The third generation Passat that appeared in 1988 took the car up-market in the perceptions of many buyers - somewhere between a Sierra and an Audi 80. The body choice was between saloon and estate. There were eight and 16-valve 1.8-litre engines and a 2.0-litre unit. The 1.6-litre turbo diesel remained but was replaced by a 1.9-litre TD powerplant in 1992. By then, Volkswagen was also offering 2.8-litre VR6 flagship models.
The fourth generation car that arrived in 1993 looked very similar but Volkswagen insisted that the changes amounted to much more than just a facelift and that virtually every body panel was new. Build quality was certainly excellent and specification much improved for the money. Again, the bodystyle choice was either saloon or estate and twin airbags were standard across the range.
The first fourth generation models are to be found on M-plates; choose between standard or 90bhp 1.8-litre petrol engines, a 2.0-litre petrol unit (optionally uprated to 115bhp) and a 1.9-litre turbo diesel (offered in `Umwelt` or more powerful `TDI` guises). Later versions got air conditioning as standard, even in mid-range trim. Again, there was also a 2.8-litre VR6 petrol flagship, but this was soon discontinued.
The fifth generation Passat appeared early in 1997 and was the best Passat ever made. The new look said much about the aggressive way Volkswagen intended the car to shake up the medium range sector. Five engines were used; a 1.6 16v, a 1.8 20v, a 1.9 turbo diesel, a unique five-cylinder VR5 petrol unit and the 2.8 VR6. There were four trim levels; E, S, SE and Sport. Estates arrived in October 1997. Subsequently, the 1.6 and E trim were dropped and the TDI diesel engine was uprated to 115bhp with high pressure direct injection. Diesel buyers also gained a 150bhp V6 TDI option.