Despite it’s diesel problems, Volkswagen makes some dandy gasoline-powered cars. In fact, its Passat 1.8T SEL can easily be considered a compelling midsize family sedan with its spacious cabin and full-size type ride. As such, Passat is being marketed as a competitor to Accord and Camry, as well as a few others.
Offered in S, R-Line, SE, SEL and SEL Premium, we tested the SEL that was nicely furnished with leather interior, touchscreen that was outfitted with VWs App-Connect that allows smartphone apps like Spotify, Stitcher all integrated with Apple’s CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink. While the system is easy to use, the 6.3-inch touchscreen is smaller than ones in some other car/truck makes, especially when comparing it to Chrysler’s huge 8.4-inch screen in many of their cars and trucks.
New for 2016 is the addition of blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and GPS navigation system with traffic alert and a weather app. Top end models like the SEL, also get a collision mitigation system with autonomous emergency braking. The SEL version also gets an 8-way power passenger seat, memory driver’s seat and top-end Fender audio system with 8 speakers and rearview camera.
The overall leather interior is non-descript but functional with faux wood trim that adds a touch of contrast. If you like Euro firm leather seats, Passat has them front and back. One complaint was that the sides of the console could use some padding as its hard vinyl covering hurts the knee for those who rest them against it during long trips.
Back seat space is extremely generous for two adults with an impressive amount of leg and headroom. In Europe, this new Passat could surely serve as a limo with its wide opening doors and easy back seat entry complete with heated seats. For the driver, too tall rear outboard headrests block the rearview somewhat. They should be of low profile like the centermost rest.
Trunk space is somewhat spacious at 15.9 cubic feet and can accommodate one large roll-a-long luggage or two golf bags when folding the 60/40 rear seatbacks. For skis or other long slender items, there’s a pass-through in the folding back seat.
Passat is offered with either a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 170-hp or a 3.6L, 280-hp V6 that is only available on the SEL Premium version. We tested the former that sends power to the front drive system via a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. The combination earned impressive EPA mileage ratings of 25 city, 38-highway mpg. It was also independently timed at a quick 7.7 seconds for 0-60. So configured, there was no turbo lag just lively acceleration from a dead stop and during highway passing situations. The 3.6 V6 is even quicker (6.4 seconds) and more potent in this 3,320-pound sedan. Of course gas mileage wouldn’t be as good.
Ride and handling have typical German traits. No lean in sharp turns and steering is precise but on the taut side at around-town speeds. The ride on Continental 18-inch tires too is firm although bumps and tar strips are nicely dampened.
Passat SEL is competitively priced at the high-end of midsize sedans. With much desired amenities and safety items such as power sunroof, heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, fog lights, satellite radio, Bluetooth, stability control, intelligent crash response, tire pressure monitoring and more, the only option on the test car was $1,095 for the Lighting Package that included LED headlights, running lights and taillights. That brought the base price of $30,495 to $32,410 with delivery.
Passat also received top marks in crash testing. In government testing is earned five stars overall, five for frontal impact protection and five for crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave Passat its top score of “Good” for frontal moderate-overlap, side-impact and roof strength tests. The same agency awarded it its second highest rating of “Acceptable” in the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test. With these good safety marks, spacious interior, impressive fuel economy and competitive price, Passat can give Accord/Camry a run for new car buyers money.