Volkswagen Passat

Struggling luxury market offers bargains


Round number five of twelve exclusive Auto Bakkie Race Gumtree Pre-Owned Car Awards shootouts moves to the entry-executive market where we shoot the five two-year old pre-owned medium executive sedans for sale in South African market that best retain their value, at under R475K today. 

Three used to one new
The Gumtree Pre Owned Awards showcase the best used cars across twelve categories every year and considering that three pre-owned cars sell for every new one sold in South Africa, that’s quite pertinent. Also, while many Car of the Years choose their best new cars, only the Gumtree Awards seeks to determine the best used cars out there, while also singling out the five that also best retain their value before announcing the best car in each category.

So, based on Unitrans pre-owned car sales data, but in alphabetical order, the Audi A4, Lexus iS, Mercedes-Benz C200, Volkswagen Passat and Volvo S60 are already each a winner, because they best maintain their value among all medium-sized executive sedans. We now pick our favourite, but let’s see how close – or how far we will be versus the full Jury decision come 24 October…

It was not long ago that we were testing these cars as new, so before we take a look at how they shape up as pre-owned bargains today, let’s look back at what we said about them new, a year or two back…

Audi A4 – Similarly Different
Ever mistakenly used chili powder in food instead of cinnamon, or cayenne pepper instead of paprika because they look so similar? Same goes for the Audi A4 and its predecessor, you may just confuse them, but under the skin the differences are considerable.

It’s quiet, light and spacious in that clinical Q7 and TT-like cabin with optional Audi virtual cockpit and the rest and on the road, A4 feels lithe and sporty; comfortable and quiet. Ride and handling is sharp, yet compliant, but the steering is bit artificial. Still, A4 is a comfy first-class ride. 

Lexus iS – Virile Thriller
Today’s carmakers mostly dish out faster and tricker turbocharged cars that far better cheat the carbon tests as much as they cheat the driver of the virile thrills. But while Lexus took a while to  take the plunge, the iS200t retains much of its normally aspirated predecessors’ virile thrills. 

Quick enough, it delivers an impressive mid-6-second 100km/h dash and cuts economy by a quarter, but it’s still relatively thirsty at 7.5/100km. Some may say it’s a shame, but others consider atmo cars dinosaurs and they may be right, especially in this case.

Mercedes C200 – The Star on the Road
The Mercedes-Benz C200 possesses a certain Bauhaus Berlin chic – it’s classic Germanic lines are good and it’s a handsome car that I feel is among the better of the current batch of mid-exec sedans. It is also more traditional inside that well executed and luxuriously pleasant cabin.

Not quite the rocketship, its little fifteen-hundred turbo petrol lump is also a tad thirsty considering its downsized nature, but it works superbly with its nine-speed autobox and possesses a level of fine Mercedes-Benz comfort and ride to set it apart from the rank and file.

Volkswagen Passat -- The Centsible Choice
Now with a proper dash of style, Volkswagen’s Passat is not just among the best looking cars in its class, but at a lofty ten centimetres longer than the class average and packing the biggest boot by many miles, the big Volksie meddles with the sums to somehow be the lightest too. 

So it runs brisk numbers with less effort, while sipping less fuel too and all at a handy discount versus its allegedly more glam rivals. A tad bland in driving character, its slick high tech cabin goes toe-to-toe with the best to cause us to ponder how come are so few are on the road?

Volvo S60 – Crocodile Tears
So, the Chinese now own Volvo and many shed a quiet tear about that. Happily, those proved crocodile tears. Packing Volvo’s modular new 140kW 400Nm 2-litre turbodiesel and splendid new 8-speed autobox driving the front wheels, it’s GTI quick and frugal too.

It’s one of those cars that just gets on with it, leaving you to enjoy a fuss-free ride, wherever you’re going. Bigger than a Three Series but smaller than an E-class, S60 also offers great value in Swedish style and while its old with a limited boot, it’s still a damn good overall mid-exec choice.

A close match
Roll on a couple of years and bring depreciation into it and this field gets even closer. This segment is also a clear sign of today’s tough times – on average these more expensive cars are losing more value as the market tends to downsize, but be that as it may, the Mercedes best retains its new price with the VW and Audi and then the others.

If you are a buyer however, the VW and the Lexus are of particular interest as they are now used bargains – the Volksie especially considering is still the cheapest of the lot too – for a hell of a  lot of car. The Passat also offers the best out of contract parts basket and only the far more expensive to service Merc beats it, the Audi and the Volvo on years of service plan left.

Ace of space
The Passat is also considerably bigger, more spacious and has the biggest boot by far – in fact the rest of these cars fail to even match the best of the lower-class Suzuki Ciaz, so consider the VW to dodge an overall failing in that regard.  All are however strong in luxury and tech, the VW and Audi in particular…

If performance is high on your used entry-exec wish list, then the Volvo is your car, the diesel surprisingly quicker than all the petrol machinery here too. But the diesel Passat strikes back in fuel economy, where it has a fair advantage over the Audi, Volvo, Benz and the thirsty Volvo.

A clear winner
You may have noticed one car consistently outpacing the rest in our comparisons above and the Passat wins this one by a mile (in our opinion). What the combined thoughts of the rest of the Gumtree Pre Owned Jury thinks, may however be different. 

So, watch for that outcome when Gumtree’s best Pre Owned Medium Luxury Sedan is announced on Thursday 24 October, but also come back  every day or two to follow our coverage on each category and use the links below to navigate between them. – Michele Lupini

Gumtree is offering South African motorists the opportunity to win a car by simply placing their vote for the People’s Choice Award. To vote simply go to click here and follow the prompts.

Gumtree Pre Owned Awards Program & Links
Budget City Cars 
Light Hatchbacks
Medium Hatchbacks
Medium Saloons
Medium Luxury Saloons
Performance Cars
Double Cab Bakkies
Crossover Vehicles
Entry SUVs
Medium SUVs
Large SUVs
Luxury SUVs
All The Winners

Auto Bakkie Race has revised its Road Test Rating System to deliver a more versatile 1-10 score. Over the past few years, very few cars tested ever achieve less than 75% in our previous scoring system and hardly any more than 95%. The new ABR Rating works in a 1 to 10 basis, where 1 represents a traditional score of  75% or less and 10 is 95% or more.

Auto Bakkie Race road tests all cars using state of the art Racelogic VBox test equipment, both at coastal altitude or at the Reef. All cars are tested starting at the same point on the same test road in all tests. Reef tests are differentiated by (1500m ASL). Where we have tested both sides, both sets of figures are published. Coastal acceleration data most often delivers quicker results due to the higher oxygen content of air at lower altitudes.