First Drive: 2020 Volkswagen Passat Is New but Not That Improved

The biggest change is how many advanced safety features come standard

2020 Volkswagen Passat front driving

The roomy Volkswagen Passat got a few minor cosmetic updates for 2020, plus some new standard safety equipment. Although its design has evolved, the Passat is still a conservatively styled sedan inside and out. And there aren’t any changes under the hood; the new car has the same engine and transmission as the 2019 model.

Still, even mild year-to-year changes can affect how a car rides and drives, how much gas it uses, and how comfortable it is. That’s why we bought a new Passat SE—the best-selling Passat variant, according to Volkswagen—equipped with a few popular options, including a sunroof and heavy-duty floor mats. 

We’re currently breaking in the car ahead of the more than 50 objective tests we’ll put it through at our track and on the road. So far, we've driven our new Passat for about one thousand miles, taking it out for tasks ranging from holiday shopping and road trips to daily commutes and coffee runs.

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What we bought: 2020 Volkswagen Passat SE
Powertrain: 174-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
MSRP: $25,845
Options: $1,230 (sunroof, heavy-duty floor and trunk mats, roadside assistance kit)
Destination fee: $920
Total cost: $28,080

CR's Take

Among midsized sedans, the Passat is an interesting alternative to the usual suspects, such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Volkswagen’s staid interior and easy-to-use controls will please traditional sedan buyers, and its massive trunk and rear seat are perfect for road trips with family, friends, and all their accompanying luggage. But the Passat isn’t perfect. Its powertrain is peppy to the point of feeling jumpy, and overall the car isn’t as fun to drive as the delightful and similarly priced Mazda6 sedan.

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