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2020 Volkswagen Passat: 7 Things to Consider

VW’s American-spec Passat continues to require you take the good with the bad.

© Volkswagen

By Andy Stoy, Autoweek

Chances are you’ve heard of the Volkswagen Passat midsize sedan. It’s been sold in the U.S. for decades now, but what you might not know is that, since 2012, our Passat has been a different vehicle from what the rest of the world gets. The North American Passat is engineered to appeal to the perceived needs and wants of U.S. customers, and is built at VW’s sprawling facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that also builds the Atlas SUV.

For 2020, the Volkswagen Passat gets an attractive facelift and new interior and safety technologies that bring it up to speed with the best the competition has to offer. The car itself still rides on an older platform, however, and that leads to some compromises. Let’s take a look at seven things to consider if you’re thinking the 2020 VW Passat might be a good fit for you.


GOOD: Powertrain

© Volkswagen

Volkswagen fans will appreciate the 2020 Passat’s acceleration and quick shifts; it’s very similar to what you’d find in a Golf or Jetta with good pull from low rpm and ample, if not overwhelming, power. There’s a touch of lag at launch unless the Passat is in sport mode, but it’s not problematic, and the engine’s smooth, quiet operation seems well matched to the car.


GOOD: Roominess

© Volkswagen

One of the most notable features of the U.S.-built VW Passat is its cavernous interior and trunk space. Simply put, this car feels huge inside, with gobs of rear-seat legroom; large windows and thin pillars make it seem even bigger, despite the fact that total interior volume is actually a touch smaller than the Honda Accord. Pop the trunk and you’re greeted with space that rivals class leaders like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.


GOOD: Styling

© Volkswagen

Generic? Some may think so, but the 2020 VW Passat’s styling also conveys a sense of German luxury sedan in its lines. It looks like a 3/4-scale Audi A8L, with an element of heft to the design that makes the Passat seem substantial. Those attracted to the swoopy lines of the new Hyundai Sonata may consider the Passat bland, but our preferred adjective is elegant.


TOSS-UP: Value

© Volkswagen

Yes, you get a midsize German sedan with good looks and a solid powertrain for just over $30K (for our 2020 Passat SEL tester). Within the Volkswagen lineup, the Passat is an excellent value. However, within the broader midsize sedan market the Passat bumps into the comparably priced (or cheaper) Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata, which offer similar or better interior space and in nearly every case a more refined driving experience. Not necessarily more engaging, but more refined.


BAD: Interior Materials

© Volkswagen

To be fair, not everything inside the 2020 Passat is chintzy: The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a nice size, and VW’s seats do a good job balancing comfort and firmness. But cheap, hard plastics abound where competitive sedans often have padded, soft-touch materials. Knobs feel thin and insubstantial. And the slab of Sim-u-Wood across the dash of our Passat tester was the least-convincing bit of plastic timber this side of a Malaise-era Lincoln.


BAD: Ride Quality

© Volkswagen

This entry too has to be qualified: On smooth roads the 2020 Passat handles itself with aplomb, and it maintains VW’s characteristic "firm but not too firm" handling dynamics. Where the Passat falls short is on rough pavement and over bumps, when things get crashy in a hurry. In particular, a couple bumps were heard as much as felt in the rear shock towers, a not-confidence-inspiring collection of thuds and clunks. Everything was fine, but it didn’t sound fine.


BAD: Quietness

© Volkswagen

Along the same lines, the 2020 VW Passat’s cabin is loud at freeway speeds. The engine remains relatively muted, but wind noise and tire noise are prominent, to the point where conversations require near-shouting voices. A dearth of insulation may be part of it, but we’re also suspicious of the OEM tires on our Passat: a brand called Giti, which we’d never heard of until now (and we don’t really want to hear of again).


2020 Volkswagen Passat Specifications

© Volkswagen

On Sale: Now

Base Price: $32,015 (Passat 2.0T SEL) As-Tested Price: $32,015

Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbo I4, six-speed automatic transmission, FWD

Output: 174 hp, 206 lb-ft torque

Curb Weight: 3,325 lb

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined): 23/34/27 mpg

Pros: Attractive, roomy midsize sedan with some sporty pretensions

Cons: Older chassis lacks refinement compared to the competition

See more at: Autoweek

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Autos Magazine: 2020 Volkswagen Passat: 7 Things to Consider
2020 Volkswagen Passat: 7 Things to Consider
VW’s American-spec Passat continues to require you take the good with the bad.
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