New skin, old bones. The 2020 Volkswagen Passat may have technically received a redesign, but we doubt most buyers could tell. Aside from new sheet metal, VW’s midsize sedan is the same as it ever was.
The new-look isn’t bad. We particularly like the front, where a chrome stripe crowns an imposing slatted grille. The design is sharper than before, but it doesn’t stray too far from conservatism.
Elsewhere, however, VW is slow to invest. The Passat still rides on old architecture, missing out on the brand’s new MQB platform. This means it doesn’t get the latest infotainment or digital instrument displays available on some of VW’s other offerings.
VW’s own Tiguan is only a couple thousand more than the Passat. Other marques work to differentiate their sedans with flashy styling and plenty of tech, but VW appears content to let the Passat coast.
Your choice of one. The VW Passat doesn’t just gain a new look for 2020 – it loses a few things, too. Chief among them is the V6 powertrain and all-wheel drive. Neither is available, leaving only front-wheel drive with the base 2.0-liter turbocharged motor.
That engine returns unchanged, which isn’t cause for celebration. It makes 174 hp, well less than competitors like the Mazda Mazda6. Also returning is the six-speed automatic transmission, which is down a cog or two on rivals.
We could forgive a little power loss if it meant better fuel economy, but it doesn’t. The EPA rates the Passat at 27 miles per gallon combined, which again lags the Mazda6 or Kia Optima. It’s better than the Tiguan, but not by as much as you’d expect.
In the Passat’s favor, another thing that hasn’t changed is the comfortable ride. On either the 18- or 19-inch wheels, the suspension soaks up bumps with ease.
Spacious but plain. The plush ride complements a spacious interior, which is comfortable in all seats. Its 38 inches of rear leg room isn’t quite as much as some competitors, but the seats are supportive and trimmed in durable cloth, synthetic, or leather.
Elsewhere, however, the Passat’s interior falls short of the exterior. Surfaces are decked in grainy black plastic, which is soft but not nice to look at. Even in upper trims, the wood veneer doesn’t impress.
Coming to the rescue is the Passat’s cargo capacity. At 15.9 cubic feet, the Passat outstrips most of the midsize sedan competition. The trunk is deep and wide, which makes it easy to load large baggage.
Anti-inflation. VW may not be adding much to the Passat, but at least it won’t be charging more. The 2020 model costs the same as the outgoing car, or less in some trims, making it a decent value among family sedans.
If you can live with a smaller infotainment screen, the Passat still gets smartphone compatibility among its standard features. Also included are 17-inch wheels and a good suite of active safety tech.
But our favorite feature is VW’s warranty, which covers the Passat for six years or 72,000 miles. Note that those time frames include bumper-to-bumper and powertrain, which is exceptional for the former and a little short for the latter.
Upper trims get advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control, plus luxury touches like leather and power-adjustable heated seats. But the interior doesn’t feel as premium as similarly priced competitors, so we’d stick close to the base model.
Final thoughts. With buyers fleeing from sedans in favor of crossovers, it’s unclear if VW is turning a blind eye or simply investing their money elsewhere. The 2020 VW Passat remains a steadfast and conservative family sedan.
That comes with some advantages, like a smooth ride, plenty of space, and solid features for the money. Generally, however, the Passat feels like it’s a step behind. It doesn’t get VW’s best parts, nor does it keep up with the competition in polish, power, or efficiency. It’s a reasonable pick if value is the priority, but we’d make sure to shop around.
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