You might think that the latest VW Passat is having something of a mid-life crisis to coincide with mine.


Does my bum look big in this? No, I thought not. The Passat may have a 650-litre boot that swells to 1780-litres with the back seats folded flat but it still manages to contend for the rear of the year in the estate category.

In fact, the changes to this eight generation model are so subtle that it’s only the rear view that gives the games away. Check out those neat, slit-eyed exhaust slots on either side – as pretty as a Jaguar XF estate.

With four-wheel drive and 237bhp of power on tap in the Bi TDI, this may lead you to think that the latest Passat is having something of a mid-life crisis to coincide with mine.

Not so. The car doesn’t have the sporty edge of a BMW 3 Series and still feels like, well, a Passat. It’s a brilliant buy, hugely practical and well screwed together but there’s still a dollop of excitement missing in the driving experience…

The latest VW Passat is really just a larger Golf with a boot…


I suppose that if I needed any further proof as to how good the Passat is then I just had to take the word of the judges from the European Car of Year. The Passat won by 92 votes – the largest margin in years.

Dragging along in second place was the Citroen Cactus (reviewed elsewhere on Car Couture), with the Ford Mondeo way back in fourth (we’d love to test Fords but unlike 40 other manufacturers who load us cars they don’t appear to know what a motoring blog is!).

It was the biggest victory margin in years, with the voting team giving VW’s sensible family car all round praise. Notable that British judges opting for the Citroen Cactus instead. Weird.

The biggest accolade I can give the Passat is that it is really a Golf with a boot but in larger form. And perhaps that’s all you need to know because there’s no better hatchback out there than the Golf…

Should you pay £40,000 for a Volkswagen Passat estate? Our top spec test car has plenty going for it


Whether or not you’re prepared to for out almost £40,000 for our top spec VW test car is really a no brainer. The sweet spot of the range is much further down the Passat line-up.

However, all Passat models share one common theme – a slick and stylish design that puts the estate up there with premium brand German rivals.

It’s not that long ago that the Passat was regarded as worthy but dull load-lugger that spent most of its life screaming up and down the M1. Not any more – this eighth generation model hasn’t been designed by robots.

My only reservation would be in the cabin. The interior still lacks BMW coolness, Audi chic. I love the ribbed seats and straightforward approach to the lay out of the controls but surely there’s room for a little style too?


Has the new Bi-TDI estate finally shone the light of coolness onto the VW Passat?


After eight generations of trying and almost 20 million cars sold, has the new Bi-TDI estate finally shone the light of coolness onto the VW Passat?

Just like the record-selling Golf and Beetle, this stodgy family-mover has grafted its way into our hearts over the years as a solid and practical buy.

I’ve always enjoy driving Passats but there’s never been one that sets the pulses racing – until now.

Yes, the new GT isn’t just refined, efficient and accomplished – it might even be called exciting when compared to its drab predecessor.

It’s been a long time coming but congratulations Volkswagen. You’ve finally given birth to a pretty estate car!

Can we be the first to offer Clarkson a new job as a motoring writer?


Can I just be the first to offer Clarkson a new job? We don’t pay much but as he only lives down the road from Car Couture I can see it shaping up as the ‘Two Jeremys’. We have long lunchbreaks and there’s always a hot meal in the canteen, day or night.

He would also get to drive fine cars like the Mazda CX-5. Super sensible, packed with equipment and loaded with space.

There would also be plenty of opportunity to moan about some of the features he doesn’t like too. Such as the excessive wind and tyre noise which rather ruins the refinement, plus the annoying infotainment system that isn’t quite up to speed.

No doubt ‘Jezza’ would whine about the keyless ignition which sometimes locks you out of the car, and the rather dull dashboard trim, that isn’t up to BMW standard (although the CX-5 obviously costs less).

It’s more practical than a Ferrari and you can use it to tow a caravan. Yes, right up Clarkson’s street then…

The Mazda CX-5 needs fine tuning on the technology front…


Once again I’ve been caught out by the remote door-locking system on the CX-5! From the time it took to shut the passenger door and walk around to the driver’s side, the system locked me out and I had to press the key fob again.

