Apply this definition to the world of cars, and you end up with a number of models that have simply been ignored by the masses despite there being nothing wrong with them, apart from lacking that usual trait many South Africans crave; the bragging values of the badge.
Now factor in the skyrocketing popularity of SUVs and general sales decline in the mid-size sedan segment, you end up with the car that still impressed enough to make the shortlist for 2017 South African Car of the Year finalist; the new Volkswagen Passat.
Rewind the clock back when SUVs were still making the transition from hardcore bundu-bashers to shopping mall parking lot conquerors and when traditional sedans were still seen as superior to MPV’s, the Passat, especially the B4-generation with a 1.8T badge on its bootlid, made for a compelling choice to buyers who found a Toyota Camry too vanilla, or who could not afford the offerings from Stuttgart, Munich and Ingolstadt.
As good as the generations that preceded the B5 might have been, buyers continued to turn a blind eye with many wanting a Volkswagen sedan opting instead for the cheaper Jetta, while those seeking to go somewhat beyond the concrete jungle favoured the Tiguan.
Debuting in 2015 as one of the first models to introduce Volkswagen’s innovative MQB-platform to South Africa, the eighth generation (B8) Passat was further boosted by the arrival of a 2.0 TDI engine towards the end of 2016, which made a significant impression when our editor, Sean Nurse, attended the official launch.
Stylistically, this turned out to be shared impression when the TDI recently arrived for a week long stay. Unashamedly inspired by the Phaeton with an almost fastback appearance at rear and a neat front end highlighted by lashings of chrome, prominent bi-xenon headlights and almost concave bonnet line, the overall execution is both elegant and very classy with the addition of the standard R-Line styling pack and sinister Night Blue paint finish upping the appearance factor that little bit more.
Get inside, and you might be a little disappointed at the inherent lack of design flare compared to the exterior, although this quickly pays into insignificance when you start poking around.
Underlined by a strip of brushed aluminium running the length of the dashboard, piano-key black inserts around the infotainment screen and on the steering wheel, chrome touches, leather and customary Volkswagen soft touch plastics on every surface, the attention to detail and build-quality is both faultless and upmarket with the analogue clock adding a touch of old-world charm to a cab otherwise brisling with digital gadgetry.
Centre to this is the optional 12.3-inch Active Info Display instrument cluster which takes after Audi’s Virtual Cockpit by being a wholly digital setup with configurable settings depending on driver preference.
Putting functions such as the satellite navigation, radio station and vehicle information menus directly between the speedometer and tachometer, the setup is easy to scroll through with former functions also displayed on the intuitive and smart looking (optional) eight-inch touchscreen Discover Pro infotainment display.
Aside the tech fest, the Passat has always been about space and comfort, an area the B8 does not disappoint. Despite the swopping roof line, space in the back is impressive with the seats, trimmed here in Vienna leather, being especially comfortable regardless if you are seated in the front and.
Getting comfortable behind the wheel proved to be doddle was well thanks to the optional Luxury Pack which adds 12-way adjustable electric and ventilated chairs with lumbar support and memory function. As for the boot, simply put, is humongous with a claimed total volume of 519-litres.
Although a recent shift in policy has seen many German automakers trim down on the obligatory options list by making some features standard, our Executive flagship tester still sported a substantial amount of niceties which bumped the asking price up from R522 400 to an eye-popping R627 600.
Some of these worth mentioning included of the 11-speaker Dynaudio Confidence sound system, electric bootlid, keyless entry / go, striking 18-inch Dartford alloy wheels, Adaptive Cruise Control, Heads-Up Display and Park Assist.
As Sean mentioned in his piece, the inclusion of Volkswagen’s trusty 2.0 TDI engine has taken the Passat to another level in terms of sheer driveability when you put your foot. With figures of 130 kW and 350 Nm of torque, the engine delivers its knock-out punch with a lovely surge of low-down grunt right from the off, although this can be changed by pressing the "Mode" button next to the gear lever and selecting Sport.
While it is a given that most Passat TDI owners will hardly ever take theirs out of Normal or Eco modes, the pull away in Sport is nothing short of astonishing as throttle response becomes sharper and the steering heavier for more feedback.
Complementing the engine to an absolute tee, the six-speed DSG gearbox went about its business unobtrusively with seamless shifts and immediate response on kick-down. More impressively though, putting the ‘box into Sport mode and using the paddles made for crisper and quicker shifts with virtually no lag.
A vocal point of Volkswagen’s TDI engine has always been fuel economy with the Passat’s trip computer, after 500-odd km with an indicated 420 km of range still left, eventually settling at 6.9 L/100 km. Well down on Volkswagen’s claimed 6.0 L/100 km it might be, but not bad considering it spend most of its stay doing the daily commute and trips around Johannesburg and Pretoria.
As accomplished as it turned out to be from a styling, comfort and drivetrain perspective, the Volkswagen Passat’s role as a left-field option will sadly continue given the allure of its fellow Germans and the tempting proposition that is the new Tiguan. For those adverse to the SUV movement and not concerned with the badge though, the Passat TDI makes more a compelling option not to be ignored.
|ENGINE LAYOUT||DOHC 16v Inline 4|
|MAX POWER||110 kW @3600-4000 rpm|
|MAX TORQUE||350 N.m @1500-3500 rpm|
|DRIVE LAYOUT||Front engine; Front-wheel drive|
|ACCELERATION (0-100 km/h)||8.2 sec.|
|TOP SPEED||228 km/h|
|FUEL CONSUMPTION*||6.9 L/100 km*|
*As recorded during tenure
** Price as tested