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Can the Volkswagen Passat make its mark in the market?

The Volkswagen Passat Trendline 1.8 is the cheapest of the Passats out there. Starting at RM160,937.20 on the road without insurance, you know that Volkswagen is out to challenge the dominant players such as Toyota and Honda in the D segment class range. But can a strip down Passat challenge a Camry or an Accord?

When I said strip down, it’s not exactly what one might expect from a continental model which upper models boast plenty of electronic wizardry and amazing drive. Instead what you get are fabric seats, halogen head lights, 16-inch rims and a 5″ touchscreen panel. Yes, the screen is smaller than your mobile phone especially if you have received the latest iPhone X which boasts a 5.8″ screen.

But let’s focus on the positive side of things. The car is easy to drive and easy to manoeuvre. You get the buttery smooth DSG gearbox where gear changes are seamless and you get a bit of a turbo fun with a 1.8 turbocharged engine. Interior built quality is good especially if you can overcome the fabric seats, I love the way that there is an actual analogue clock in the middle of the dash as well.

From a power perspective, the 1.8 turbo-charged engine is sufficient. It doesn’t really get you off the line very quickly but when the turbo kicks in, you still get that bit of surge in power. Thanks to the pairing of the 7-speed DSG gearbox, it drives very smoothly, both in the city or when you go for long distance travels. Which brings me to my point about practicality.

The Passat is an extremely practical car. Featuring 586 litres of boot space, I could easily fit a few golf bags in the rear which also equates to having a nice family holiday with plenty of luggage space. Speaking of families, the ISOFIX points are extremely conveniently placed so slapping on a child seat with ISOFIX locks is very easy.

Handling wise, the Passat wouldn’t compare to its sportier cousin, the GTI. Still it isn’t meant to be because it is not engineered that way. You get an overall feel of comfort yet in control thanks to the slightly stiffer setup then a Toyota Camry. Volkswagen was definitely set it with a blend of both worlds where you are in control and yet not harsh enough to disturb you on a day-to-day basis. I guess the 16″ rims does help a bit when it comes to comfort.

On the inside, you get the latest of Volkswagens equipment which is shared across almost all of their models. The new steering wheel is nicely shaped and the buttons on the steering give a good feedback, almost immediate but the placement of some of the buttons require my thumbs to stretch a little bit more unnaturally. You get plenty of controls and buttons littered all over the cars such as your auto lights selector, power side window adjustments and power windows. You don’t get powered seats with the Trendline spec.

The stereo system was pretty much basic, pairing it with your phone via Bluetooth was also easy. When driving on highways, you tend to hear a bit of the road noise entering the cabin. To some, that may be a problem and to others, perhaps a bit more refinement would be better. Although the car was big, parking the car was simple and easy.

To sum it up, the Passat is a great car but if you have the extra cash, I would suggest getting the 2.0L spec with a higher trim line. That way you can truly experience the best from the Volkswagen Passat. The Trendline definitely misses the mark but you can’t blame Volkswagen for wanting to get the Passat within a price range where it is a lot more comfortable compared to wanting to throw the best specced car. So kudos to them for giving Malaysians more options to choose.