2014 Volkswagen Passat: Conservative, sturdy, versatile

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The reasonably priced 2014 Volkswagen Passat is among the top German sedans. Successfully redesigned for 2012, the slow-selling Volkswagen Passat was “Americanized” to satisfy desires of motorists here without losing its “German car” appeal.

The made-in-America Passat confronts mid-size sedans, such as the Chevrolet Malibu, increasingly popular Ford Fusion, highly popular Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata and established Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

The 2014 Volkswagen Passat is sturdy and versatile.
The 2014 Volkswagen Passat is sturdy and versatile.

Some rivals have adventuresome styling, while the Passat has a handsome but mostly conservative design—inside and out—that is typical of Volkswagens. But the 3,230-3,481-pound Passat has the sturdy feel one expects from a German auto.

The front-drive Passat has a variety of prices and models and costs from $20,845 to $33,895.

Passat engines include a new 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct injection 4-cylinder gas engine with 170-horsepower that is gradually replacing a so-so 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine. A fuel-stingy 2-liter TDI turbo diesel engine with 140 horsepower but gobs of torque has an estimated range of 795 miles with a manual transmission (31 miles per gallon in the city, 43 highway with a manual and 30 city and 40 highway with an automatic.). The TDI model starts at $26,295.

There’s also a sizzling 3.6-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 that provides very rapid acceleration, but only an estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways.

Much as I like the V-6, I’d go with the smooth, quiet 1.8-liter turbo 4-cylinder, which provides lively city and fast highway punch—or the civilized diesel. The diesel provides exceptional fuel economy, cruising range and neck-snapping torque. The 1.8-liter turbo can use regular-grade gasoline, while the V-6 calls for premium fuel. The diesel, of  course, needs diesel fuel.

The 2014 Volkswagen Passat has a slick, Euro-style interior.
The 2014 Volkswagen Passat has a slick, Euro-style interior.

Transmissions include 5- and 6-speed manuals and a responsive 6-speed automatic with an easily used manual-shift feature.

I tested the $30,895 Passat SEL Premium model with the 1.8-liter turbo 4-cylinder and an automatic. That combo provides an estimated 24 miles per gallon in town and 34 on highways.

Even the base Passat “S” has a fair amount of comfort and convenience equipment because the Passat is an upscale VW. Features of the SEL Premium I drove include a pushbutton start, power sunroof, power heated front leather seats, tilt-telescopic wheel, easily used dashboard touchscreen for audio controls, cruse control, navigation system and dual-zone climate controls.

Split/folding rear seatbacks sit flat to increase the cargo area, which has a large pass-through opening from the trunk to the rear-seat area.

The large trunk has a wide opening, but it’s rather high and thus doesn’t lend itself to quick loading of heavy objects, such as packed suitcases. The inner trunk lid doesn’t have an adequate interior pull-down feature to prevent getting hands dirty on outside sheet metal. And it works with manual hinges instead of hydraulic struts, although the hinges have coverings so they don’t damage cargo. The hood is held open by a single hydraulic strut.

Safety items include air bags and side curtains. A rearview camera is standard on SE and higher line models.

The quiet, conservatively upscale interior has supportive front seats and impressive rear seat room. Tall persons can stretch their legs out—no problem.

Rear visibility is good from the pilot’s seat, and the backlit gauges can be read at a glance, even during bright sunlight. Controls can be readily worked, dashboard vents are strategically located and there’s a fore-aft sliding front armrest for more comfort. Front cupholders are conveniently located, and rear cupholders are in a fold-down center armrest. There are a fair number of cabin storage areas.

The easily gripped thick steering wheel controls a new electrically boosted power steering system that is quick and accurate. The ride is supple, even over nasty roads.

Handling of the Passat SEL Premium I drove isn’t in the sports-sedan class, but is quite good. Helping stability are electronic stability control and anti-slip regulation systems. The brake pedal has a linear action, and the all-disc anti-lock brake system brings the car to a quick halt.

The 2014 Passat has a good blend of German and American features, so Americans who like German cars can have their cake and eat it, too.

Pros: Roomy. Comfortable. Fast. Nice handling. Supple ride. Fuel-stingy diesel offered.

Cons: High trunk opening. Conservative styling.

Bottom Line: “Americanized version of the top German mid-size sedan.”

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive reviewer for more than 40 years. To read his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

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