In the Middle Eastern market, Volkswagen was something of an inbetweener. In terms of pricing it sat slap bang in the middle of segments; above Japanese offerings but below the German big three.
Then recently, VW decided that it had to commit to one or the other. Enter the new generation of economical Vee Dubs, aimed squarely at the market Camrys, Accords, Corollas and Civics have held in a stranglehold for years.
The first salvo was the Jetta, which, with a starting price of just Dh70,000 was the cheapest ticket to German engineering. And this is VW’s weapon to take on the mid-size saloon class. The new Passat is going against the collective might of regional favourites Camry, Accord and the 2013 Altima. It had better be good then.
On the surface, things are promising. The Passat, with its sharp VW face and quietly handsome styling, looks much more elegant than its competitors. It’s not festooned with pointless spoilers and ‘Sports’ badges, because let’s face it; there isn’t much sportiness to be had in this class.
It gets better the moment you step inside. This is where the benefits of VW’s vast automotive empire become evident. The switchgear and even the multimedia display come from more expensive VWs. Parts sharing never looked so good.
Overall, the quality of materials and fit and finish is a fair few notches above anything else in the segment. The Passat has arguably the best cabin in its class. And even when it comes to interior accommodation, with a 110.1-inch wheelbase, nearly half an inch longer than the Altima’s and 1.5 inches longer than the Camry’s, the Passat is larger than its rivals.
This, at least on paper, does not bode well for the 2.5-litre five-pot engine. Delivering 170bhp it’s not as powerful as the Toyota or the Nissan, but it’s adequate, and exactly what you expect in a car of this type. However, in terms of refinement and driving dynamics, the Passat shines.
Body roll is minimal, it feels more composed and agile around bends than the previous versions, and when cruising on the highway, it exudes a solidity that’s unmistakably German.
Naturally, you also get a clutch of creature comforts like dual-zone AC, an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat and a Fender-Panasonic sound system among others. Plus, there are some top safety features such as curtain airbags, a rear-view camera and ESP and ABS among others.
Although we were miffed at VW’s decision not to bring the V6 Passat to the region, a few days with the car has changed our opinion. With an average fuel efficiency of 7.5 litres-per-100km and decent performance, the five-pot proves a credible alternative to the V6.
Specs and ratings
Engine: 2.5-litre five-cyl
Transmission: Six-speed auto, FWD
Max power: 170bhp @ NA
Max torque: 240Nm @ 5,700rpm
Top speed: 190kph
Price Starts: Dh84,500