Not entirely sure why this is such a good system on any car. I’m a grown up and quite capable of remembering to lock a car when I leave it somewhere risky. My front yard in the countryside certainly isn’t one of those places!

It’s the technology that is annoying me most about the Mazda. Everything else works beautifully – I love the white leather interior and it’s averaging 38mpg on a long run too – not bad for permanent four-wheel drive.

And here’s one more annoyance. If I key a location into the sat nav and then reverse out of a space to start my journey, the proximity alert won’t leave the screen and show the navigation route until I reach a certain speed.

Three times this week I have turned the wrong way at the start of my journey because I couldn’t see the sat nav route on the screen. Nuts!



The infotainment system in the Mazda CX-5 is worthy of a punch from Jeremy Clarkson


The CX-5 may give you a lot of equipment for a reasonable price but not all of it works as smoothly as you might expect with a Mazda!

As usual, much of the problem revolves around the infotainment system. My two main gripes concern the sat nav system, which is over-complicated and not intuitive to use, and the DAB radio, which again requires the handbook to understand.

Am I being mean? Well, I know Clarkson thought the Mazda was the best SUV on sale in the UK, despite being a little boring. However, I could see him punching the dashboard in frustrating if his destination input wasn’t ready on time.

My other main issues is the self-locking security system fitted to the car. Walk away with the key in your pocket and it locks itself. Great in some situations but I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve already returned to the car and yanked the door handle in frustration, only to find the car has locked itself again.

The answer? Leave the key in the CX-5 when you are loading it – perfectly fine when you live in the middle of nowhere like me. Oh, except that defeats the whole concept of the safety system doesn’t it…



Would the Mazda-CX-5 ever be an SUV classic? It’s still just a step behind its German SUV rivals…


Fascinating how some cars roll on to become classics. Visiting the 73rd Goodwood Members Meeting yesterday (a retro fest of motorsport for petrolheads), I took off down row of garages at the far end of the pits.

There was plenty of exotica showcasing at the event but this area was reserved from mass market cars from the 70s and 80s – Rovers, Minis, Triumphs – which had been heavily modified for track racing. Right up my street.

And so it got me thinking about which cars from the current era would be parked here in 30 years time – and would the CX-5 be one of them?

Tough call because although the Mazda is one of the best SUVs on the market, not even weekend dad would want to floor it around a racetrack. The CX-5 handles a lot better than you might imagine for a car with raised clearance.

And then I remembered which current cars might be racing in the Retro SUV class of 2050 at Goodwood. Yes, it would be the BMW X3, the Audi RS Q3 and the Porsche Macan. Remember my words…

The best SUV not to be built in Germany? Join us for a ride in the Mazda CX-5


There’s never been a Japanese compact SUV to rival those made in Germany, until now. That’s right, the CX-5 is THE best SUV not to be built in Europe.

Why? Well, after only a day behind the wheel I can tell you that you won’t find a better SUV for the money. Only the Ford Kuga comes close and, well, it’s a Ford isn’t it.

The Mazda’s interior trim is a little lifeless and there’s definitely wind and tyre noise at speed. But otherwise this is a great car and extremely practical.

Key to this is the ride quality. It doesn’t wallow around corners and there is plenty of grip, just like, well, a BMW or Audi.

Is this the car to take on German SUVs at their own game? Join us tomorrow for more scribbles…

Is it possible to make the Toyota Land Cruiser a viable proposition – unless you work for the UN?


If the Land Cruiser wasn’t so expensive then there might be a sound financial reason to buy Toyota’s enormous off-roader. Unfortunately, there is too much competition to make it a viable proposition.

The Land Cruiser just feels completely outclassed by the Land Rover Discovery – in every department. Everything from the interior to the ride quality is loads better in the Disco.

I didn’t have an opportunity to take the Toyota into the dirt but I’d be amazed if it was better than the Land Rover, even with the four proximity cameras to keep you out of trouble.

If there is to be a next generation Land Cruiser then Toyota need to use the Discovery as a benchmark and produce an equally good vehicle.

Until then, it’s always going to come off second best.