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2020 Volkswagen Passat Review

The 2020 Volkswagen Passat sits near the bottom of our midsize car rankings. Its fuel economy, infotainment system, and cabin materials fall short of most class rivals.

Pros & Cons

  • Large trunk
  • Smooth ride
  • Subpar fuel economy estimates
  • Some low-rent cabin materials

New for 2020

  • Refreshed interior and exterior styling
  • Boost in engine torque
  • Some features reshuffled

Rankings & Research

The 2020 Volkswagen Passat's #8 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize Cars category. Currently the Volkswagen Passat has a score of 7.4 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 72 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.4

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.1
Performance: 6.9
Interior: 6.8
Safety: 9.8
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?

Don’t let its ranking fool you. The Volkswagen Passat is a good car. It offers a large trunk, roomy cabin, and well-mannered ride. It falls down, however, in important areas. It has some low-rent cabin materials, it’s less athletic than many rivals, and it lacks any engine upgrades. Also, the Passat’s fuel economy estimates are some of the worst in the midsize car class.

Should I Buy the Volkswagen Passat?

The Passat isn’t a bad midsize sedan, but there’s little reason to choose it over rival vehicles. The Nissan Altima has significantly better mpg estimates than the Passat, strong optional engines, comfortable seats, and better safety ratings. The redesigned Hyundai Sonata has a higher-quality cabin and a longer list of standard features than the Passat, including a larger touch screen.

Compare the Passat, Altima, and Sonata »

Should I Buy a New or Used Volkswagen Passat?

The 2020 VW Passat belongs to a generation that launched for the 2012 model year. The Passat is refreshed for 2020, with Volkswagen revamping its interior and exterior styling, as well as boosting the engine’s torque output from 184 to 206 pound-feet. Also, several features that were standard in previous models, such as proximity keyless entry and synthetic leather seats, are now available only in the SE trim or higher.

Unless you’re enamored with the new styling or extra torque, there’s little reason to buy a new Passat over an older model. We recommend beginning your search with the 2016 Passat. It’s the first model with a standard infotainment system, as well as available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For 2017, the Passat received standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Volkswagen added the turbo-four base engine for 2018, as well as the Passat GT with a 280-horsepower V6 engine. The GT was discontinued for 2019.

If you’re considering an older model, be sure to read our 2016 Passat, 2017 Passat, and 2018 Passat reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Passat »

We Did the Research for You: 71 Reviews Analyzed

To make our car rankings and reviews as consumer-oriented as possible, we do not rely on our personal opinions. Instead, we analyze hard data such as cargo space dimensions, horsepower specs, and predicted reliability ratings, as well as the opinions of the automotive press.

This 2020 Passat review draws on 71 reviews and incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2012.

Why You Can Trust Us

At U.S. News & World Report, we rank the Best Jobs, Best Hospitals, and Best Colleges to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. We've been ranking and reviewing the Best Cars since 2007, backed by a team with more than 75 years of combined automotive experience. To keep favoritism out of the picture, we maintain a separate advertising team and decline expensive gifts and trips from car companies.

How Much Does the Volkswagen Passat Cost?

The base Volkswagen Passat S has a starting MSRP of $22,995. That price is below average for a midsize car, and it’s lower than what a base 2019 Passat cost when it was new. That model had more standard features, however.

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

Which Is Better: Volkswagen Passat or Volkswagen Jetta?

The Volkswagen Jetta is a compact car. If you can do without the extra cargo and passenger space that the midsize Passat affords, the Jetta is the better sedan. It has strong optional engines and an available 8-inch touch screen. The Jetta costs less than the Passat, and it’s available with Volkswagen’s 10.25-inch digital cockpit. This is a customizable, high-resolution screen that replaces traditional gauges. Skip the base Jetta and go with the SE trim. You’ll get a panoramic sunroof and heated front seats and still spend less than you would for a base Passat.

Which Is Better: Volkswagen Passat or Nissan Altima?

The Nissan Altima is a much better midsize sedan than the Passat. It may not have as much trunk room as the VW, but it offers a spacious cabin and some of the most comfortable seats in the class. The Altima has a larger standard touch screen than the Passat, and it gets much better fuel economy estimates: 28/39 mpg versus 23/34 mpg. On top of that, the Altima has better safety ratings. The Altima may cost around $1,100 more in its base trim than the Passat, but it’s worth the extra money.

Compare the Passat, Jetta, and Altima »

Passat Interior

How Many People Does the Passat Seat?

This vehicle seats up to five people, and cloth upholstery is standard. Synthetic leather seats and genuine leather upholstery are available. Other upgrades include heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. You can even get heated rear outboard seats, which is uncommon for the midsize car class.

Both rows supply generous head- and legroom, and three average-sized adults can sit comfortably in the rear. Knee room up front can feel a bit tight because of the placement of the center console.

Passat and Child Car Seats

The Passat has two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats, as well as a tether-only connection for the rear middle seat. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave this system the top rating of Good for ease of use. The tether anchors are easy to find and can’t be confused with other hardware.

Passat Interior Quality

The Passat’s cabin blends some nice materials and cheap plastics. However, it looks dated when compared with some rivals.

Passat Cargo Space

This VW sedan has a 15.9-cubic-foot trunk. That’s above average among midsize cars. A hands-free trunk lid is available.

