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Entry-level fastback doesn’t do enough to make the Arteon any more competitive in an already-tough class

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Arteon

Volkswagen hopes its new five-seater fastback will make a splash in the executive pool. Will the Arteon sink or swim?

Tom Morgan, Online Reviews Editor
13 July 2018

What is it?

Volkswagen’s flagship five-seat fastback has arrived in new entry-level guise.

When it first appeared last summer, the Arteon had a limited choice of 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines. Each came at a price that put it in direct competition with established executive saloons such as the BMW 4 series Gran Coupé, Jaguar XE and Audi A5, along with newcomers including the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Kia Stinger.

This 1.5-litre TSI, borrowed from the latest Golf, brings the list price (and benefit-in-kind tax) down to a more fleet-friendly level. It produces a Golf-matching 147bhp and 184lb ft of torque, yet still manages to propel the considerably heavier Arteon from 0-62mph in 8.3sec and on to a 138mph top speed.

As well as losing out on performance to its range mates, it sends drive to the front wheels only instead of all four, and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard.

Having previously only experienced entry-level Elegance trim on European roads, this was also an opportunity to test the stock suspension, without the Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers on R-line models, in the UK.

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What's it like?

Largely on a par with the entry-level diesel Arteon, which is similarly turbocharged and produces the same amount of power from its 2.0 TDI engine. That power is delivered much more smoothly here, though, and with less noise than the diesel.

Things aren’t whisper quiet, with some slight chatter at idle and a small but noticeable drone once you reach cruising speed on a motorway. Even so, it’s definitely more refined than the oil-burning alternative. Wind and road noise haven’t ever been major concerns for the Arteon, so you can comfortably eat up long distances without needing earplugs.

It might not better the diesel for fuel economy, but we achieved a respectable 51mpg during long-distance touring — close to VW's official figure of 54.3mpg.

The engine is tasked with propelling the Arteon’s not insignificant mass, however. When it comes to overtaking, you’ve got to really work the engine before it truly builds speed, and it has far less pull in the low and mid-range than the diesel.

At least the manual transmission is smooth and light, with a reasonably precise action when shifting through the gears. But, at any speed, there’s no escaping the fact that the Arteon is a sizeable car.

The light steering rack may help with inner-city manoeuvres, but at speed it translates into slightly vague handling. It’s especially noticeable when trying to power out of bends, with none of the accuracy or feedback found in more dynamic saloons.

On 18in wheels and with the stock suspension, the Arteon delivers a smooth ride that copes well with bumps and undulations, without translating vibrations into the cabin to a noticeable degree.

There’s more room inside the cabin here than the Passat it replaces, and more space for luggage than many rivals, too. Interior quality is high and Elegance trim doesn’t leave you wanting for much, with an 8.0in touchscreen and VW’s 12.3in Active Info Display digital instrument cluster.

The gesture-sensing menus are all too easy to trigger accidentally when shifting gears, while the screens aren’t as detailed or comprehensive as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, but they do give the car a premium feel.

As ever, though, it’s the looks that will divide opinion. A wide grille that’s quickly filtering across to the rest of VW’s line-up, a plunging roofline and frameless doors give the Arteon modern yet restrained looks that simply don’t command the same attention on the road that some rival executive saloons do.

Should I buy one?

It’s not quite as frugal as its diesel range mates, but the Arteon’s new entry-level petrol variant makes just as much sense to fleet drivers searching for a competent motorway cruiser. It’s significantly cheaper than the diesel, in manual guise at least, and more refined.

The reserved exterior styling and ample luggage space will be enough to convince many, but anyone searching for a more engaging drive would be better served by the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé or Jaguar XE. Audi’s A5 Sportback delivers greater refinement inside the cabin, too.

Company car drivers will appreciate the low list price, but the 1.5 TSI is down on power compared with many rivals. Anyone convinced that the Arteon is the way to go would be better served by the 187bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre unit.

Volkswagen Arteon Elegance 1.5 TSI specification

Tested Somerset, UK Price £33,560 On sale now Engine 1498cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol Power 147bhp at 5000rpm Torque 184lb ft at 1500rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1505kg Top speed 138mph 0-62mph 8.7sec Fuel economy 54.3mpg CO2 119g/km, 24% Rivals BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé, Audi A5 Sportback

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Comments
1

13 July 2018

8.7 seconds to 62mph is more than fast enough for most, not everyone needs or wants tyre shredding pace. Having seen a fair few of these Arteons about, they do look good - the long low front end is particularly good.

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