by Karl Furlong
The Volkswagen Passat is approaching the end of its life in the USA and the 2022 model year will be its final one. Once a nearly premium vehicle in VW's offering, over the last decade, the Passat has been re-packaged and demoted to being one of the also-ran midsize sedans. Unlike Europe, which received an all-new Volkswagen Passat, the US has had its own variation based on the older generation Passat models that have been around since 2012. Fast forward into 2022 and the Passat, with its 174-horsepower, 206-lb-ft 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, spacious interior, and cavernous boot, finds itself among some stiff competition. While VW has been focused on product rationalization with the Passat to maintain a reasonable price, the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Mazda 6 have all been overhauled and refreshed to appeal to the hearts of buyers who refuse to cave in to the SUV convention. Against more contemporary rivals, does the 2022 VW Passat still hold up as a value-for-money vehicle of near-luxury status?
For 2022, the biggest news is the discontinuation of last year's base S trim and the introduction of a new Limited Edition flagship to mark the Passat's last year on the US market. Only 1973 of these cars will be built - commemorating the year in which the first Passat arrived in the US. Of these cars, 423 units will be finished in a model-specific exclusive new color, Racing Green metallic. The Limited Edition will feature a high equipment level, highlights of which include bespoke two-tone machined 18-inch V-Red alloy wheels, unique exterior styling features, leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a Fender audio system, and standard navigation. It also has references to the Chattanooga plant where Volkswagen USA has been building the Passat for the last decade, such as Limited Edition Chattanooga tags on the seats.
See trim levels and configurations:
The Passat is a mid-size car that received a facelift for 2020, which has carried over mostly unchanged into 2021 and 2022. All trims have automatic LED headlights, tail lights, and daytime running lights, with the R-Line and Limited Edition sporting an adaptive front-lighting system with a corner-illuminating feature. A power tilt-and-slide sunroof is fitted on all models. The SE and Limited Edition run on 18-inch wheels, while the R-Line sits on 19-inch wheels, complemented by other sporting touches like a front bumper with signature air intakes, a rear sport valance, a rear diffuser, and chrome tailpipes. The Limited Edition is further distinguished by its black mirror caps.
The Passat's dimensions remain unchanged for the new model year. Length is 193.6 inches and maximum width is 72.6 inches. Rear interior space is a plus point on the Passat, despite its 110.4-inch wheelbase, which is shorter than the Honda Accord's 111.4-inch wheelbase. The curb weight of 3,369 pounds for all trims is 59 lbs heavier than the base model Toyota Camry.
The color palette for 2022 consists of five options, which are applicable to the SE and R-Line trims. Pure White is a standard no-cost option and the same applies to Deep Black pearl, Tourmaline Blue metallic, and Platinum Gray metallic. For $395 extra, you can have Aurora Red metallic which, along with Tourmaline Blue, go a long way to give the exterior some personality. Reflex Silver metallic is no longer offered this year. The Limited Edition gets access to only Pure White, Platinum Gray, and Aurora Red, plus the additional Racing Green, which is exclusive to this model and will be the default color of 423 of the examples built.
All models use the same front-wheel-drive setup, with power being delivered through a six-speed automatic transmission. For the 2020 model year, the Passat received a torque boost to its 2.0-liter engine, which is carried over to the 2022 model. The turbo engine provides plenty of torque from lower down in the rev range, plateauing at 3,000 rpm. The engine and transmission are tuned for effortless progress and comfortable cruising along highways and byways, rather than performance. Planting your right foot from a standstill sees the Volkswagen complete the 0 to 60 mph sprint in 7.8 seconds, which is a similar time to the base Toyota Camry. However, both the Camry V6 and the Honda Accord with its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine are much faster. While you are not going to secure any traffic light victories, the torque delivery allows the Passat to swiftly pass slower traffic.
Among the Passat's competitors, there are hybrids in the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Hyundai Sonata stables, as well as all-wheel-drive variants of the Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima. The Passat is relatively simple by comparison, with one powertrain and only one drivetrain on offer.
All the Volkswagen Passat sedan models for 2022 come fitted with VW's long-running 2.0-liter TSI engine, a turbocharged four-cylinder developing 174 horsepower and 206 lb-ft of torque. Both figures are achieved lower in the rev band, making the car more adept at relaxed city driving and cruising. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox which, like the engine, goes about its business smoothly, tending to shift into a higher gear earlier for the sake of economy. Ultimately, the engine and gearbox combination creates a car that lacks punch and cannot be stirred into urgency, even if you have the R-Line with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Aptly, Volkswagen does not make claims of the Passat's top speed.
Aside from there being only one drivetrain option, a further criticism that can be leveled at the Passat is that the majority of its rivals employ CVT or eight-speed gearboxes that are more refined. This is where the Passat's age begins to count against it even further.
Most reviews of the VW Passat confirm a smooth ride that absorbs all but some road irregularities. Considering the relaxed cruising nature of the car's mechanicals, the ride is firmer and allows bumps to intrude into the cabin when driving at slower speeds. However, the firmness does afford the Passat greater composure than you would expect when negotiating a few bends. The brakes are sensitive and give strong stopping power from cruising speeds.
The absence of steering feedback to the driver will be acceptable to those who would enjoy the Passat's relaxed nature; this is quite on par with the steering feedback offered by competitors too. The steering is light and quick, making it easy to maneuver the Passat into tight spaces and for parking duty.
Among its competitors, the Passat's fuel economy leaves a lot to be desired. Achieving 24/36/28 mpg city/highway/combined, the Passat is four to five mpg below the 1.5L Honda Accord. The Toyota Camry, in its most frugal non-hybrid guise, manages 28/39/32 mpg. The Passat has no other engine options available, so any improvement to gas mileage rests solely on your driving style.
