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2021 Volkswagen Passat Review

The 2021 Volkswagen Passat has adult-friendly seating and a large trunk, but its middling performance and subpar fuel economy drag it toward the bottom of our midsize car rankings.

Pros & Cons

  • Generous passenger room and cargo space
  • Cushioned ride
  • Small infotainment screen
  • Unimpressive fuel economy
  • Mediocre performance

New for 2021

  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and adaptive cruise control now standard
  • SEL trim discontinued

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Volkswagen Passat's #8 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize Cars category. Currently the Volkswagen Passat has a score of 7.5 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 74 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.5

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.0
Performance: 6.9
Interior: 6.8
Safety: 10.0
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Volkswagen Passat?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the Volkswagen Passat a Good Car?

Yes, the 2021 Passat is a good midsize car, despite its low ranking. This Volkswagen delivers a comfortable ride, even over bumpy roads, and its lone available engine has sufficient power for your daily commute. Additionally, its interior offers plenty of space for passengers and their cargo. This sedan has some downsides, however. The Passat has worse fuel economy than most in the class, and its infotainment system has a smaller touch screen than what you’ll find with more recently redesigned competitors like the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata.

Why You Can Trust Us: 74 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 74 Volkswagen Passat reviews, as well as performance specs, interior dimensions, fuel economy ratings, and more, to give you all the information you need to make a smart car-buying decision.

This 2021 Passat review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2012.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Volkswagen Passat?

Though the Passat is a fine car, there are better options. Aside from the aforementioned Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata, consider the Toyota Camry or Volkswagen Jetta, which both offer stronger optional engines and more available infotainment technology.

Compare the Passat, Jetta, and Camry »

2020 vs. 2021 Volkswagen Passat: What's the Difference?

For 2021, Volkswagen got rid of the SEL trim and added adaptive cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel to the base S trim.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Passat »

Here are the key changes for the Volkswagen Passat over the last few years:

  • 2017: forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking became standard
  • 2018: turbo-four base engine and Passat GT model introduced
  • 2019: simplified trim lineup; V6 engine discontinued
  • 2020: reshuffled features, refreshed interior and exterior styling, and boost in engine torque
  • 2021: gains a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel and adaptive cruise control; SEL trim removed from the lineup

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Passat, 2019 Passat, and 2020 Passat reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Volkswagen Passat Cost?

The base 2021 Volkswagen Passat S has a starting price of $23,995, which is low for the class. The midlevel SE trim costs $26,995, and the top-of-the-line R-Line trim starts at $29,995.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Volkswagen dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Volkswagen deals page.

Volkswagen Passat Versus the Competition

Volkswagen Passat vs. Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta is a compact car with a lower starting price than the Passat. This means that if you’re considering the base Passat, you could opt for the midtier Jetta SE and gain more interior features, such as heated front seats, in a car that carries a lower MSRP. The Jetta also offers more up-to-date technology features, like an 8-inch touch screen and a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. The only reason to choose the Passat over the Jetta is if you need the additional passenger and cargo space that the Passat provides.

Compare the Passat and Jetta »

Volkswagen Passat vs. Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is one of the best midsize cars on the market, and it's a better pick than the Passat. The Camry has a more straightforward infotainment system with a slightly larger touch screen. The Toyota also comes with more standard safety features than the VW, like lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition, and it’s outfitted with high-quality cabin materials. The base Camry is powered by a capable four-cylinder engine. A stronger V6 engine is available, which you won’t find with the Passat.

Compare the Passat and Camry »

Compare the Passat, Jetta, and Camry »

Passat Interior: Lots of Space but Limited Tech

Passat Cargo Space

The Passat has a 15.9-cubic-foot trunk, which is large for a midsize car. You can also fold down the 60/40-split-folding rear seats, which comes in handy when you're loading bulky items.

How Many People Does the Passat Seat?

Five people can sit inside the Passat's cabin, and there's plenty of space for adults. The seats are comfortable and offer ample support for long commutes. The driver will also appreciate this Volkswagen's good outward visibility.

Passat and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave this LATCH system the highest rating of Good for its ease of use.

Passat Interior Quality

The Passat's cabin is built with mostly quality materials, and the interior offers good fit and finish. However, some critics note that there’s nothing particularly exciting about the Passat’s interior design.

