13.2.2021Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate review
Volkswagen’s Passat GTE is the company’s answer to a frequently asked question. Are there any practical, family-sized plug-in cars on the market? The PHEV Passat sits in VW’s usual spot, between mass-market and premium models, and offers lots of practicality without being a crossover/SUV. With the latest version getting a larger battery and thus boosted electric range, we see if the plug-in Passat is worthy of consideration.
Review by Chris Lilly
VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT GTE: PERFORMANCE
The VW Passat GTE kicks off what is set to be a fleet of plug-in hybrids from Volkswagen and its fellow VW Group brands. The revised model uses a 1.4 litre TSI petrol engine and electric motor powered by a 13 kWh battery, which will become a familiar sight in other models within the next year or so. Combined output is 218 hp, allowing for a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 138mph.
The Passat GTE is quick but not fast if we’re leaning on semantics. It’s plenty of power and performance for most buyers, but it’s not going to keep those interested in performance cars fascinated. However, day-to-day performance is very good, and the powertrain works well to deliver power smoothly. The electric motor can undertake most work within a certain range, but even if run as a conventional hybrid rather than a plug-in one, the blending and switching between electric and petrol propulsion is nicely managed.
The pick-up is quicker than most Passat models at low revs thanks to the electric motor’s aid, and overall, the Passat GTE is well equipped for life as a family workhorse. It’s quiet and easy to drive on the motorway, responsive around town, and - when the six-speed DSG transmission is worked in manual mode - fun to drive on the open road.
If the performance is aimed at doing everything required as a daily driver, the handling has unsurprisingly set up to match. The Passat GTE is a little stiffer than some of its stablemates, but not by much. Its ride feels solid - not in a ‘like granite’ way, but in a reassuring, premium manner - and the VW can be thrown around corners with a surprising amount of grip. It will hold a line well, and even resists a fair amount of body roll. As such, there is a decent amount of agility for drivers to make the most of, particularly useful in car parks and the like. It’s best suited to open roads though, and settles down nicely on motorways as well as many cars in the class above it.
Volkswagen’s Passat has long been an understated but stylish machine, and the current iteration continues that theme. It’s perhaps a little more stand-out than at any other time in its history, which goes against the grain a little, but the Passat is still a restrained design - and that’s a good thing in my book. Sharper detailing front and rear are the main visual changes in the latest upgrade, but otherwise it’s the familiar Bauhaus-inspired styling for the Passat.
The PHEV is available in either saloon or estate forms, with the test car coming in load-lugger guise. It’s an extremely practical car, with minimal load space lost to the battery and electrical gubbins. For those regularly carrying large loads, throwing a pushchair in the back, or looking for a vehicle that can cope with family holidays, there are few better alternatives than the Passat - and the GTE version is just as applicable.
In front of the boot, passengers get very good levels of head, leg, and shoulder space, and those up front are generously catered for. It’s exactly what you would want from an estate - just partially electric.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The cabin is a very good one to cover even long distances in. It’s been refined into a first class interior, with comfortable but supportive seats throughout. Switchgear is well positioned and all the controls feel built to last. Materials used throughout are great, and even feel good quality on lower surfaces which are likely to get abused more. The driver can get into a good seating position thanks to adjustments on the wheel and seat, and there is a digital cockpit instrument panel for customisable displays.
The infotainment system is one of the largest VW offers in its models - apart from the huge screen available in the Touareg SUV - and works well, even if it’s a little sluggish to start up. Once running, the controls are easy to use, and VW has retained actual buttons and dials for the key features, making altering the temperature, for example, easy - with no need to remove your eyes from the road.
VW PASSAT GTE: MPG & RUNNING COSTS
With plug-in hybrids, fuel economy will vary hugely with how it’s used. With regular charges and trips mostly kept within the electric driving range, owners will only have to refill the tank after long journeys. Conversely, if charges are few and far between, the quoted economy statistics will never be achieved. VW’s official figures are 33 g/km CO2 and 194.9 MPG. These are good even for PHEVs, thanks primarily to a large battery allowing for a 33-mile driving range in electric mode.
In reality, I found that the electric range was around 28 miles on a charge, a little more when pottering about town, and down to around 22 miles when driving on the motorway. When driven with no charge, the Passat GTE was averaging around 48 MPG on petrol-only power according to the trip computer, aided only by the electric power gained from charging from braking or driving downhill, for example.
The key component in the Passat GTE’s green credentials is the 13 kWh battery. It allows for the 30+ mile electric range above, which is a significant figure. Many drivers won’t cover more than 20-odd miles in one go, so there’s ample electric range for many, especially for those who are able to charge regularly.
Charging is carried out via the Type 2 inlet found behind a flap in the grille, and can be carried out at up to 3.6 kW for a complete charge in three and a half hours. There is brake energy recuperation to top-up the battery on the go in B mode, and there are settings including E-Mode, Hybrid, Battery Charge, and GTE. The battery can be charged via the engine and brake regeneration up to a specified point, plus there are more conventional driving modes of Eco, Normal, Sport, and Individual.
There are two trim options for the Passat GTE - GTE and GTE Advance. The latter was found on the test car, with standard equipment including 18-inch alloys, keyless entry, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, 10.25-inch digital instruments, driver profile selection, parking sensors front and rear, 8-inch infotainment system with navigation, USB, DAB, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.
LED headlights, ‘C’ shaped GTE running lights, rear privacy glass, a three-year subscription to We Connect Plus, and leather upholstery are also fitted.
Options added to the test car include 360-degree camera, head-up display, panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting pack, and tyre pressure monitor.
VW PASSAT GTE: MODEL SUMMARY
There are few finer all-rounders on the market than the VW Passat GTE. Capable of both long trips involving fuel and regular electric trips, there is lots of space for passengers and in the boot to create a practical machine. With lower running costs than the ‘standard’ Passat range, VW’s PHEV makes real sense for a large number of buyers.
Model tested: Volkswagen Passat GTE Advance
Engine / CO2: 1.4 litre petrol and electric motor / 33 g/km
Trim grades: GTE & GTE Advance
On-road price: From £41,450.
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars