Volkswagen CC: First drive review

Volkswagen CC
It seems that Volkswagen is slightly embarrassed about its big Jetta small Phaeton, the Passat. The VW we're driving here used to be called the Passat CC. Now, however, it's just CC, and so no longer burdened by a name more associated with long, dull motorway journeys (regardless of brilliant TV adverts) and less with sexy time coupé adventures.

Volkswagen says the name change is to do with adhering to worldwide naming convention. Or in other words, "because America does it".
Whatever, the car is now called the CC, and that's that. Despite sounding like a French hardtop convertible, it's still the same four-door 'coupé' it always was, with the c-word in inverted commas because, of course, a four-door car can't really be a coupé; the CC is just a low-slung saloon.

The name change thing (not to bang on too much about it) is also a nice ruse to make this car seem brand new when it's not at all - it's a fairly standard issue mid-life facelift of the 2008 original.

Ironically, it's styled in such a way as to make it look more like a Passat, and although it's arguably a smarter, neater car now - and one which looks much better in real life than in photographs - it's also more generically Volkswagen, losing its predecessor's swoopy, individual character.

But while it's easy to paint the CC as a quite cynical, marketing-driven attempt at giving a standard saloon some extra appeal, the fact is it's yet another excellently executed Volkswagen. How predictable.

In the true spirit of most recent VWs, it's difficult to point out much that's truly mesmerising about the CC - but it's even more so to pick out glaring flaws.

Its roofline is low, but not that low, so while people in the upper height percentile will sense the canopy hovering close above them, very few will consider there an actual lack of headroom. Rear leg space isn't a problem either, and the boot is 452-litres - about 100 more than a Golf has, albeit shaped less accessibly.

Typically, the clarity of this VW's dashboard controls, the quality of its surfaces and the adjustability of its driving position are all spot on. Even the door linings are of notable tactility from top to bottom. It's an over-used word among car manufacturers and journalists, but the CC feels premium, more so than the Passat.

That feeling is aided by a standard equipment level that's high, including 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, a digital radio, touch screen sat nav and bi-xenon headlamps. And all that for a reasonable price - the CC starts at just over £24,000.

Which means that it probably doesn't have to be that good to drive for VW to shift a few. But it is, obviously.

It's a front-wheel drive, mid-level VW saloon, essentially, so no prizes for guessing it feels stable and assured, and a little lacking in sparkle, on the move.

In the spirit of most big, quality cars, steering wheel resistance is quite low, which dampens the CC as a dynamic driving experience, but does make it more enjoyable in town situations; the CC feels more suited to the twists and turns of industrial estates than those of the countryside.

But because this is the CC and definitely not the Passat, it must drive with more verve than a plain old mid-market saloon, right?

Well, that's a question that Volkswagen doesn't seem to quite know the answer to, and it's most apparent in the ride quality.

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the CC's ride, but it slightly uncomfortably - in the figurative sense - attempts to blend the usually mutually exclusive qualities of being sporty (read: firm) and luxurious (read: cushioned).

The result is a car that's mostly unwavering, but prone to slamming into potholes and letting passengers feel a little too much of what's going on beneath the wheels, especially at lower speeds.

It's as refined as just about anything else this size, though, irrespective of price. Part of the facelift saw Volkswagen undertake such silence-inducing measures as making the glass thicker and adding soundproofing beneath the bodywork. You can tell. The CC shuts external noise out like a child watching the telly.

The diesel engines are a little growly at low speeds and before they've properly warmed through, but both the 138- and 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI units dish out a fistful of torque from very low down (236lb.ft the former, 258lb.ft the latter) and feel quick for it. And despite what the 0-62mph times say (9.8 seconds against 8.6 seconds), the 168bhp one doesn't feel a whole lot quicker...not £1,000 quicker, anyway, which is the price premium.

There are a couple of turbo petrol versions available, too - a 1.8-litre TSI with 168bhp and a 208bhp 2.0-litre version. Both are fizzy and quick, but probably not worth considering when they're offering average economy in the high 30s against diesels both hovering around the 60mpg mark.

Volkswagen is increasingly making its cars like Converse shoes: some might be a bit flashier than others, and cost a little more, but they're all basically cut from the same cloth, in the same style and using the same fundamental bits. They're suitable for prince or pauper, soup kitchen or fine dining room. If the Golf is an old pair of classic blue high tops, the CC is a set of sparkly white leather low tops, with a double tongue.

...and then there's the Phaeton: Gold weave with an 8-inch heel.
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