By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 8.2
If we were to describe the new 2012 Volkswagen Passat sedan in as few words as possible, we'd go with "more for your money." Compared to the previous-generation Passat , this all-new, just-for-North-America sedan is bigger, costs a lot less, and comes with more stuff standard. In other words, it's the automotive equivalent of the extra-value meal at your local fast food joint. But rest assured, the refined on-road German manners that appealed to many buyers in the midsize-sedan market over the years haven't been removed from this Passat iteration. If you're looking for a practical family sedan that is also fun to drive, the new VW Passat is a worthy contender for your hard-earned dollar.
Looking for a roomy, midsize sedan that offers an assortment of powertrains and a healthy amount of standard content like dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and keyless entry, all for a starting price in the low $20K range? Try the 2012 Volkswagen Passat on for size.
Although starting in the $20K price sweet spot, adding options (like an automatic transmission or a USB port) will quickly up the total for the 2012 Volkswagen Passat sedan. And if you're looking for a family 4-door that stands out visually on the road, the sharp-looking Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima will draw more attention.
The Volkswagen Passat sedan is not only larger, better equipped and much lower in price for 2012. It's also tailor-made just for North America, in North America.
Driving Impressions The 2012 Volkswagen Passat sedan has grown substantially to appeal to North American sensibilities, but even though it's now a larger car, the new Passat is lighter and delivers a...refined road-going experience. Its new suspension – including a 4-link independent rear setup – cancels out most road imperfections, and body roll is nicely controlled on tight curvy roads. The 2.5-liter 5-cylinder will undoubtedly be the volume leader of the Passat's engines and is a perfectly fine around-town commuter, but if you want more zip in your drive, the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine is where you'll get your smiles. Its minimal turbo lag and plenty of low-end torque make a trip of any length a more pleasurable experience. The final feather in the VW Passat's cap: Whether you choose the 2.5-liter in-line 5, the TDI or the V6, this German sedan is one quiet ride. That's a good thing, because with segment-leading rear legroom, passengers sitting there won't need to yell to be heard.
Optional Fender Sound System
Fender's first foray into automotive sound, this 9-speaker, 400-watt system developed with Panasonic provides well-balanced and clear sound.
Offering up to 43 miles per gallon on the highway, this clean-burning diesel engine can return nearly 800 miles per tankful. Whether you can survive for that long without a rest-stop break is another matter.
The 2012 VW Passat isn't flashy inside. Think clean lines and tasteful - but not overdone – chrome. Lower-end Passats can look vanilla, but spending a little more and moving up to the Premium level adds Autumn Nut Burl wood trim detail that brings some visual interest to the cabin. Base S models come with standard cloth seating surfaces, while SE models get V-Tex leatherette and SEL models receive the full leather treatment with suede-like "Dinamica" inserts. And while we're on the topic of seats, thanks to its longer wheelbase, rear seat passengers now enjoy 39.1 inches of legroom - which is more than any other current midsize sedan, and more than the longer and wider "4-door coupe" VW CC.
The 2012 Volkswagen Passat may not be as distinctive-looking as the Passats that came before it, but its new looks should serve it well over time. It's now sleeker and more angular in appearance, sporting a 3-bar horizontal grille and pronounced side crease lines that draw attention to the sedan's increased length. This length also allows for a more sizeable trunk – with 15.9 cubic-feet of space, it's a nearly a cubic foot larger than the trunk in the Honda Accord, which the EPA classifies as a large car. Sadly, the VW Passat Wagon is no more, so if you're looking for a family-friendly front-wheel-drive hatchback, consider a VW Jetta SportWagen, Audi A3, Acura TSX Wagon or Honda Crosstour.
For less than $21,000 (including destination), a 2012 Volkswagen Passat S sedan comes equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission, cloth seating, automatic dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a 3-year/36,000-mile maintenance program. Hoping for a USB port to plug your mobile device into? You'll have to move out of the base Passat to get it.
With a lot of available options, it's easy to spend more on a 2012 VW Passat. Worth noting: Vegan-friendly V-Tex leatherette seating, a Fender Premium audio system, an iPod interface and a quick-shifting 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. For a little more oomph in your daily drive, a 3.6-liter V6 or 2.0-liter 4-cylinder clean diesel engine are also on the menu.
The 2012 VW Passat sedan offers three engine choices: A 2.5-liter in-line-5 shared with the smaller Jetta, a turbocharged 2.0-liter in-line-4 diesel with direct injection (TDI), and a 3.6-liter V6. There are also four transmissions available: a 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, a 6-speed automatic and a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission direct shift gearbox (DSG). If how much you spend at the pump is important to you, you'll be interested to know that the TDI can return a class-leading 43 mpg on the highway when matched with the manual transmission. In order to get comparable fuel economy with any other internal-combustion-engine-motivated sedan, you'd have to move down from the midsize segment.