Passat Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Passat comes with Volkswagen’s MIB infotainment system, which is easy to use. It features a responsive touch screen, physical controls for audio and climate functions, and standard smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its only knock is that its touch screen is on the small side compared with many rivals.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 6.3-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, HD Radio, satellite radio, one USB port, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker stereo
  • Available infotainment features: two additional USB ports, navigation, and a Fender premium audio system
  • Other available features: push-button start, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a sunroof

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Passat Performance: Comfortable Ride but Poor Efficiency

Passat Engine

A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 174 horsepower is standard in the Passat. It's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Though some competitors offer engine options with more power, the Passat’s turbo-four is strong enough for driving around town and commuting on the highway. The transmission pairs well with the engine, but some rivals have more up-to-date transmissions with more gears, which help them deliver better performance and higher fuel economy estimates.

Passat Gas Mileage

The Passat's gas-mileage estimates are below average for a midsize car. This Volkswagen delivers 24 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

Passat Ride and Handling

Comfort-focused shoppers will likely be content with the Passat's smooth ride, accurate steering, and composed handling. Performance-oriented shoppers, however, should look elsewhere, as there are more fun-to-drive options in the class. Front-wheel drive is standard.

Read more about performance »

Passat Reliability

Is the Volkswagen Passat Reliable?

The 2021 Volkswagen Passat has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.

Volkswagen Passat Warranty

The 2021 Passat comes with a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Passat Safety

Passat Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2021 VW Passat the highest rating of Good in all six crashworthiness tests, while the Passat's headlights received the second lowest rating of Marginal for how well they illuminate the road ahead.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not evaluated the 2021 Passat.

Passat Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Adaptive cruise control

Available advanced safety features:

  • Lane keep assist
  • High-beam assist
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers

Read more about safety »

Passat Dimensions and Weight

The Passat is about 16.1 feet long. Its curb weight is 3,314 pounds, and its gross vehicle weight rating is 4,475 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Volkswagen Passat Built?

Volkswagen builds the 2021 Passat in Tennessee.

Which Volkswagen Passat Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Volkswagen Passat comes in three trims: S, SE, and R-Line. Every trim comes with the same powertrain: a 174-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The base S trim has a good amount of infotainment and safety technology, making it a solid choice for many shoppers. Those looking for more comfort and convenience features, such as heated front seats and push-button start, should step up to the SE trim.

Volkswagen Passat S

The base S trim starts at $23,995. It comes with cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable heated sideview mirrors, LED headlights, a 6.3-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, HD Radio, satellite radio, one USB port, Bluetooth, and a six speaker stereo. A wealth of safety features are also standard, including a rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control. 

Volkswagen Passat SE

The SE trim (MSRP: $26,995) gains a power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, push-button start, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, two additional USB ports, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and lane keep assist.

Volkswagen Passat R-Line

Starting at $29,995, the R-Line trim adds R-Line styling, ambient lighting, navigation, a Fender premium audio system, and high-beam assist.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Volkswagen dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Volkswagen deals page.

See 2021 Volkswagen Passat specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Volkswagen Passat doesn't have much of a competitive edge. Its fuel economy isn’t particularly impressive for the midsize car class, its infotainment screen is on the small side, and key rivals offer a more rewarding driving experience. That said, it's still a good car overall. It benefits from a smooth ride, ample passenger room, and plenty of trunk space.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "Yes, we think the Volkswagen Passat is a good car. It’s a roomy midsize sedan with … lots of standard convenience and safety features. What’s more, you won’t see yourself coming and going in the Passat, and it has a good warranty." -- Autotrader
  • "The 2021 Volkswagen Passat trades performance and personality for an affordable price and popular equipment. The VW sedan does boast a comfortable ride and spacious back seat that will satisfy folks with a small family. Every model comes with a solid roster of driver assists and infotainment features that includes automated emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. … So, while the 2021 Passat is a one-trick pony and less engaging to drive than some sportier alternatives, it'll satisfy people who are concerned with getting places in peace versus in style." -- Car and Driver
  • "While the Volkswagen Passat lacks personality and style, there's still a lot to like. It's comfortable and spacious, and it packs in some of the segment's best tech and driver aids." -- Edmunds (2020)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: January 15, 2021

Surging Sales: Sales of the Volkswagen Passat climbed by 62.6 percent in 2020 compared to sales in 2019. That growth didn’t cut it though, as Passat sales still finished the year near the bottom of the midsize car class

Research more buying advice »
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