BY STEVE WALKER
Let's imagine that you're in the market for a family saloon car. You want something roomy, reliable, sturdily built and with a quality feel. Volkswagen's Passat ticked all these boxes in its sixth generation guise, just like the five generations before it did, but like those cars, the MKVI Passat was about as exciting as a twelve volume company car tax handbook. If you're after even a smidgeon of flair to go with its other virtues, this car tends to be found wanting. There is an answer though and it's called the Passat CC.
You might hear the Passat CC described as 'the car that the sixth generation Passat always should have been'. There might well be something in that. This generation of Volkswagen's family saloon stalwart was first launched in 2005 and although it upped the stakes in terms of perceived quality, technology and efficiency, it still didn't offer the family buyer a whole lot of visual excitement.
This was against the backdrop of a medium range family car market under pressure. Fleet customers were deserting their usual Mondeos, Vectras and Passats in favour of compact executive models from the likes of BMW and Audi, while private buyers were having their heads turned by the numerous compact 4x4s and MPVs becoming available for similar money. The Passat, despite its strengths, struggled to attract much attention but in 2008 Volkswagen came up with the Passat CC.
Inspiration for the CC or 'Comfort Coupe' (no convertible roofs here) may well have been taken from the Mercedes-Benz CLS, a car that had added swooping coupe-like lines to the Mercedes E-Class saloon platform and captured the imagination of executive car customers. The Passat CC did a similar thing but in a lower strata of the market.
Still packing four doors and a conventional boot like the Passat saloon, the Passat CC looks longer, lower and wider - largely because it is. The dimensions aren't dramatically different but the curvy roofline and sleeker profile just make the car a more pleasant thing to look at. In order to avoid completely crippling sales of the saloon version, the Passat CC was only offered with a limited range of engines and trim levels at prices that were typically £1,000 higher from new. The CC was also a strict four-seater with a console splitting the cabin down the middle and dividing the rear bench into two separate chairs.
That changed in 2010 when Volkswagen fitted a conventional three-seat rear bench to the car and boosted its practicality. All models got satellite navigation at the same time.
What You Get
The design of the Passat CC is fascinating. Despite almost every external body panel being different to that of the saloon model, most people won't realise that this is a different car. It takes the two cars sitting back to back to really establish what Volkswagen did with the CC. The unique steel body is 31mm longer than the saloon's, that difference being made up entirely by front and rear overhang increases. You might think that this may well offer a bonus in terms of luggage space but the sloping boot deck actually reduces capacity by 40 litres.
Undoubtedly a tidy piece of styling work, the Passat CC still isn't extrovert by any stretch of the imagination. Its lines are elegant and clean without providing too much by way of real drama. Still, it's positively adventurous by Volkswagen's rather conservative standards and a more desirable proposition than the saloon as a result.
The cabin is noticeably more upmarket than the saloon's, with higher quality materials used and additional equipment. The front seats are very spacious with plenty of headroom but in the rear, there's the twin problems of reduced headroom and only two seats on the early cars. The boot is quite large but its long, flat shape will also limit practicality.
The two trim levels are known as standard CC and GT. Even standard models boast sports suspension, 17" 'Phoenix' alloy wheels, 2Zone Climatronic air conditioning, a touchscreen CD stereo system with six-disc autochanger, six-way electrically adjustable sports seats, a multifunction leather steering wheel, six airbags and ESP. The GT adds 18" 'Interlagos' alloy wheels, 'silversprint' upholstery, tinted windows and front foglights as well as Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC). With three settings - comfort, normal and sport - ACC acts not only on the damper units to firm up or soften the ride but also changes the characteristics of the electro-mechanical steering system to suit a more comfort- or sport-orientated drive.
What to Look For
Ask most people and they'll cite the Passat as a paragon of reliability, although owners of the old MK5 model may not share that opinion, the Volkswagen often doing only averagely in customer satisfaction and reliability surveys. The MK6 model tightened genuine as opposed to merely perceived quality up a good few notches.
All of the engines available with the CC model are tried and tested powerplants and should prove trouble free. The DSG twin-clutch gearbox offered with some engine options and standard on the V6 is rugged but very expensive to replace so ensure it's working as it should. The Passat CC isn't a particularly sporting car and so it shouldn't have been given a hard time by Jensen Button wannabes.
(approx based on a 2008 1.8 TSI) A clutch assembly retails at around £190, front brake pads are £75 a pair whilst rears are £40 a set. A new alternator is a fairly reasonable £280, and a new headlamp is a hefty £275. A new exhaust system including the front and down pipe is £1250.
On the Road
From a driver's perspective, the Passat CC differs its more conventional saloon sibling in a few key areas. Given that it rides on exactly the same chassis and uses a subset of the Passat saloon engine range, scope for modification was predictably slim. The car sits 50mm lower, giving a centre of gravity closer to the road. The driver sits 15mm lower in the car, again supposedly imbuing him or her with a greater sense of connectedness with the road surface. Otherwise, the differences with how this car drives and how a Passat saloon drives are not huge. That means good ride quality and handling that's safe and predictable rather than exciting in any meaningful way.
Refinement is also rather impressive, regardless of the engine installed and it's also safe to say that there isn't a duffer amongst the CC's powerplants. The 1.8 TSI unit uses a turbocharger to achieve 158bhp and comes across as smooth and eager to rev. The 2.0-litre TSI has 198bhp from a similar configuration but used buyers are more likely to come across one of the 2.0-litre TDI diesels. With 138bhp or 168bhp, units feel strong and have plenty of torque on tap. The lesser one achieves C02 emissions of 153g/km and 50mpg fuel economy is a possibility. The 3.6-litre V6 engine is quick and creamy smooth by with close to 300bhp but you'll be lucky to see 30mpg from it and to find a used one at all, they weren't big sellers.
Good looks can get you a long way. The sixth generation Passat saloon never really had them but, while still no matinee idol, the Passat CC is a good deal easier on the eye. Retaining the four door and a boot layout but adding a lower, leaner shape with extra curves, the CC became a much more desirable proposition. There are only two rear seats on the early cars and that might deter buyers with families but elsewhere the recipe is much the same as the Passat saloon. High equipment levels and strong engines make the CC a solid choice on the used market.