170 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
177 lb.-ft. of torque @4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 (manual), 22/31 (automatic)
2.0-liter in-line-4, turbodiesel
140 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm
236 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/43 (manual), 30/40 (DSG Automatic)
280 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 (DSG Automatic)
By Tim on Tuesday, April 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Best car for the price"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car has lots of leg room in front and back seats. Gas mileage is better than projected - some days I average over 50/mpg during my 33 mile one-way commute. Great handling and response which really surprises me for a 4 cylinder diesel. Trunk space is almost as much as my wife's SUV."
By ksugman on Sunday, March 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, engine seems good."
Cons: "Poor build quality of the interior. Rattles."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Loved my car when I first bought it. Fun to drive, seemed solidly built, and a unique looking car compared to your Honda and Toyota competitors. If I had to do it all over again I would NOT buy this car. My reasoning may be a little picky, but I'm one of those car people who likes my car to be virtually rattle free. This car rattles a lot due to a poor fit/finish. I've had parts replaced on the interior, paid for by the dealer, which obviously showed the poor quality of the interior of the car. In addition to the rattles/squeaks, VW is still in the ice age when it comes to technology. The backup camera hasa no beeping sound, the stereo/NAV/backup cam are so slow to boot up when you start the car that you're usually well on your way before the backup cam comes on. If you're one of those who doesn't care about the fit/finish of your car and truly wants a car to get you from point A to point B then it's fine. The car is fun to drive and responsive, but the rattles and poor build quality of the interor are a deal breaker for me. Can't wait until it's paid off so I can trade it. I will never buy a VW again..."
1 person out of 4 found this review helpful
By fenton on Thursday, March 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,700overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We have had 2 other mid-size cars. My wife and I ask ourselves why we waited this long to buy a VW. For our Wedding Anniversary, we were planning a trip to California, making a loop thru the southern states and returning via the northern part of the USA. After shopping several other cars, we decided the Passat was for us; excellent road-handling, firm suspension, just-right seats, quiet engine, great MPG, etc. All 8,000+ or our Journey was delightful ."
6 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By longgunner on Tuesday, March 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "nice touring Sedan for road trips"
Cons: "I probably would have opted for the SEL / TDI"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car is a lease and has been a joy to drive I have had no issues with it and it has performed well even this winter which was harsh on the car and the roads... handled well on snow and ice... interior is comfortable and heated seated were a plus... Had no maintenance issues or recalls. overall this car has been a joy to own. :-)"
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By nord on Sunday, March 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "You have to drive a Passat TDI to understand."
Cons: "You either love or hate a diesel."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We own three 2013 Passats. Two SE with manual transmissions and one SEL Premium with the DSG. All diesels. Build quality on all is well above the norm. Styling is a sort of Teutonic understated elegance differing considerably from the competition. Some like it and others don't. Totally subjective. The TDI? While diesel fuel costs more per gallon, the per mile cost is still less than the gasoline editions. Further, the diesel's forte is the open road. No annoying downshifts and range beyond belief. Comfort levels being very good on either the SE or SEL. Just more toys on the SEL. I almost forgot upfront costs... There's a considerable premium exacted for the TDI. Quite often we overlook the fact that a good portion of this cost will be returned when the car is sold or traded. The TDI makes a huge difference in value between it and its non-TDI siblings."
