[Review] 2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI (CKD)

2014 VW Passat
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The 2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI is essentially the uprated seventh-generation Passat B7 that packs some new equipment and a lower price tag. The Passat was VW Malaysia‘s first CKD project out of its assembly plant in Pekan, Pahang. When I was offered the D-segment premium sedan to review recently, I pounced on the opportunity to be reacquainted with the brilliant TSI-DSG combo.

My last proper experience with a VW vehicle was back in 2011 when I was still writing for MPH’s Cars.my magazine. I fell head over heels with the DSG gearbox and the impressive TSI engine on the Polo 1.2 TSI, Golf 1.4 TSI, Scirocco 1.4 TSI and Passat CC 2.0 TSI. Needless to say, VW had to literally pry my hands off the steering when I had to return the cars after the reviews proper.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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My couple of days with the Passat was spent with some city driving before I decided to take a two-day break to Tanjung Sepat, a coastal town of Kuala Langat, about 1.5 hours from Kuala Lumpur. The destination was perfect to test different driving conditions for the car, and also provided an excellent environment for some photos. Perhaps it was just an excuse, as I just missed the seafood, fishballs, ‘bao’ dumplings and local coffee there, some things Tanjung Sepat is known for.

Check out some photos of Tanjung Sepat:

New kit for 2014

First, a quick overview of new features on the 2014 Passat. Some new additions are uprated RCD 510 car radio player with Bluetooth connectivity that allows telephony connectivity and audio streaming; 12-way adjustable electric front driver’s seat with memory function; anti-theft alarm system with electronic immobiliser; and electric folding side mirrors.

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Exterior: Pleasant, though not sexy

The Passat isn’t what you’d call a handsome car, but it does have an understated elegance and style. The front valance is consistent with the rest of VW’s fleet, with the corporate face looking more Polo than a Scirocco or Passat CC.

In my opinion, it looks better from the front than the rear, and thanks to the bi-xenon headlamps that help to add a modern touch to the otherwise conservative styling.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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Interior: Understated luxury

Inside, the Passat is unapologetically German – clean, functional, impeccably put together with top quality materials. Luxury is the order of the day, something you’d expect from a premium executive sedan – upholstery wrapped in ‘Vienna’ leather and ‘iridium’ decorative inserts. Thankfully no faux wooden panels. Win.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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The new 12-way electrically adjustable front seats are great, although I find them a little flat. My big fat behind tends to move about when negating some corners. Not a pretty sight. The wobbling bits I mean. Also, the seating position is slightly on the high side despite having adjusted to the lowest setting. Doesn’t feel like I’m driving a van, but for a six-footer, a tad lower would have been ideal.

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2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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I like the feel of the steering – grippy, well-weighted and not feeling plasticky. On-steering controls are within reach, as with attached control stalks. For those who feel they need some ‘manual’ control, there’s the unmissable paddle shifts on the underside of the steering too.

The instrument cluster is clean and functional without having to resort to over-styling and gimmickry, and certainly no fancy blue or orange LED lights. Thank you, VW.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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The vehicle information system is easy to use and functional, as with the car audio system on the centre console. Where it lacks in the cosmetics department, it delivers in terms of getting the job done. Navigation is straight-forward, and the touch-screen display is adequately responsive. The addition of Bluetooth functionality is a bonus, enabling audio streaming and phone connectivity.

In the glove compartment, there’s a USB adapter cable for tethered access to your phone. I tested it on an iPhone and an HTC One M8 and it worked flawlessly. It charges up the phone too.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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There’s more than enough storage compartments, although when compared to Japanese makes it may be described as merely adequate. There’s storage on the doors, centre armrest, a pair of drink holders and even a compartment for your sunglasses above.

Spaciousness and comfort

Being a premium sedan, you can expect nothing but a touch of luxury and comfort, and this the Passat delivers in droves. The front seats, while not the most supportive, are comfortable. I did feel the driver’s side being a tad claustrophobic but I blame my six-foot frame. The car will comfortably seat four with ample legroom to boot.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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Talking about the boot, there are 565 litres of boot space–enough to put in your three golf bags, couple of large travel luggage, kitchen sink, microwave and ironing board. Ok, ignore the final three, but in all seriousness, plenty of storage for you and your family.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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The other fabulous thing is that the rear seats can be folded down completely with a single click, making those trips to IKEA completely worthwhile.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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The cabin is well-insulated overall and wind noise isn’t apparent until beyond 120km/h.

