In Europe, station wagons are cool but in Australia they have been completely overshadowed by the popularity of the SUV.
This is a shame, for those brave enough to venture outside the square dictated by convention and peer approval will find some appealing options.
Falling neatly into this description is the latest VW Passat wagon which is completely new with a roomier interior, more equipment and a $4000 price cut to $34,990 for the entry level sedan model with an additional $2000 charged for the wagon.
There is a choice of two engines, a 1.8 litre petrol turbo with 132kW of power and 250Nm of torque and a 2 litre turbodiesel with 140kW and 400Nm. The petrol engine is mated with a seven-speed automatic gearbox and the diesel to a six-speed unit.
There are three trim grades – standard, Comfortline and Highline – with the last mentioned the only model available with the diesel engine.
The new exterior styling is sharp and assertive and to my mind more suited to the wagon variant than the sedan.
Interior space in the wagon is excellent with ample rear legroom with 650 litres of luggage space with the rear seats in use and a massive 1780 litres with them folded flat.
It is also worth noting that all models come with a full sized alloy spare wheel.
Golf drivers will immediately feel at home in the cabin with the dials and switchgear straight from the smaller car.
There’s a feel of quality to the interior with plenty of soft touch surfaces, a nicely shaped steering wheel and a solid feel to the controls.
Standard equipment is so good that you would question the wisdom of paying more for the more generously equipped models.
Satellite navigation, cruise control, alloy wheels including the spare, tinted glass and a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen are standard while the middle level Comfortline gets leather trim, more safety equipment and an eight inch screen.
The diesel Highline sits at the top of the range with leather upholstery, darker LED tail-lights and wider tyres on bigger 18-inch alloys
All Passats come with rear air vents and their own temperature controls
Safety-wise, the Passat is rated with five EuroNCAP stars and features nine airbags, a standard rear-view camera, driver-fatigue system and automatic safety braking that operates at speeds of up to 60kmh.
The 132 Comfortline is $39,990, while the Highline is $45,990, plus the extra $2000 for the wagon. Volkswagen claims that the extra features added to the latest Comfortline and Highline models add $4000 in value compared with the previous models.
On the road the Passat gives a ride that is compliant and controlled. It corners nicely, feels settled and gives quiet, relaxed cruising on the highway.
There’s a lot to like about the new Passat, even if it’s not an SUV.