A piscatorial ode to the Passat estate.
The romance of the open road. Being your own boss. A scaled down Knight of the Road, if you will. However much your magenta tinted spectacles may offer such views, in today’s dog eat dog road conditions, it’s mighty tough out there. Especially if you’re a photocopier engineer with a large region to cover and your given steed is a B8 Passat estate – in grey. Cliched, isn’t it? Though Mark definitely does not sell the machines, his remit is simply to repair and that requires parts, and lots of them – hence the estate. That load area is full.
Called to our offices under emergency conditions; both full size copiers out of action with completely different problems, even switching them off and on again had no effect. I witnessed Mark parking up and a few minutes later, wander in the office with a case of tools and several more trips for a variety of spares. Oblivious to the copier problems, my mind wandered to the Passat, now up to generation eight and quietly usurping the Beetle as Volkswagen’s second biggest seller – thirty million since 1973 – and closing in on that other car they make, I forget the name…
Fleets have taken huge numbers of them as they appear to possess the gift of long life, rather similarly to baby sister, the Golf. (Though as a quick aside, another work colleague had to hastily trade in his ten year old diesel Golf due to turbo failure, a coolant leak and several other problems recently. The repair bill was almost twice the car’s value. But I digress.)
Surely I am not alone in knowing privately owned models with lunar distance mileages and still on the button? One local example to me being a B5 with over 300,000 on the clock: bought for little money, never cleaned inside or out (imagine the aroma) barring the annual MOT test and top-ups of the Devil’s liquid, it costs him peanuts to run – and all for the amore of angling.
Another fisherman local to me has a B7 which is cleaned and regularly serviced. This one is quite the Tequila Splitfin, mind. Manual gearbox, petrol driven and 240bhp. Bought new seven years ago by it’s now octogenarian owner, this Passat will spend more time off road than many a 4×4. Indeed, the lakes and rivers of this sceptered isle can often be seen bedecked by estate cars, much like this one.
Do you imagine that Volkswagen contemplated the effect their mid-size car might have on our riverbanks? Or that of Photocopy Repair Man? Throw into the ring the auction house, the home based courier, the family hauler, the taxi company. For whilst the rise of the sports utility vehicle has become stratospheric, the estate car still carries with it (pun intended) a loyalty with strong bonds. Leaving well aside (for now) the aromas of toner cartridges and turbot fish, the estate car can be far more attractive than those of bloated proportions and, to some extent, better than their own saloon derivations.
The Passat saloon must be a good car. You don’t sell millions of mingers. But it’s plain to the point of transparency. But while they are everywhere, they blend in with the properties of a chameleon, or an undercover agent, deep in some highly secretive operation. Only the car isn’t as exciting. Dependable, comfortable, economical, yes.
The estate contains that elongated, elegant air about its demeanour. The proportions flow better, the car appears more settled. That theme continues with others within the umbrella of VW; Škoda’s Superb and Octavia, the Leon, even those wearing the four rings have estate cars looking more attractive than their saloon counterparts.
The case continues with other manufacturers; the Toyota Auris estate appears quite svelte to its rather blobby hatchback family. The Focus and Mondeo garner appreciative comments whereas a recently observed Alpina Touring made me stop and stare. Understanding it was a Five Series underneath, the driver was either desperately late to repair another photocopying catastrophe or was evading capture, the emitted sound being unequivocally deeper than any BMW.
Sales figures suggest though that the love affair with the touring wagon is failing due to that inexorable rise of those vehicles of utility with a sporting bent. Fleets continue to flatter sales figures but apart from our fishing friend mentioned earlier, I know no-one buying an estate car as their own.
Returning to Mark, his repair job completed after a couple of hours, I signed his tablet to approve the job and asked him about his car. He told me his company move them on after two years or 80,000 miles and his was on 76k. He was fully expecting a Tiguan as replacement, hearing a rumour that a couple of transporters were seen emptying back at HQ. Would he mind, I asked?
“Well, I don’t expect the back seats will fit many people in, they’ll be full of all my repair tackle, then the fishing kit at weekends. The Passat swallows me and my brother’s sea-fishing kit no problem. Can’t see that with the Tiguan but when they allow you to use the car for your own use, beggars can’t be choosers.”
Perhaps sales are down because they all stink of fish?