Seven years into its current generation, the 2018 Volkswagen Passat is a larger offering in the mid-size sedan class. But its vast interior, comfortable ride, and advanced safety features are offset by uninspired styling, a thirsty V6 option, and cheap-looking interior trim.

Best Value

2018 Passat models start at $23,845 (including an $850 destination charge) for the base S trim and top out at $35,500 for a V6 SEL Premium model. The biggest difference: the top trim is equipped with a 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. The rest of the lineup receives a 174-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder.

All seven models feature the usual power features plus a power driver's seat, Bluetooth connectivity, a rear view camera, an automatic post-collision braking system, and automatic crash response. All but the S trim are equipped with adaptive cruise control. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert systems are optional on the S and standard on all other variants.

We'd skip both the base S and the R-Line and head straight to the SE trim that adds a power sunroof, larger 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leatherette seats (heated in front), keyless push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a larger 6.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, plus those safety features. Choosing the SE also allows access to an optional advanced lighting package that ditches the base headlights for a much better set of LEDs.

Here's how we'd build it:

  • Model: 2018 Volkswagen Passat SE
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 174 hp / 184 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 25 City / 36 Hwy
  • Options: SE Lighting Package ($1,195, LED headlights, tail lights, and daytime running lights: halogen front fog lights with low-speed corner illumination).
  • Base Price: $27,145 (including an $850 destination fee)
  • Best Value Price:$28,340

Performance

Volkswagen Passat

The Passat delivers a firm, well-controlled ride, while steering is both light and direct. The standard turbocharged four-cylinder delivers excellent fuel economy along with adequate acceleration and maximum torque available at a low and very usable 1,500 rpm. The optional V6 accelerates more strongly and also feels more self-assured when passing.

But all is not perfect as the larger 19-inch wheels found on the sporty GT and R-Line models amplify road imperfections. Meanwhile, the V6 engine guzzles gas at an EPA-estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city, 28 on the highway, and 22 combined; sounds rough when you put your foot into it, and, while it can be run on regular unleaded, its 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque figures are attained using more expensive premium fuel.

Style

Conservative sheetmetal is wrapped around an equally restrained interior that delivers on space in spades – especially in back where two adults can enjoy plenty of legroom. The leatherette found in most models will wear better than leather and feels like the real thing, while a low beltline and narrow roof pillars offer a great view out.

On the flip side, room in back for three adults is tight and, while the fit is very good, the finish on many interior trim pieces looks cheap – which is acceptable on the base model but unsuitable for those trims costing upwards of $30,000.

The Best and Worst Things

The Passat's combination of ride comfort and interior space make it competitive in its class, but its bland design and cheap interior trim could be a turn-off for many buyers.

Right For? Wrong For?

Volkswagen Passat

Even as many families are migrating away from mid-size sedans, the Passat's blend of quality, interior space, and standard safety features offers a real alternative to a number of crossovers on the market.

An uninspired interior and a bland exterior design that renders the Passat nearly invisible in parking lots means the style-conscious need not apply.

The Bottom Line

Despite a smooth ride, expansive interior, and advanced safety features, its pedestrian styling, fuel-thirsty V6, and cheap-looking interior only place the Passat mid-pack in the mid-size sedan class.