A majority of negative comments regarding the Passat stem from not wanting anyone to believe the quality of a lower-line Mercedes, BMW, or even an Audi (same company) can be had in this car. I think the most concise way to address this sentiment is to say the significant extra cost of these nameplates buys more, but more in terms of nameplate than car.
Expensive nameplates aside, I have owned the best Honda has to offer. The 2001 Accord EX we owned now sits on the Volkswagen dealer lot.
What does it take to pry a loyal Honda owner since 1986 away into a new brand? I'll take it point-by-point with the impressions I've enjoyed in the Passat.
1) An absolutely effortless and joyful driving experience. I feel the same when I've exited the car as I did when I entered it. Zero fatigue. Some may determine the seats too firm but trust me, the firmness is optimal for comfort and support.
2) Build. A car this size that feels like it is steel that holds it together. Add to that safety features unsurpassed in its class.
3) Design appeal. It could be easily assumed that the designers and engineers involved with this car in fact drive them. The Passat speaks class visually and it is packed with convenient, common sense features.
4) The engine. There is some criticism of the 1.8 4 cylinder turbo. This engine, aside from having a darling signature sound, frankly dares one to risk a speeding ticket. I don't need more than that. Combined with the body feel and handling of this car, the engine promotes temptation quite sufficiently.
There is one thing I'd prefer. The cruise is placed on the nob of the turn signal arm. It's a tad inconvenient, or not as convenient as the popular placement inside the spokes of the steering wheel found on most vehicles.
If you are looking at $23-28K, you must test drive a GLS or GLX Passat. There is also the 8-cylinder W8 Passat at around $38K list but it won't make you say gee, I wish I had that model instead of either the GLS or GLX.
The company slogan is drivers wanted and they deserve them. Drive one and you'll know what I'm saying. However, a word to the wise. The normal human being will be thoroughly impressed with the Passat. Moreover, it shares much with its Audi A4 brethren. The dealer will capitalize on this if allowed so you should do whatever it takes to bring them down on price. Following a sustained period of negotiation, my wife and I purchased a 2003 GLS that included a roof, 15" wheels, multi-function trip computer, anti-theft and a Monsoon stereo. If the dealer gets exact Kelly Blue Book listed value for our trade-in, $22,860 was our cost.
This is a superior product very much intentioned by the manufacturer to significantly impact the market in its class. Volkswagen can't accomplish that unless you buy one. If you go for a Passat, ignore emotion, demand it for what you want to pay, and then enjoy the unique pleasure of this car.
Amount Paid (US$):
2002Model and Options:
2003 GLS 1.8T Sedan