In the past, the Passat has always just dipped under most people’s radar as it was a tad dull and there were so many cars in that sector that trounced it. So when VW asked me to review it l was wary, as l hate writing damning reviews especially as it sold 22 million models since its launch in 1973 and many people probably think it is the best thing since sliced bread. To date, they have been wrong.

Not anymore. This is a cracking first class motor and if it were not for the badge, you would swear you were driving an Audi. There are several models available. The stylish coupe, Sport Coupe GTE, the 4x4 Alltrack Estate and the GTE Estate l have in my drive, and they all come in the standard VW range from S through to the R-Line. Foolishly, almost the entire range is diesel and they, like all other manufacturers, will live to regret that as you can read in my Anger Management column on page 92 - diesel is dead.

The interior is as brilliantly Germanic as you would expect with everything well laid out, high quality materials and a really comfortable driving position. The boot lid is fully sprung and will swallow anything and with plenty of room in the rear although the middle passenger will have their legs straddling a sizeable transmission tunnel.

Power plants start with the 118bhp 1.6 TDI and goes on to the 237bhp 2.0 BiTDI, which is VWs most powerful four-cylinder diesel to date. My test car is the GTE Estate Advance 1.4 TSI and, rarely said about a 1.4 litre engine, it gave me all the power l needed although it is mated to an electric motor that finally offers 215bhp. It’s tough these days to believe what they can get out of such a small engine and pure electric will give you 660 miles (with a light right foot).

The drive is smooth and very well planted and the DSG gearbox shifts through the gears like silk. The optional continuously variable dampers work away at softening out the lumps and bumps and affords you a smooth and trouble free ride.

The problem for them, not us, is the competition – competition that comes from within the same company. The new (VW) Skoda Superb Estate shares much of the same technology but has a larger interior and more standard kit for less dosh. OK, the badge does not have the same cache but then l am not sure that buyers of such cars really care about that and the VW will certainly have a better resale value. But then there is the Audi A4 from the same stable. The A4 Avant starts at £28,000 and with the Passat starting at £24,000, l wonder if buyers would stump up the extra £4,000 to drive an Audi? Jiggle all the extras and the prices start to even out and there lies the problem. Will the Passat steal sales from its own stable mates?

Despite all that, the new Passat is a great piece of kit and is no longer the dull functional beast it once was. To use boxing terminology, it really is a contender.

TECHNICAL STUFF

Model tested: Estate GTE Advance

Engine: 1.4 litre diesel with an electric motor

Power: 215bhp

Performance: 0-62mph 7.5 seconds

Top speed: 139mph

Economy: 156.9mpg combined

Price from: £24,770

Price as tested: £38,615.00