The Passat's strong passenger cell provides a safe survival space. In the side impact, a car fitted with the optional head protection airbag earned full marks (see right). The area that the driver’s knees might hit in the frontal impact included hard areas that could cause serious injuries. The bonnet’s leading edge proved ‘friendlier’ to pedestrians than those of many competitors.
The driver’s head almost rolled off the airbag and then hit the waist rail of the door as it rebounded. Although the car lost no points for this, it did because his chest hit the steering wheel. Otherwise the restraint systems protected well. Hard points behind the facia threatened the driver’s knees and upper legs, however. The centre rear lap belt offered less protection than a three-point belt, which was optional – Euro NCAP believes it should be standard.
The Passat’s performance was impressive. The head airbag worked well and provided equal protection for front and rear seat occupants. VW paid for a pole test to assess the optional head-protection curtain. It is a shame that this is not standard equipment.
A passenger airbag is standard and VW needs to take seriously the risk of serious injury or death to children in rear-facing restraints fitted to an adjacent seat. Neither a pictogram (which was hard to understand) nor a peel-off label on the screen warned of the risks if the advice they gave was ignored. VW-branded Romer Prince Bobsy G1 Universal forward-facing restraints were chosen for testing. These worked well but did not protect the 18-month-old child’s neck. A version of this restraint that uses the ISOFIX attachment system performed poorly when previously tested by Euro NCAP in the Skoda Fabia. VW did not specify it for this test. However, it continues to be sold by Volkswagen dealers.
The Passat’s performance was average for cars of this size. However its bonnet leading edge did an above-average job, showing that good design can significantly improve pedestrian safety.