Only about six or seven years ago, the D-segment was the most heavily contended category in the Malaysian automotive landscape with close to 10 models comprising the Japanese, the Koreans, as well as the European models battling it out for a chunk of the pie.
This was when the prices of D-segment models were so competitive that models like the entry level 2.0-litre Accord and Camry were only slightly more expensive than C-segment models like the Mitsubishi Lancer GT, Honda Civic, and the Toyota Corolla Altis.
However, in about 10 years, things took a turn for the worse in the D-segment as SUVs came and took over the world.
Since SUVs are offering much more practicality and convenience with somewhat similar performance and luxury at the same price or even less than D-segment sedans, more buyers have started swinging towards SUVs as they simply offer a better bang for the buck.
This switch in buying trend has affected the D-segment so badly that some brands like Nissan for instance, have pulled out of the segment in order to focus more on selling SUVs.
However, there are still bright spots in the sedan market, like the luxury segment for instance, where BMWs, Mercs, and Lexuses are still doing well.
So, due to the lack of demand, manufacturers are now repositioning D-segment sedans as a more spacious alternative to luxury marques mentioned above, which explains why the prices of cars like the Camry, Accord, and Mazda 6 have started going up.
Today, the cheapest D-segment model in Malaysia is the Proton Perdana 2.0L which goes for about RM104,000 while the most expensive one is the Mazda 6 2.5L SkyActiv sedan at RM204,723. Besides these two models, we have the Kia Optima, Honda Accord, and also the Volkswagen Passat.
Out of the whole lot, one would expect the German to be among the most expensive ones, right? Well, not really.
Take the Volkswagen B8 Passat for instance – priced between RM176,690 and RM 195,390, it is still more affordable than the Toyota Camry and the Mazda 6.
Yes, we are aware of the fact that the facelifted version could be launched here any moment and it would definitely be a better product, but chances are that the price will be higher than what it is now.
Hence, if you’ve been thinking of getting your hands on the Passat, this is probably the best time to do so.
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged, direct injection
- Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Max power: 220 PS from 4,500 rpm to 6,200 rpm
- Max torque: 350 Nm from 1,500 rpm to 4,400 rpm
- Origin: Assembled in Pekan, Pahang
- Price: RM195,390 OTR without insurance
Launched in 2016, the B8 Passat, which is being assembled in Pekan, Pahang, may be three years old already but from what we can see, it still doesn’t really look or feel outdated yet.
Like the Golf Mk7, the B8 Passat is built on an all-new MQB platform. Depending on variant, the Passat is up to 85 kg lighter. Despite appearing to be longer and wider than the previous Passat, the all-new Passat is actually slightly smaller on the outside, but a lot more spacious inside, thanks to the more space-efficient MQB platform.
On the exterior, the B8 Passat is all about simplicity. Unlike the new Camry or the upcoming Accord, the Passat’s design is less flashy and more matured, with key features like 18-inch wheels on this Highline variant, twin exhausts, LED DRLs, and a bold, wide chrome front grille.
Inside however, is where the Passat’s actual strength is. The cabin is plush enough to rival a Mercedes-Benz C-Class or an Audi A4, nevermind the BMW 3 Series, plus the Passat even offers more interior space than the trio of German premium small sedans.
The car also comes with the same Virtual Cockpit as the Audi A4, which Volkswagen refers to as the Active Info Display, which comes as standard. This feature itself makes the Passat’s cabin look classier than most of its Asian rivals.
Complementing the Active Info Display and adding a touch of luxury is the wooden trim which runs across the dashboard and the door panel, as well as the analogue clock at the centre. However, as good as it looks, the wooden trim is starting to look dated.
We also feel that the steering wheel should've been thicker, so that it will give a more engaging feel while driving. Come to think of it, the folks at Volkswagen could have just used the same steering as the Golf GTI, since both cars feel very similar in terms of driving feel.
Besides that, the Passat's cabin, albeit being so well built and classy, looks very plain compared to its newer rivals which come with cabins that feature a very futuristic design.
In terms of features, there is the App-Connect system which supports Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Mirror Link, along with rear air-cond vents, flat-folding rear seats, a 586-litre boot which can be “kicked” open, and a 12-way electric driver’s seat with memory and massage functions among others.
Where the driving stakes are concerned, there is no doubt that the Passat is among the field’s leading pack. It has the performance and handling to trump most D-segment cars and even trouble a few premium compact execs along the way. To be frank, it feels just like the Golf GTI to drive, but with a boot.
In normal driving conditions in town, the Passat Highline feels very comfortable, quiet, and refined. Once it comes to the open road, acceleration is nothing short of explosive. Power delivery is so seamless that it goes beyond the speed limit so quickly, effortlessly.
Ride is firmer than its predecessor, but comfort is not compromised at all. Even in Comfort mode, the Passat Highline handles very well and performs better than most of its rivals.
However, if you want things to be more exciting, just put it in Sports mode and the Passat becomes even more eager and sportier, making it ideal even for a Touge session.
That being said, even though it has been around for three years, the B8 Passat has not really shown any signs of ageing.
While the exterior design is elegant and timeless, the interior is among the best in the segment. Features wise, the car has all the amenities we would want at the moment like the split-folding rear seats, rear air cond vents, a fully digital instrument panel, and of course, Android Auto and CarPlay.
Plus, over the past 3 years, the B8 Passat has proven to be more reliable than its predecessor, the B7 as there has not been any major problem with the car since it was launched in 2016.
So, if you are not a big fan of SUVs, still swear by D-segment sedans, and have been considering an executive sedan for about RM200,000, the Passat 2.0 TSI Highline we have here is actually worth considering if you don’t want to wait for the updated version to arrive.
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