Volkswagen’s recent redesign of the Jetta-bigger, less nimble, cheaply-trimmed inside - left us concerned about the 2012 redesign of the Passat. The good news: The Passat is a lot more competitive than the Jetta. But we’re not exactly putting it on any Consumer Reports “Car of the Year” lists, either.
We bought three Passats to test at our track. Each has a very roomy interior, with a spacious rear seat and trunk. We tested an SE, the volume model, with a five-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. At $25,595, it costs several thousand dollars more than most of the competition. The five-cylinder just manages to be competitive with rival four-cylinder engines, but it’s less refined. Future Passats will have smaller turbocharged four-cylinder engines.
We also tested the top-trim Passat SEL Premium V6, which stickered at $33,720. That’s on the high end for a V6-powered family sedan, but wood trim and suede inserts help enhance interior ambience. The 3.6-liter V6 and DSG automated transmission work very well together and deliver effortless acceleration.
Finally, we tested the most unique Passat, an SE TDI. In our minds, the available TDI turbodiesel engine offers the most compelling reason to buy a Passat. Equipped with the optional DSG automated manual transmission and a sunroof, it costs $28,665. That’s not cheap, but the car does return fabulous fuel economy, including a stunning 825-mile highway cruising range between fill-ups.
Sales figures show that the redesigned Passat has already outsold the last year of the previous version. But given the minuscule sales of the outgoing Passat, that wasn’t hard to do. Thing is, the last-generation Passat was a better car overall, with agile handling, a well-finished interior, and a pleasant 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. But a high price and so-so reliability, plus a lack of marketing, kept it off the radar for many buyers.
This new Passat is a decent sedan, but overall, it is no class leader. Then again, the last Passat wasn’t the star of a Super Bowl commercial with a pint-sized Darth Vader.
For more insights, watch our video below and see our full Ratings of the new Passat.