Driven - Volkswagen Passat CC V6 FSI 2009

Following the lead of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Volkswagen has applied the same theory of making an overtly sporting model based on a popular sedan. The resulting Passat CC is a very different car to the general perception of what a Passat is all about.

And there's no doubting it's a success. Few cars tested recently have gained as many comments from passers by or friends when they've seen the car. While I personally found the styling a bit contrived I was out-voted by almost everyone else.

It's strictly a 4-seater inside, with the centre of the back seat fitted with storage space and cup holders. But getting in and out, especially via the rear doors is more testing than most sedans. This of course is a result of the low roof. And this is a part of the problem with this car. It's a case of form over function. The dashboard is very high. This isn't a problem in the everyday Passat, where you sit much higher, but to get under the CCs low roof, the driving position is much lower. And vision out the back is also compromised. The slit-like view through the internal mirror, and high boot make the reversing camera and park assist vital - and you do need to rely on them.

The combination of light interior colours and the optional panoramic glass sunroof helps alleviate any feelings of claustrophobia.

The seats are certainly comfortable and supportive. The controls are designed to the high standard we've come to expect from Wolfsburg. And the finish, attention to detail and quality of the interior is up to Audi levels - that is, as good as it gets in a production car.

I wasn't convinced by the Auto Hold function which keeps the car stationary even when you don't want it to. It just makes parking a jerky and unnecessarily complicated procedure. VW describes it like this: "As soon as the Passat CC comes to a complete stop, the ABS hydraulic unit retains its final braking pressure. Even when you take your foot off the brake pedal, the brakes remain applied to all four wheels, providing increased comfort in stationary traffic." This is a more intrusive system than hill-hold function which many cars have.

The lane departure warning system is also not ideal - feeling through the steering wheel like you've driven over a line of ball-bearings.

The CC has adaptive chassis control, with adjustable settings for the shock absorbers, which quite effectively ranges from true luxurious comfort to sporty handling. The V6 version, as tested also comes with Volkswagen's 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system, which gives tremendous roadholding and great confidence in the wet. 0-100km/h comes up in a very respectable 5.6 seconds.

In spite of its in many ways compromised design, there's much to like about the CC - especially the price. And if a turbo-diesel version takes your fancy, it's even cheaper.

Engine type: 3.6-litre V6
Power: 220kW
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: 6-speed DSG
Price: $65,000 at time of review
Photos & text - Paul Blank (copyright)