Review
Comment

2014 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 1.8T

Great ride for some, but lacks technology

HIGHLIGHTS
ENGINE
1.8L I-4 FWD
POWER
170hp @ 6,200RPM
CURB WEIGHT
1,439 kg
TORQUE
184 lb.-ft. @ 1,500RPM
FUEL TANK CAPACITY
70.0L
ECONOMY
NA
BASE PRICE
$23975
PRICE AS TESTED
NA

Driving experience genuinely pleasant, but there are quirks

Volkswagen is returning a 1.8L four-cylinder turbocharged engine to its Passat offerings for the 2014 model year, an engine that’s on the smaller side in the mid-size sedan segment, but is certainly capable of meeting the needs of the average family-oriented driver.

However, the 2014 Passat 1.8T has some quirks unrelated to the powertrain that may take it off the short list for some buyers.

For the most part, the overall driving experience in the Passat is genuinely pleasant. The engine can be mated with a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic and sport mode, the latter of which was equipped on my tester.

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I found acceleration to be smooth and responsive with no sensation that the car is dragging under its own weight. The Passat cruises very comfortably at highway speeds without showing any hint of strain. And the appropriately snappy shifts, especially when using Tiptronic, couple with the car’s steady handling to allow for a more immersive driving experience when the driver goes looking for it.

For its size, the Passat’s fuel economy leans on the good side. The Natural Resources Canada numbers come in at 8.6 L/100 km for city driving and 5.8 on the highway, and my observed number after a nine-hour highway run was 7.0.

Comfort is another hallmark of this vehicle. In Highline trim, the Passat’s best available, the leather seats are inlaid with microfibre ? which goes a long way in counteracting the slow slump that can happen on longer road trips ? as well as side and lumbar support.

The car also has a remarkably quiet cabin, a roomy back seat, and plenty of trunk and storage space.

The infotainment system, while perhaps a touch dated, was easy to navigate once I was familiar with it. For the most part, I was able to use it without frustration and without having to take my eyes off the road for more than a fleeting moment.

Those aforementioned quirks, though, may be a bit problematic for some.

I found while driving that quite a few elements in the cabin got in the way of each other. When I had the steering wheel in the position I preferred, most of the speedometer was hidden behind it. I therefore had to call the centre screen on the instrument panel into service for that role and couldn’t use it for anything else without flying blind.

When my hands were in the right spot on the steering wheel, I couldn’t see what was playing on the radio. When I reached for the shifter, I had to dodge the bottle of water in the cup holder.

And even at the highest trim level, there are some features missing that consumers look for in a car in this class, such as a blind spot warning system, ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel.

I found that the brakes responded noticeably differently at different speeds. During city driving. I got used to a certain pedal pressure delivering a certain response, but when I called for it again at highway speed it wasn’t there. I had more than one moment at 100 km/h and change where I pushed the pedal down, realized the car wasn’t stopping as quickly as I expected, and then had to give it another massive thump to get the job done.

This wouldn’t be a concern for conservative drivers who make a habit of leaving enough space ahead of them. But serial tailgaters should be aware that this car may not behave in a manner appropriate for their driving style. The final quirky point is a tiny detail but a significant one in the modern world: the Passat has a port for Apple devices but is completely devoid of USB connectivity.

I don’t own an iPhone. I own a Samsung phone. And I cannot believe that when I signed this car out for a trip of 800 km each way that I needed to give a second thought to whether my phone would remain charged while travelling alone on long stretches of desolate highway.

This is 2014. I shouldn’t have to carry a 12-volt power adapter around with me to keep my devices juiced these days.

So, if you’re an unfussy, conservative, iPhone-owning driver looking for a very capable family sedan that will allow you to avail yourself of Volkswagen longevity ? to which I can personally attest, having owned a 2001 Passat that lasted until just a tick over 300,000 km until it finally gave up the ghost early this year ? then you’re likely to find that this car is a good fit.

But if any one of those boxes remains unchecked for you, then you may be better off exploring other options.

The vehicle tested by freelance writer Stephanie Wallcraft was provided by the manufacturer. Email: wheels@thestar.ca.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T Highline

PRICE: $32,550 base (base model tested)
ENGINE: 1.8 L turbocharged I4
POWER/TORQUE: 170 HP at 6,200 RPM; 184 lb.-ft at 1,500-4,750 RPM
FUEL: 8.6 L/100 km city; 5.8 L/100 km hwy. (regular fuel)
COMPETITION: Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry
WHAT’S BEST: Drivability and handling will meet the needs of most and can be downright fun at times.
WHAT’S WORST: Missing features, including the lack of a USB port, will be concerns for some consumers.

Interior view of the 2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T

The Toronto Star for Wheels.ca

  • 2014 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 1.8T MAILMASTER _Subject: Photos for VW Passat 1.8T review for Wheels (1/2) On 2014-06-02, at 2:11 PM, Steph Wallcraft wrote: First of two photos for the Volkswagen Passat 1.8T review to run in Wheels per editor Norris McDonald. Exterior shot; photo by Stephanie Wallcraft. P1150435.JPG
  • 2014 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 1.8T MAILMASTER Subject: Photos for VW Passat 1.8T review for Wheels (2/2) On 2014-06-02, at 2:13 PM, Steph Wallcraft wrote: Second of two photos for the Volkswagen Passat 1.8T review to run in Wheels per editor Norris McDonald. Exterior shot; photo by Stephanie Wallcraft. P1150446.JPG

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