VW Passat Variant, 1973
The original VW Passat was launched in 1973. The body types offered originally were 2- and 4-door sedans and similar looking three- and five-door versions. Externally all four shared a modern fastback style design, styled by the Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro). All the versions sharing the same external design was unusual, since two of the models were traditional sedans with a separate trunk. A five-door station wagon was introduced in 1974. Passat was effectively a less expensive version of the Audi 80 (Fox) sedan which had been introduced a year earlier and which had a more conservative body style, so that the Audi and Volkswagen models had distinct body styles and image. In Europe, Passat was equipped with hexagonal or single round or double round headlights depending on specification.
In North America, the car was called the Dasher, and was only available with round DOT-spec lights. The three-door hatchback model was launched in North America in 1975.
VW Passat was one of the most modern European family cars at the time, and was intended as a replacement for the ageing Volkswagen Type 3, and as a contemporary rival for popular Ford Taunus/Cortina) and Opel Ascona/Vauxhall Cavalier. The Passat was Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 1974 and its sister model Audi 80 was nominated car of the year by the European motor press a year earlier. The platform was named B1.
The Passat used the 4 cylinder OHC 1.3 L, 1.5 L, and 1.6 L petrol engines, also used in the Audi 80—longitudinally mounted with front wheel drive, in Audi tradition, with either a 4-speed manual transmission or 3-speed automatic. It had a MacPherson strut front suspension with a solid axle/coil spring setup in back.
The SOHC 1.5 produced 75 PS (55 kW) and was enlarged to 1.6 L for 1975. The larger engine included tighter emissions controls, so power output dropped to 70 PS (52 kW). Bosch fuel injection on the 1.6 was introduced in 1976 and brought power up to 78 PS (57 kW).
The whole range received a facelift in 1977 (launched 1978 outside Europe), featuring an interior upgrade and subtly revised styling including repositioned indicators and quad (round) headlights on all models. This generation was sold in Brazil well into the 1980s and extensively exported to Iraq, where many are still on the road. It was also assembled in Nigeria.
1979 saw the introduction of the Volkswagen Golf's 1.5 L Diesel engine, which produced just 48 PS (35 kW) in the 1130 kg (2500 lb) car. 0–100 km/h time for the Diesel was 19.4 seconds, 6.2 seconds slower than the gasoline (petrol) engine. Still, all gasoline engines were dropped for North America in 1981 in preparation for the next generation car the next year.