Passat Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard equipment in the Passat includes a 6.3-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Mirror Link, Bluetooth, a USB port, satellite radio, and HD Radio. A navigation system, two additional USB ports, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and an eight-speaker Fender premium stereo are available, as is a sunroof.

The MIB II infotainment system draws mixed reviews. Most critics, however, agree that its touch screen needs to be larger. Also, the Passat lacks the modern infotainment features of other Volkswagen products, such as the 12.3-inch digital cockpit found in the Tiguan and Arteon.

Read more about interior »

Passat Performance

Passat Engine: Passable

The sole engine in this VW is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 174 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque. That torque rating is higher than what you’ll find in the 2019 Passat. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

This powertrain feels punchy enough around town, and the boost in torque for 2020 helps it feel more energetic when taking off from a stop. However, the transmission can be slow to downshift. Available paddle shifters allow you to take gear changes into your own hands. What this car doesn’t have are stronger available engines, though plenty of the Passat’s rivals do.

Passat Gas Mileage: Disappointing

The Passat gets an EPA-estimated 23 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. Those are poor figures for the midsize car class.

Passat Ride and Handling: More Comfortable than Agile

The Passat rides smoothly over most surfaces, and it offers balanced handling. No one will confuse this vehicle for a sports sedan, however. Brake pedal feel and steering feedback are a bit numb. Front-wheel drive is standard.

Read more about performance »

Passat Reliability

Is the Volkswagen Passat Reliable?

J.D. Power gives the 2020 Passat a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is about average.

Volkswagen Passat Warranty

Volkswagen covers the 2020 Passat with a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Read more about reliability »

How Much Does It Cost to Insure a Volkswagen Passat?

The cost of insuring a Volkswagen Passat will depend on a variety of factors, including your deductible, the level of coverage that you want, and the type of insurance that you choose. Your age, gender, location, credit score, and driving record can also have an impact on your insurance rates. Check out our car insurance guide to find the best policy for you.

Passat Safety

Passat Crash Test Results

The 2020 Passat earned the top rating of Good in all six tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The 2020 Passat received four stars out of five in the rollover evaluation, the only test performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA did not assign the Passat an overall safety rating.

Passat Safety Features

Standard safety features in this Volkswagen include a rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and pedestrian detection.

Lane keep assist is available, as are rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive headlights, front and rear parking sensors, parallel park assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Read more about safety »

Volkswagen Passat Dimensions and Weight

The VW Passat is about 16.1 feet long. It has a curb weight of 3,325 pounds and a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,475 pounds.

Where Is the 2020 Volkswagen Passat Built?

Volkswagen builds the 2020 Passat in Tennessee.

Which Volkswagen Passat Model Is Right for Me?

Volkswagen offers the Passat in four trim levels: S, SE, R-Line, and SEL. Each has a turbocharged inline-four engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive.

The base VW has a decent helping of safety features, but shoppers after more comfort add-ons like heated front seats should look to the SE trim. Some driver assistance and tech features, such as navigation and parallel park assist, are only offered in the top-tier SEL trim.

Volkswagen Passat S

The entry-level Passat S has a starting MSRP of $22,995. It comes with alloy wheels, a 6.3-inch touch screen, HD Radio, satellite radio, a USB port, Bluetooth, and App-connect with Apple CarPlay, Mirror Link, and Android Auto.

A rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection are also standard.

Remote start is available for $246.

Volkswagen Passat SE

With a starting MSRP of $25,845, the Passat SE gains rain-sensing windshield wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. This Volkswagen also comes with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, V-Tex synthetic leather seats, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, two rear-seat USB ports, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist.

The SE also picks up VW Car-Net with remote start and a Wi-Fi hot spot. A sunroof is available for $995.

Volkswagen Passat R-Line

The Passat R-Line sedan retails for $28,645. It adds R-Line styling elements, larger alloy wheels, and a sunroof.

Volkswagen Passat SEL

The top-of-the-line Passat SEL starts at $31,095. It includes leather upholstery, heated rear outboard seats, a navigation system, an eight-speaker Fender premium stereo, adaptive headlights, front and rear parking sensors, and a parallel park assist system.

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 2020 Volkswagen Passat specs and trims »

The Final Call

The Volkswagen Passat is a good midsize car that provides a cushioned ride, capable engine, roomy cabin, and large trunk. However, it’s in a highly competitive segment full of great vehicles. Many rivals have nicer cabin materials than the Passat, as well as nimbler handling and better infotainment systems with larger touch screens.

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

  • "The 2020 Volkswagen Passat is a heavily refreshed version of the same midsize sedan that debuted for the 2012 model year. Its bones feel a little creaky, but buyers looking for a roomy, comfortable four-door with a ton of features for the price won't be disappointed." -- Edmunds
  • "A Honda Accord is more expensive, but offers a much more satisfying driving experience than the aging Passat with a more premium cabin. Kia's Optima and the Hyundai Sonata also offer value for the dollar that make the Volkswagen a tough choice to justify. The … 2020 Passat … [is] fine, but it could be so much better." -- CNET
  • "The 2020 Passat has received a significant enough update to be noticeably improved, and it does offer value to consumers looking for an affordable and refined German option. But it simply isn't as good as much of its competition." -- Automobile Magazine

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 8, 2020

Dipping Sales: Sales of the refreshed Volkswagen Passat have fallen by 23.1 percent this year compared to sales from the same period in 2019. Passat sales sit near the bottom of the midsize car class

Research more buying advice »
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