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Volkswagen Passat (1973 - 1980)

Last updated 29 April 2015

Neat and tidy to drive, practical and reasonably quick
Rusted like a 1970s Alfa Romeo


The Volkswagen Passat represented beginning of the real front-wheel revolution for its maker. After the NSU K70 false start, the Audi 80 was badge-engineered into the Passat, and it proved to be the perfect product at the right time. Volkswagen's new future began here. And compared with the 412 it replaced, the Passat was light years away. Although Volkswagen's big traditional sellers were the smaller cars in its range, the Passat offered the perfect upgrade path, as it looked and felt so familiar to drive.

Its EA 827 engine was a revelation, being smooth, revvy and powerful – providing the mainstay for VW's mid-range models for generations to come, and in the Passat, there was a version for everyone - it was originally offered in 1.3-litre 54bhp, 1.5-litre 74 and 84bhp versions, and from August 1975, an enlarged 1.6-litre. In July 1978, the 1.5-litre 49bhp diesel was introduced, making it one of the first mid-sized oil burner offered in Europe. Body styles in this comprehensiv range included fastback two- and four-door saloons, three- and five-door hatchbacks, and a five-door estate, which looked all but identical to its Audi 80 cousin. A little clinical compared with rivals, yet more than capable of entertaining. Seating was firm, steering accurate and suspension set-up firm and well-damped. But it had a serious capacity for rusting.

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