case of de javu.
Whatever efforts that were made to disguise the sameness on the exterior, there was none whatsoever on the interior.
I can only imagine the sheer disappointment of a current Passat owner who has waited patiently to change model only to discover
the exact same clocks, radio, switches, fixtures and fittings in the exact same places.
The only difference… the analogue time piece in the middle of the dash.
That solitary change or “upgrade” is so sizemic that VW have devoted a whole page in the glossy brochure to that very fact.
Build-wise it is unmistakeably VW and the quality and craftsmanship is second to none and, if anything, is definitely superior.
So what’s so special about this Passat and why on God’s green earth would you to buy one?
The recession, the oil crisis and a relentless and grossly unfair tax regime.
You see, this Passat is loaded with Bluemotion technology like stop/start and battery regeneration which recuperates energy under braking to boost the alternator and driving down CO2 and fuel usage.
The 1.6 TDi I tested is about as green, if not greener than a Prius or any hybrid with emmissions of just 114g/km (road tax of €104 per year) while returning a truly eye-watering 75mpg (their claim not mine).
It was my intention to put this to the test but it was scuppered by two things.
Firstly, I was late on morning one – forcing me to drive a little harder than normal.
Secondly, I was missing one vital piece of equipment – cruise control.
Tell me, what top end saloon comes with Lane Assist (which countersteers the vehicle back in should you drift left or right on a motorway) and no bloody cruise control?
They are all optional extras on this baby.
So, the experiment didn’t go exactly to plan but I did manage to clock up 1,200 kms over the week without jucing her up.
It is without doubt the most frugal diesel car I’ve ever driven and while I didn’t squeeze 75 out of her I did manage between 58-60.
That’s astounding considering I was not particularly light-footed at the best of times.
Drive-wise this car is not going to get you overly excited one way or the other, but it does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin.
The electric power steering makes life a whole lot easier around town, should you not avail of the parking sensor package.
Aimed at the fleet market where high mileage is a given, the second most important thing is comfort where they may have over done it.
The new noise-proofed windscreen is so good it is almost silent in the cabin where the more premium finish
makes it a much nicer place to be.
So much so, a standard feature on the Comfortline and Highline is the Fatigue Detection system which monitors your driving responses and recommends you take a break if  you’re not up to scratch.
Pound for pound though it all boils down to economy and for that it gets my vote but the initial outlay is a little pricey.
The extras list is its downfall and it is hard to ignore it’s cousin, the Skoda Superb, which has more extras than Ben Hur.
That said, it will sell by the shed-load because of its middle class credentials.
In some suburbs around Ireland, having a Passat in the drive is the proverbial two fingers to the neighbours and for others something to aspire too.
Tragic I know, but true.
The entry model Passat kicks in at €24,865, but a few modest goodies will see it rocket to €28,000.

Philip Hedderman