When Volkswagen redesigned the Passat in 2012, it aimed to make it a mass-market alternative to the best-selling Toyota Camry and Honda Accord that combined the German characteristics of the company's previous models. Judging by the record-breaking Passat sales, this new, larger model is striking a chord with American buyers. It's a threat to serious rivals because of its wide array of engine choices that range from traditional five and six-cylinder gas engines to a unique-for-the-class turbodiesel that equals or bests some midsize hybrids. And on top of that, it's one of the most spacious cars in the class and puts some full-size entries to shame. That makes the Passat a great buy for people looking for a midsize sedan with room and class.
Passats are powered by one of three engines and come in three trim levels. The 2.5 models get a five-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic. The 2.0 TDI is a turbocharged four-cylinder clean diesel engine with 140 horsepower and either a six-speed manual on TDI SE or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission on other models. The most powerful engine, the 3.6 V6 with 280 horsepower gets only a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and is available on SE and SEL Premium trims. S cars come only with the 2.5 and have cloth upholstery, 16-inch wheels, power windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry, air conditioning, Bluetooth and a six-speaker audio system with AUX input. SE adds leatherette upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels, power driver's seat, heated mirrors and front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and touchscreen radio with 8-speakers and satellite radio.
Features like premium audio systems, 18-inch alloy wheels and satellite navigation are also available on the SE in different packages, depending on the engine you choose. The SEL level adds to the 2.5 different 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, wood trim and a backup camera. The SEL Premium gets leather/suede seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start and memory settings for the driver. All Passat's are backed by Volkswagen's pledge of no-charge scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, something other brands in this segment don't offer.
The Honda Accord is very spacious and gets better fuel economy, but isn't as nicely finished and it's hard to get some desirable features without picking top trim levels. The Toyota Camry also gets better fuel economy and has good visibility, but isn't as good to drive and some interior materials aren't the best. The Hyundai Sonata has more adventurous styling and is good value, with lots of standard features, but its optional turbo engine isn't as smooth as the Passat's V6. The Ford Fusion also has distinctive styling and a range of efficient turbo engines that are available with all-wheel drive, but it doesn't have as much space as a Passat and can get very expensive.
The Passat isn't an in-your-face kind of car, but it tries to be pleasing on all levels and everyone should appreciate its tasteful styling and vast amount of room. And there's a model in the lineup for people who prioritize fuel economy or power or want a combination of both. It's also one of the few midsize sedans to still offer a manual transmission and offers one of the lowest starting prices in the midsize class with the piece of mind of no maintenance for three years and the added prestige of a German badge. Anyone shopping in this segment should consider a Passat.
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