Volkswagen debuted the updated 2020 Passat at the Detroit auto show, and the automaker has packed its midsized sedan with some new features, including standard safety equipment. The Passat looks similar to its predecessor, but it follows current styling trends with a sloped roofline and a large, prominent grille.

With this update, Volkswagen's midsized sedan keeps pace with the competition in terms of standard safety features and infotainment, while maintaining the car’s roomy cabin that we like. 

What it competes with: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry
What it looks like: VW did away with the Passat's square, slab-sided design. The updated styling is very Audi-like, and when viewed in profile it would be easy to mistake this Passat for its luxury brethren. There are numerous curves, lines, and creases in the body panels.
Powertrains: 174-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
Expected base price: $23,000 (estimated)
On sale date: Summer 2019

Outside

The Passat has an attractive exterior that's a clear evolution from the current version. Volkswagen did away with the angular, square look and gave the car more curves. The front end is similar to the outgoing car but with a larger grille that's styled like an egg crate. When looking at the 2020 Volkswagen Passat from the side, the long hood and cabin set back toward the rear of the car give it a look that's similar to models from the more expensive Audi brand, which is also owned by VW. 

2020 Volkswagen Passat interior

Inside

Like the exterior, the 2020 Volkswagen Passat’s interior is an evolution of the current design, not a wholesale reinvention. The major change is the collection of air vents that stretches the width of the dashboard, interrupted only by the instrument cluster. There is a large, glass-covered touch screen in the center of the dash. This elegant-looking system features standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and uses knobs for tuning and volume, which we appreciate. The look of the interface is similar to the one that’s in other current VWs, such as the Volkswagen Atlas SUV; we liked the system when we tested it there. The climate controls are still clear, easy-to-use knobs and hard buttons.

What Drives It

Only one engine and transmission combination is offered: a 174-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This is the same engine and transmission combination the current car uses. In our tests, the Passat fell in the middle of the midsized sedan category in performance metrics such as the 0-60 mph test (8.6 seconds) and fuel economy (19 city, 39 highway). 

Safety and Driver Assist Systems

Volkswagen has equipped the 2020 Passat with standard forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind spot warning. Optional safety and advanced driver assistance systems include lane keeping assist and active cruise control. 

CR’s Take

In our road tests, we noted that the current Passat has a roomy interior and trunk, agile handling, good braking performance, and easy-to-use controls. We liked that VW added standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking for the 2019 model year. Reliability of the current car is above average, according to CR members.

In this competitive midsized sedan category, where the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have both been redesigned in 2018, the Passat performed just about mid-pack. Our only major complaint was with the transmission, which didn’t change gears as seamlessly as the better ones in competitors'. We hope that VW made some changes to the existing powertrain to address that problem.

2020 Volkswagen Passat rear