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The 2020 Volkswagen Passat marks the latest refresh of a midsize family sedan that dates back to the 2012 model year. It's a significant refresh to be sure, with new exterior and interior designs, but the bones are the same. Nevertheless, the car holds up well with a quiet, spacious cabin, soft ride and responsive turbocharged engine. That engine isn’t the most powerful, but it’s better than many entry-level engines for power while providing better fuel economy than other sedans’ larger turbo engines and V6s. Its updated styling makes it feel more modern and upscale than past models, too.

On the whole, the Passat is a little behind class leaders such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, both of which offer much of the space of the Volkswagen, but with better handling, more powertrain options and high-quality cabins. But the VW is still a solid choice, and it carries a base price lower than most other models in its class, including the aforementioned Honda and Toyota.

What's new for 2020?

The 2020 model year marks a major facelift for the Passat. Every single exterior panel except the roof and A-pillars have been redesigned. The interior has been given a major refresh, too. The engine is carry-over, but it makes more torque than the previous model year. Volkswagen has expanded the trim lineup to S, SE, R-Line and SEL, rather than the two trims of 2019, Wolfsburg and SE R-Line. The expanded trim lineup also means the Passat has a lower starting price than the 2019 model year: $23,915 versus $26,190.

What's the Passat's interior and in-car technology like?

The 2020 Passat’s interior is significantly more stylish than the simple, utilitarian previous model. Trim connects the air vents together to make them appear as though they stretch the full width of the dashboard. It’s also paired with more prominent contrasting trim that can be faux aluminum or faux wood depending on trim level. Although everything fits well, the materials are just middle of the road with lots of hard plastic. The photo above makes it look more luxurious than it really is. 

No matter what trim level of Passat you choose, you’ll get a 6.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It’s similar to what’s found in other Volkswagens, and it’s responsive and simple to use. It's also smaller than what you'd find in many competitors. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but satellite navigation only comes on the top-level SEL trim in which it’s a standard feature. The SEL also gets an upgraded sound system while all other trims make do with the standard six-speaker system.

How big is the Passat?

The Passat is very similar in size to larger midsize sedans such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. It’s about an inch longer than those cars and an inch taller, but is a tad narrower with a slightly shorter wheelbase. The story is about the same inside the Passat, with head, shoulder and legroom within an inch either way of most of the competition. From our experience sitting in the Passat, the rear seat is cavernous, particularly its legroom, with plenty of space for a reasonably tall person such as your 5-foot 11-inch author to sit behind himself comfortably. The front seating feels a bit tight due to the center stack and console encroaching on knee room. The trunk is a sizable 15.9 cubic feet, which tops most of the competition including the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Mazda6, but it’s a smaller than the Accord’s huge 16.7 cubic foot trunk.

What's the Passat's performance and fuel economy?

The Passat has only one powertrain combination consisting of a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The engine makes 174 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque, the latter of which is an increase of 22 pound-feet over the previous year. Curiously, fuel economy has dipped by 2 mpg from last year's model to 23 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. This is considerably lower than what you'd get in the base engines of an Accord (33 mpg combined) or Camry (34 mpg combined), to name just two examples.

What's the Passat like to drive?

Highway cruising is the Passat’s sweet spot. The cabin is isolated from road, wind and tire noise, even on coarse concrete. In this setting, the Passat floats right over little imperfections. In town and on twisty roads, the Passat gets a bit flummoxed. Going over larger or more frequent bumps results in a bobbing, boat-like feeling. It has a moderate amount of body roll, and not much grip. The steering is pretty light and suffers from the same springy resistance of other VWs. It’s at least accurate, but not as precise as some of the handling leaders of the segment such as the Accord and Mazda6.

The Passat’s turbo engine occupies an interesting middle ground between most sedan’s entry-level and optional engines. While the 174 horsepower rating is modest, the turbocharged torque comes on strong early and carries through the mid-range, making it feel quick around town and when passing.

What more can I read about the Volkswagen Passat?

2020 Volkswagen Passat is a redesigned sedan in a sea of crossovers

2020 Volkswagen Passat revealed with redesigned exterior and interior at the Detroit Auto Show.

2020 Volkswagen Passat


What features are available and what's the Passat's price?

The 2020 Volkswagen Passat starts at $23,915. That’s for the base S trim, which comes standard with alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, a 6.3-inch touchscreen infotainment, a six-speaker sound system, two USB ports, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It also has blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking standard.

Moving up to SE adds adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, automatic wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, leatherette upholstery, heated power front seats, proximity entry and push-button start, remote start, a leather steering wheel and two rear USB ports. This ample amount of extras likely makes the SE the sweet spot for most potential buyers as its reasonably priced. The R-Line trim is pretty much just an appearance package that doesn't offer nearly as much value as the SE does (both are about $3,000 more than the trim below), and despite its many luxurious extras, the SEL doesn't offer the same sort of up-market ambiance as a similarly loaded Accord, Camry or new 2020 Hyundai Sonata.

The full list of base prices is below, all of which include the $920 destination charge.

  • S: $23,995
  • SE: $26,765
  • R-Line: $29,565
  • SEL: $32,015

You can find a full breakdown of features, specs and local pricing for each of these trims here on Autoblog.

What are the Passat's safety equipment and crash ratings?

All Passats come standard with blind-spot warning and forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. Lane-keeping assist is standard on all but the base trim. The SEL finally adds parking sensors and automatic high-beam headlights.

Third-party crash ratings haven't been announced for the 2020 Passat, but as it is mechanically and structurally very similar to the outgoing model, we expect the ratings to at least match those from 2019. The government gave it a five-star overall crash rating (out of five), along with a four-star frontal crash score and five-star side crash score. In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, that model had the top “Good” crash test rating for every crash except the small passenger overlap crash that only was rated “Marginal.” The automatic emergency braking system received the second-highest “Advanced” rating for being able to bring the car to a stop before an impact at 12 mph and provided an adequate warning. Child seat LATCH access was rated “Good.”

Volkswagen Passat Information

Volkswagen Passat

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