Volkswagen Arteon

Passat in a swish suit isn’t one to be forgotten


ENGINE 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo / POWER 206kW @5700-6500rpm / TORQUE 350Nm @1800-5600rpm / WEIGHT 1658kg / 0-100KM/H 5.6sec (claim) / PRICE $65,490

You may be surprised at how well this refined, stylish four-door can get down a difficult road

SOME cars fly under the radar. Not in a B52 bomber-style fashion (though someone should work on that), but rather they’re launched to little fanfare then live on in anonymity to virtually everyone other than those people who actually hand over money and buy one.

The Volkswagen CC was just such a car. Essentially a Passat that had been to fashion school, it offered a taste of the four-door coupe lifestyle popularised by the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7, along with a lusty 220kW V6 and plenty of kit, for a fraction of the price of its more premium German competitors.

It didn’t sell in terribly huge numbers – just 2621 were sold over its six-year lifespan, with the vast majority between 2011-2013 – but was sufficiently popular to warrant a successor. Dubbed the Arteon, despite the radically different name it sticks to a very similar recipe, wrapping the mechanicals of a Passat 206TSI in a sexier hatchback bodyshell, something it does to very good effect.

Looks, of course, are subjective, but myriad comments received throughout our week-long test suggest MOTOR’s verdict that this is one stunning car will find support. It helps that the new Passat is a decent-looker itself, unlike the previous model which made watching grass grow seem like a spectator sport by comparison.

The CC had this market largely to itself previously, but the arrival of the Kia Stinger and the new Holden Commodore means the Arteon will have to be more than just a pretty face to assert itself this time around. On the spec-sheet it’s outgunned against its V6 rivals, one of very few new cars to have less power than its predecessor, the 2.0-litre turbo four from the Golf R developing 206kW/350Nm.

Nevertheless, it uses every one of those effectively with a 0-100km/h claim in the mid-5s and a broad spread of power from virtually idle – peak torque is generated from just 1800rpm – all the way to its automatic change-up point of 6700rpm.

There isn’t much to get excited about aurally – turning the sound generator on helps – but it’s an effective engine and by and large the seven-speed DSG is a good match, though its shifts aren’t as whip-crack fast as the best and the hesitation from rest can be irritating if you’re in a hurry.

Given the Arteon’s positioning it’ll be no surprise to hear it’s not going to leave you grinning from ear-to-ear at the limit, but you may be surprised at how well this refined, stylish four-door can get down a difficult road.

Crucially, it feels to distribute cornering forces more or less equally between all four tyres, only falling into understeer if you carry too much speed in a tight corner. The steering is accurate and nicely weighted, only flustered by very severe mid-corner bumps. The chassis is poised and the dampers in Sport tie the body down well while retaining enough compliance to deal with lumps in the road. It’s impressive and, driven within its parameters, fun.

Switch back to Comfort and the Arteon settles easily into its role as a refined tourer. Presumably it’s been designed to make light work of the 180-200km/h autobahn cruise so Australia’s highways pose it little problem. The dampers can actually be adjusted through 14 different levels in the Individual mode, but you’d need ‘Princess and the Pea’ levels of bum sensitivity to detect the individual steps, so it seems redundant when the regular modes are well judged.

Rear accommodation is spacious, though a little tight on headroom for anyone more than 180cm tall, but the Arteon is extremely practical; its arrival coincided with a house move and the amount of gear that can be jammed under that hatch with the rear seats folded flat is remarkable.

Up front there’s plenty of kit and comfortable seats, though the seating position is an arms-stretched, legs-cramped compromise and some of the plastics are a little mainstream. As DC put it, “it feels like to Audi what Skoda is to VW.” Otherwise there’s plenty to like about the Arteon. Looks great, it’s quick, refined, economical and practical for less than $70K as-tested. Will this be enough to put it on more people’s radars?

STAR RATING 4.0 Like Surprisingly dynamic; uses all of its power well Dislike DSG could be faster; needs a better soundtrack