On paper, combining a car the size of the Volkswagen Passat Estate with a modest 1.6-litre engine sounds like a potential nailed-on nightmare.

In reality, the union is surprisingly something of a dream team.

Every diesel engine powering models in the seventh generation Passat range is badged BlueMotion, VW’s ‘green’ brand, which means the engine combines both battery regeneration and a stop/start system as standard.

Cutting through the techno-speak, the big effect of the little BlueMotion badge is on easing the pain of modern motoring on your wallet.

In day-to-day use, the test model 1.6-litre TDI 105 Estate can deliver average mpg in the mid 60s and CO2 emissions guaranteed to deliver rock-bottom road tax. Changes planned for the engine later this year promise even more for this marathon mileage machine.

And all this in a car which will whisk five people around in some considerable comfort and style, while delivering the carrying capacity of a small van.

Despite its modest size, the power from the 1.6-litre diesel, combined with precise use of the six-speed manual gearbox, delivers a smooth, quiet, relaxing ride.

If the fuel consumption and exhaust emission figures are not enough to attract interest, VW says it has changed every panel and glass surface apart from the roof, and fitted chrome grille louvres framed by angular headlight units, to give it a fresh look.

Less visible than the external changes, but helping to raise the luxury feel inside, is the fitting of thicker glass to the side windows, while the windscreen has a thin plastic film sandwiched between two layers of the glass to help reduce noise.

Extra sound deadening has also been placed into the front bulkhead, wheel arches and dashboard, to cut engine noise entering the interior.

The cabin, too, has had an upmarket makeover, where new door trims and a revised dashboard with new dials, join subtle chrome highlights, new seats and a classy analogue clock. A push button-operated parking brake is retained.

Also given a boost are the safety systems. All Passats are fitted with six airbags, anti-lock braking, electronic stabilisation programme and whiplash-reducing head restraints as standard.

In addition, an automatic fatigue detection system that monitors the driver and emits an audible and visual warning when fatigue is detected, is standard on most new Passats. A new emergency braking function for city driving which automatically applies the brakes at speeds below 18mph, should an unavoidable collision be sensed by the vehicle, is also offered as an option. Additional equipment added to the new German-built Passat over the outgoing model includes an iPod interface and leather multifunction steering wheel for the S model.

The SE trim level gets an eight-speaker digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and the new driver fatigue detection system; while at the top of the range the new Sport model gains touchscreen satnav.

It is hard to believe that the first Passat went on sale in 1973, and since then more than 15 million have been sold worldwide.

With the changes made to the new model Volkswagen believes that for the first time, the estate version will outsell the saloon.

Auto facts Volkswagen Passat Estate S BlueMotion 1.6 TDI

  • Price: £20,960
  • Insurance group: 16E
  • Fuel consumption (Combined): 64.2mpg
  • Top speed: 120mph
  • Length: 477.1cm/187.8in
  • Width: 182cm/71.6in
  • Luggage capacity: 21.2cu ft
  • Fuel tank capacity: 15.4 gallons/70 litres
  • CO2 emissions: 116g/km
  • Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles