What it is: The Passat is Volkswagen’s mid-size sedan that was introduced in its current form as a 2011 model. However, the Passat received a refresh for the 2016 model year and is now styled with new bumpers, hood, fenders and trunk-lid. On the inside, you now get VW’s newest infotainment system which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, which is a huge plus. The touchscreen also has a proximity sensor and will actually change the display as your finger gets close to the screen. The screen will show simple symbols for options like changing the radio band, setup or station presets and when your finger approaches the screen, labels are added to the icons. It takes a little getting used to, but it allows a pleasant uncluttered display when not interacting with the screen.
My test model was equipped with the base engine, the 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbocharged option that produces a stout 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. There is an optional 3.6-liter V6 with 280/258 available if you need more oomph. Turbocharged engines are great for more acceleration when you need it, but provide great fuel-sipping abilities while cruising on the highway. The Passat is no exception and delivers 25 MPG city and 38 MPG highway.
The SE trim is the one to purchase in my opinion. Even though it is thousands more than the S, the SE adds a sunroof, bigger wheels, satellite radio, adaptive cruise control, heated seats, autonomous emergency braking, and a few minor upgrades. You also need to purchase the SE if you want to add some of the option packages like the technology group or the lighting package ($1,095) that my test model was equipped with. It’s up to you if you think LED headlights, running lights and taillights are worth an extra thousand bucks.
The Passat does handle well and balances sporty handling with a smooth ride on the highway. It’s a wonderfully sized car and it easy to park and see out of while still providing plenty of room for passengers and cargo. For 95 percent of car owners, there is no need to have a car bigger than this.
MPG: 29 combined/25 city/38 highway
Price: SE base price of $26,280. $28,195 as-tested with destination charge.
Upsides: Lots of German style for a low price.
Downsides: While cheap for a German sedan it is hard to overlook cheaper options like the Altima or Sonata.
Wrap-up: If you are the type of consumer that buys an iPhone for the sleek industrial style and minimalist design, then cars like the Passat are for you. VW charges a slight premium over their competitors as I mentioned above, but the justification is the cohesiveness of the design language that VW uses. With the 2016 refresh, the Passat is re-equipped to do battle in this ultra-competitive segment.