Petrol family saloons have been out of favour for more than a decade, thanks to taxation and company car rules designed to fevour diesel models. But recent events have forced a rethink and have made products such as the latest petrol-powered Volkswagen Passat more relevant again. This isn’t just a regular turbo petrol engine, either. The 148bhp i.4-litre unit has VW’s cylinder-deactivation technology, so its huts down two cylinders when you’re cruising along on part throttle, in a bid to improve fuel efficiency. On paper it works, too, with CO2 emissions of 116g/km and claimed economy of 56.5mpg.
The set-up is effective on the road. The engine has 250Nm of torque from as little as 1,500rpm, so you can almost drive it like a diesel, with early upshifts. It’s smooth throughout and while you may hear a slight resonance when the cylinders shut down, for the most part you’ll only become aware of it kicking in when the instrument panel indicator lights up. Real-world economy appears strong, too; we saw just under 50mpg on a mixed commute that combined a motorway run and traffic-clogged urban streets.
The overall chassis set-up is for comfort, and the Passat does a good job of soaking up road imperfections. There’s a bit of body roll as a result, however, and when coupled with accurate-but-inert steering, this makes the car a relatively uninvolving drive on twistier roads. It’s never unruly, though. GT spec brings a few niceties over our preferred Passat trim level, SE Business; you get the fully digital instrument panel as standard, along with heated ‘premium comfort’ front seats, a panoramic sunroof and an upgrade to 18-inch wheels. We’re not sure the extra kit is worth the additional financial outlay – and since the 150 ACT engine is also available in SE Business, we’d be tempted to stick with that version.