10 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By jones72 on Saturday, February 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "CONS: I wish the computer graphics were a little"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My search began for a full efficient vehicle back in September of 2013. Although the main requirement was that the new vehicle be fuel efficient, I also needed it to be comfortable and full of modern conveniences, mainly because my daily work commute is 150 miles, round-trip, and if I’m going to spend that much of time in a car, it needs to be a pleasure. --RESEARCH: I researched and test drove many vehicles, including Ford Fusion Hybrid, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Lexus Hybrids, Honda Hybrids and even some fuel efficient Buicks. I considered that if I was going to get a car that had great gas mileage, then the sticker price had also better make sense. I didn’t want to pay an extra $8k for a car that would save me only $2k in fuel costs. So, it had to make sense base upon sticker price, residual value and fuel economy. The Passat came out ahead because the car was less expensive than the others (even loaded), and had an acceptable high fuel economy. Although, I did have to factor in that it uses Diesel, which is generally about 60cents more per gallon. Nonetheless, after crunching the numbers of sticker price vs. residual value, and adding in all fuel costs, the Passat was the winner. I went with almost every option that the Passat had, including GPS, leather, sunroof, satellite radio, etc. ---TEST DRIVE: When I test drove the Passat for the first time, the tings that caught my attention were the quick and “punchy” drivability and spacious interior and trunk. I had only seriously considered Hybrid cars until this, so I was growing accustomed to the not-so-sporty feel of a hybrid. The Passat turbo diesel felt like a sports car. ---FUEL ECONOMY: I have about 7K miles on my Passat after three months. I track all my fuel ups with an iPhone app, and I watch my mileage closely while traveling. I’ve had 13 fill ups so far, and my average mileage has been right about 40MPG. I travel about 80% on highways, ranging in speeds of stop-n-go-traffic to 81MPH. I sometimes will get much higher MPG, such as the low 50’s, if it’s a nice mild, weather day. So far, I’ve driven the car only in the Winter, so I haven’t seen how it performs in the warm or hot temperatures. I will say that I generally see an MPG of about 36-38MPG for the first 15-20 miles of my trips on the highway, but then I see the numbers rise as the trip gets longer…such as 53MPG. I get better fuel economy when I drive without the cruise, and when I stay below 77MPH. Overall, I think it’s fair to expect 40MPG, overall. ---DIESEL: I had no idea what a pain in the back end that it was to get Diesel for a car. Most gas stations do not carry it. It seems to be at about 30-40% of the stations. I have finally made myself a mental list of all the places in my area that carry it, so I know where to go. But, be warned, for some unknown reason, the fuel pump handles always seem to be much dirtier than the regular has handles. Therefore, I have began keeping a towel in may car truck that I use for handling the gas handle. It keeps me from smelling like Diesel all day. But, it’s all worth it to have the PUNCH that diesel provides. ---BEHIND THE WHEEL: I love the drive of the TDI Passat. In fact, I find myself anxious to drive it to work. It’s much sportier than anything I’ve ever owned. I easily accelerate past anyone on the highway or at a traffic light, without even trying. In fact, when I first began driving the car, I had somewhat teach myself some restraint, because it was just to easy to exert the power. This is NOT a sports car, however. It does extremely well in straight lines, but doesn’t handle sharp corners/turns with grace. ---SPACE: This car has more space than anyone could want. It’s surely the roomiest car that I’ve owned. The backseat is the size of many New York apartments (kidding…a bit). The truck is amazingly huge. There’s even a handy storage compartment to the left of the driver, which is great for holding my keys, wallet, etc. Not to mention a center consoler storage bin, a front console storage bin and a glove box. Oh, and the map/trash bins on the side of the doors, which also double as #3 and #4 front seat cup holders. The backseat has storage in the center pull down armrest, as well as two cup holders, and pockets on the back of the seats. ---GPS: The GPS was also a fairly important part of picking a car to me. However, I didn’t truly appreciate this cars GPS until using it for a while. The GPS is very user-friendly and quick. I was disappointed to see that it didn’t have voice recognition input, but once I began using the input screens, I realized that inputting was much faster on the Passat, than speaking on the others. I very much like the ability to input the name of a business that I’m searching for, and it gives me several options to choose from. Then, with a push a button, I can set the destination to this business, or I can even place a call to them…perhaps to reserve a table, or to check their hours of operations. Very handy! The screen is also a touch screen, so you can move around the map if you want. You can even press the rocket button, and zoom out to see birds-eye view of your entire route. Oh, and if you get stuck in a traffic jam, there’s a button to press to suggest a quick route out of the jam, and onto nearby routes. Really the best GPS that I’ve used. ---STEREO: Well, let me tell you, the Fender system rocks the house. Hands down the best audio system that I’ve heard in a car. The sound is clean, crisp and truly envelopes the listener. When I first hear music over the system, I thought a few times that was hearing a new mix of an old, familiar song, but it wasn’t. Instead, the system just makes the music sound better, and you hear more notes. I generally listen to Sirius XM (you can program 24 pre-sets on the Passat...Wow). But, it also has a hard drive, CD player, Bluetooth and SD Card reader. I can set tags/alerts on Sirius to let me know when any of my favorite songs are about to be played. Super nice. CONS: I wish the computer graphics were a little more updated and crisp, especially for the instrument cluster. Honestly, I like the body style of the CC better than the Passat. If they made a TDI CC, then I might just switch. I feel that the leather appointments are fairly scarce, and the plastic seems a little cheap. I wish they would equip these cars with a full size tire in the trunk instead of the donut. There is too long of a delay between starting the car and the rearview camera coming on. I wish the car had backup sensors. ---BOTTOM LINE: If I had to do it all over again, I would still buy the Passat without hesitation. The fuel economy is great, the drive is awesome, the entertainment is superior, the GPS is the best and it’s very, very spacious. I just hope the next generation has a more modern, sexy look."
25 people out of 26 found this review helpful