By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 9/21/2011
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.
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)
A base 2012 Volkswagen Passat S with a manual transmission stickers in at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $21,000. If rowing your own gears isn't for you, moving to the 6-speed automatic transmission will require you to add the Appearance Package (front-illuminated vanity mirrors, unique wheels and a rear center armrest), and will bring the price closer to $23,500. Choosing the TDI diesel Passat nets you a starting price closer to $26,500, while the V6 with DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission brings the total closer to $29,500. A fully loaded VW Passat V6 SEL Premium will cost you about $33,500 when all is said and done. The Passat competes in the crowded midsize segment, which includes heavyweights like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu and redesigned value-oriented rides like the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata. In this group, the Passat falls behind the Camry and Accord when it comes to resale value, but bests the Malibu, Optima and Sonata over time.