(Pocket-lint) - Your company car policy says you need four seats and four doors. Which is a pesky pain, because you’ve just got a promotion and you’ve always fancied a nice-looking coupe, something like an Audi A5 or BMW 3-Series. Unfortunately, they’re off limits thanks to the fleet manager’s best efforts with the "rules" and despite your best attempts at charm, he’s not going to let you step up to a Mercedes CLS either.
Well, Volkswagen’s hoping it’s got the answer to your prayers, because it has just face-lifted and re-launched the "CC". The CC has, of course, existed for a while, in the form of the Passat CC. A much more swoopy, lower and coupe-like form than the regular Passat, it looked cooler than your regular four-door saloon, but nonetheless had four doors, four seats and a big boot.
But, neat idea though it was, its identity was always a little bit close to the regular Passat. VW’s hoping that the new car, complete with a new facia, lights, and other assorted bits will change that. But the biggest change is the dropping of Passat in the name. It’s now just simply CC.
It’s hard to deny that it’s a lot more visually appealing than the dowdy old Passat. That roofline does do a passing impersonation of a coupe, the windows are frameless - which go a long way to making it feel like a genuinely different car and not just a marketing exercise - and the new details make it look bigger. Its face links the CC to VW’s range-topping executive express, the Phaeton, of which the company sold about 13 last year.
So from outside all is well, but inside, if you’ve spent recent seat time in the regular Passat, you’re going to be a wee bit disappointed when you climb in, because the dashboard architecture and much of what you stare at is the same.
That’s not to say the Passat cabin’s bad, there’s an interesting horizontal split across the dash which makes the upper section look as if it’s floating, the plastics are all soft touch, and the "key" fits in a slot in the dash which you push and hold to start the car. The main changes between CC and Passat are that you get different seats - which are ribbed and leather-covered on this GT model, reminding us of the ones in the Scirocco. And the door furniture’s different and a bit more classy, too. Look in the rear view mirror and you’ve a narrow rear window, thanks to that coupe-like roof. Is it different and special enough? Just.
We drove what’s likely to be the biggest-selling 2.0 TDi in 170 bhp form - a 140bhp version of the same engine is available - and with a DSG automatic gearbox. It’s fine so long as you’re not expecting to light up the road - the gearbox in particular is exceptionally smooth and features a fuel-saving "coasting" mode. Lift your foot off the accelerator in normal driving and the revs drop back to idle to aid fuel economy. It sounds odd but feels natural and is seamless in practice. We also like the addition of stop-start in connection with an auto-box, something that’s still rare on the market.
But overall we found the CC just a little bit underwhelming the more time we spent with it. There’s nothing really wrong with it from a driving perspective, but for some reason, in this installation the 2.0 TDi engine sounded much more diesel-y and noisy than the same unit in the Passat Alltrack we drove on the same day. You do get a variable damper system which gives you the option of cushiony-soft or sportier hard ride, but in standard set-up it handled motorways, potholes and some aggressive B-road action perfectly well, so whether it’s needed is a moot point.
Without dipping into a £815 upgrade option, the touchscreen satnav also feels a bit mean and small to us, the screen’s notably smaller than the, admittedly optional, one we’ve used in the Golf and Scirocco. And if you’re going to give us an analogue clock slap-bang in the centre of the dash VW, can we have something that we’d actually be happy to stick on our wrists and stare at, rather than something that looks like it came from the "my first watch" catalogue.
We’ll need to spend more time with the CC to take a true call on its talents, because you can see its appeal and what VW is trying to do. It’s in areas like the ones we’re moaning about above that an Audi or BMW would excel. But then for the same money as the CC, in those cars you’re going to be sitting in a physically smaller and more "normal" - think saloon - car, and haven't to do without fun fripperies such as satnav, leather, radar-guided cruise control, which worked very well, and park assist.
So it’s not a bad car, the Passat CC, far from it. We’d just suggest you take a few test drives of the competition at this price level before falling for those admittedly appealing four-door coupe looks.