Good: stands out from the crowd, feels well finished inside.
Not so good: diesel engine is gruff, expensive compared to premium rivals.
The Volkswagen Arteon has a lot going for it. While Volkswagen's marketers might say otherwise, it is the effective replacement for the Volkswagen CC (nee Passat CC) and is a more seductive alternative to the current Passat. You see, as good as the Passat is, its sculpted looks have a Bauhaus feel that leave it far from getting pulses racing. The Arteon features styling that is far more interesting than the Passat's. Its closest relative in the Volkswagen Group family is the Audi A5 Sportback, which although similarly styled, arguably has more mass appeal and refinement - as we'll soon discover.
Where the Arteon seems to divide opinion is up front. It's all grille. Even in the slightly more subtle Elegance model, it's hard to mistake it for anything else. Right now, it looks out of sorts when compared to the rest of the Volkswagen range, but if this is indeed the new 'face' of the company, it may seem less striking and divisive as similarly styled cars become more commonplace.
This is clearly a car that VW is pitching more at business users than anything else, a fact backed up by the company's initial plans to only offer diesel models here in Ireland, yet it has now reversed its decision to do so. That good news means that you will be able to get the powerful 280hp petrol engine, which seems a far cry from the entry-level 150hp 2.0-litre blown four-cylinder under scrutiny here.
It's a familiar engine within the Volkswagen Group, and it strikes a balance that is more weighted towards economy than performance. Sadly, it is an engine that is still lacking in the refinement stakes, and it shows in the Arteon. Having driven the more powerful 2.0-litre TDI variant at the car's international launch, we were impressed by both its pace and overall polished feel. The same can't be said for this 150hp unit, which ticks only the right boxes if you're on a company car budget. At least it can return some acceptable numbers; 116g/km secures its spot in tax Band A4, and the official combined fuel consumption figure of 4.4 litres/100km should keep refills infrequent.
The automatic DSG transmission is one that rarely comes in for any criticism, but in this Arteon there were occasions when, depending on the driving mode selected, the gearbox sometimes seemed confused as to which gear it wanted to be in. This was more prevalent when driving in traffic and is somewhat out of character for what is typically a superior setup.
Around town, the sleek Volkswagen cuts a refreshing shape and the car leaves you feeling cosseted thanks to its lower roofline. The interior is finished to a high standard; however, against the A5 Sportback the Volkswagen doesn't feel quite so special. Nor can it rival the Audi's impressive ability to shut out the world (and its diesel engine). The ride quality is firm, but just damped enough, as is becoming so prevalent in any car marketing itself as premium. Our test car was equipped with the 18-inch 'Muscat' alloy wheels that are standard on the Elegance trim. They're subtle looking and not as stylish as those on the sportier looking R-Line models, but they leave enough meat on the tyre sidewalls to not compromise too much on comfort.
Certainly, as a replacement for the CC, the new Volkswagen Arteon moves the game along well, but in the guise tested here, it is a package that isn't quite as desirable as the more powerful option. If you can afford to choose that impressive bi-turbo diesel engine, you won't be disappointed, and be sure to tick the R-Line box for good measure.