Safety

It’s German. It’s a Volkswagen. It has a 5-star Euro-NCAP rating. Need I say more? Packed with myriad passive safety features, the Passat will give you complete peace of mind in any eventuality.

There are dual front driver and passenger airbags, side airbags and curtain airbags. There’s also the new anti-theft alarm system with immobiliser.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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To ensure that you don’t fall asleep when driving (because it is ultra-comfortable after all), there’s a built-in fatigue detection system that will give the driver visuals cues and an acoustic signal.

ESP and ABS with brake assist are of course standard, complemented by a flat tyre indicator.

The electronic parking brake is coupled with auto hill hold control, a very handy feature when on a slope.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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Performance

The TSI engine and the 7-speed direct shift gearbox (DSG) combination has always impressed, and while the dry-clutch DSG isn’t without its quirks and faults, power delivery and overall driving experience are excellent.

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The turbocharged 1.8 TSI lump pushes out 158bhp (160PS) and an impressive 250Nm torque delivered between 1,500-4,200rpm–enough to take the two-tonne car from 0-100km/h in a cool 8.5 seconds. What’s important though is the flat torque curve that gives it a very punchy mid-range.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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In start-stop scenarios, you’ll need to get used to the drive-by-wire throttle’s apparently lag before power kicks in to turn the wheels. And the DSG may appear slightly jerky from a stop. Once it starts rolling though, the TSI just goes and goes.

The four-pot is really quite an eager beaver, and you’ll find overtaking extremely effortless and cruising a joy. If you’re suddenly possessed by your inner racer, then pull the gear lever down to ‘S’ and you’ll be served a different beast. Paddle-shift it too, at your discretion. The TSI will hold revs longer and higher up the rev range to optimise power delivery, and throttle response also becomes quicker.

The Passat never quite feels out of breath, as the TSI will eagerly take you to 220km/h max speed if you so wish. Watch for the cops, though.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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Ride and handling

The Passat’s ride is optimised for comfort, absorbing undulations and the imperfections of the Malaysian tarmac with poise. The ride never feels harsh and while it isn’t a ‘sporty’ handler per se, it’s reassuringly confident and predictable around the bends.

Steering feel is decent, as is braking feel and performance.

Fuel economy

The turbo-charged 1.8 TSI lump is considerably frugal when driven at typical speeds and returns a claimed 9.5L/100km (urban), 5.5L/100km (extra urban) and 7L/100km (combined).

Despite my reputation of having a lead foot, I respectfully improved fuel consumption from 11L/100kms down to 10.8L/100kms over three days in mixed urban and extra-urban driving. I’m not sure who the previous journalist was, but I surrender my crown. I’ve gone wimpy apparently.

Pros

  • Punchy engine performance
  • Premium cabin
  • DSG still rocks my boat
  • Comfortable cruiser
  • Great fuel efficiency
  • Impressive safety kit
  • Huge boot space
  • Good price
  • Five years’ free maintenance
  • Five-year warranty with unlimited mileage

Cons

  • Conservative, underwhelming exterior styling
  • Flat seats, seating position a little too high
  • Less kit than competitors
  • Slightly laggy throttle at start-stop
  • Slight jerkiness with DSG at low gear
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Pricing and availability

Available in four colours: Deep Black, Icelandic Grey, Night Blue, Reflex Silver, the 2014 Passat 1.8 TSI is priced at RM169,888.00 (OTR without insurance). It comes with 5 years’ free maintenance and a 5-year warranty with unlimited mileage.

2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI (CKD)
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Verdict

It may not have the sportiness of a Mazda 6 or the kit of a Honda Accord, Nissan Teana or Toyota Camry, but the Passat holds its own in terms of refinement and overall appeal.

Performance as a whole is top-notch – it drives well, delivers good fuel economy and punchy performance; and is comfortable and an assuring ride.

It’s quintessentially continental in its stance and presence, matched with an attractive price tag.

Looking for a premium executive sedan? This may be it (until the new Passat comes along that is).

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