With a full 18.5-gallon gas tank, the Passat should be able to get close to 520 miles before needing to refuel.
The Passat's cabin is spacious and the fit and finish are solid, for the most part. While some of the material choices are not on par with the competition, it is a quality place to be. However, while the cabin is well-appointed with most controls within easy reach, the experience of occupying the aging interior and of sitting at the controls, is a bit like being seated in a church pew - but with a steering wheel. It is a serious, respectable, but unadventurous place to be. The Passat's competition provides interesting interiors with various personalities. Certain competitors like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry have a palpable sense of occasion when you take a seat behind the wheel; in their company, the Passat's interior is heavily dated. Ambient lighting offered on the R-line and Limited Edition trims does go some way to lift the mood in the cabin.
The Passat accommodates five comfortably, with wide and supportive front seats that even large adults will find a comfortable position in. All models get eight-way power adjustment for the driver, seat heating for both front occupants, as well as V-Tex leatherette. The Limited Edition gets a driver's seat memory setting too, as well as heated outboard rear seats and genuine leather upholstery.
The rear bench is where the spacious Passat shines. There is ample leg- and headroom for three adults; the bench is wide enough for all three to sit abreast in a pinch, although the middle rear spot is never going to be the most comfortable and is best reserved for youngsters instead. The doors are also long, which makes getting in and out much easier, but may prove tricky in narrow parking spots.
Although VW aims to keep the production cost of the Passat low, the interior is far from low rent. The SE trim gets leatherette in a choice of three colors, namely Titan Black, Shetland Beige, or Mauro Brown, while the R-Line has two color choices for its leatherette - Titan Black or a two-tone Shetland Beige/Black combination. The Limited Edition gets leather upholstery in either Titan Black or Mauro Brown. On the R-Line and Limited Edition, the steering wheel is trimmed in leather too. Although the liberal use of soft-touch plastics is an attempt to make the Passat feel more premium, some rivals offer a much more refined and plush cabin.
The Passat's trunk measures 15.9 cubic feet, which is above average in the midsize segment and more than the 15.1 cubes available in the Toyota Camry. The Honda Accord, with its fastback styling, has 16.7 cu ft. Wide and deep, the Passat's trunk will accommodate two large check-in bags and three carry-on bags, with space left for smaller items. For larger items, the rear seat can be flipped down in a 60/40 split.
Up front, the cabin has a few sizable bins and cubbies for wallets, phones, and other knick-knacks, as well as one in front of the gear shift for small items. There is a standard glovebox, and most water bottles will fit into decent-sized door pockets.
After simplifying the trim lineup to three, VW has spread the features out a little better than before, bolstering the standard offering to include adaptive cruise control on all trim levels.
The base-level SE trim has dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a power sliding/tilting sunroof, keyless access with push-button start, remote start, and the prerequisite rearview camera system as standard, with safety tech that includes automatic LED headlights, blind-spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian monitoring. To this, the R-Line trim adds interior ambient lighting and steering wheel paddle shifters to its interior. The Limited Edition additionally features leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, a memory function for the driver's seat, heated outboard rear seats, and model-specific highlights such as Limited Edition Chattanooga tags on the front seats.
Infotainment is an area where the Passat's age becomes obvious. At 6.5 inches, it is one of the smaller touchscreens in the segment. However, the biggest criticism must be leveled at its position low on the dashboard. The screen is not within the driver's line of sight, causing you to take your eyes off the road to interact with it. This is exacerbated further as the screen is obscured by the driver's hands on the steering wheel. Still, the MIB2 system isn't awful, and it comes with SiriusXM, HD Radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto from the base model up. All models have two front USB ports and two USB ports in the rear center console. From the R-Line, navigation is made standard and the six-speaker sound system on the entry-level trims is upgraded to a Fender premium audio system with nine speakers, including a subwoofer.
At the time of writing, the 2022 Passat had not been the subject of any recalls. The 2021 models weren't recalled either, but the 2020 model had three recalls for issues pertaining to frontal and side-impact airbags being installed incorrectly and issues with the headlight adjustment. For 2020 - the last time the Passat was evaluated - J.D. Power scored it at 83 for quality and reliability, marginally higher than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry which were scored at 82 the same year.
The Passat comes standard with a four-year/50,000-mile new vehicle warranty and three years/36,000 miles of roadside assistance. The basic warranty is better than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, although the Hyundai Sonata offers five years on both fronts. The Passat does come with two years/20,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance, but once again the Sonata offers better coverage in this area.
The NHTSA conducted a safety review of the Volkswagen Passat for 2021 and provided an overall rating of five stars, however, the earliest models released for 2021 were also given a Safety Concern warning from the authority. This pertains to worrying results from the frontal impact crash test that showed the front passenger was at a high risk of a greater thoracic injury. The problem was rectified in later releases, although the overall rating was dropped to four stars, with three out of five stars given for frontal crash tests. This rating still stands for the 2022 model. The 2021 IIHS review yielded six top scores of Good.
The basics are covered on the Passat, with ABS, EBD, stability, and traction control included as well as a full complement of six airbags. A rearview camera system is standard, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert features from the base model. All models come with automatic LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian monitoring blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keep assist. Moving up to the R-Line adds automatic high beams and cornering lights. There are no additional safety features to opt on, sadly.
While it may be perceived as a strong value-for-money offering and one that supports US workers by virtue of its local assembly, its appeal will be limited to those who appreciate the steady-cruising capability, somber interior, big back seat, and spacious trunk. However, there is real value to be had from the Passat's competitors. It may be reliable and spacious, but at its heart, the Passat is old, and its failings are those of an old car. It lacks the refinement, quality materials, and advanced technology of contemporary rivals, and the older platform has various ergonomic flaws that rivals don't fall victim to. It might drive pleasingly well, but it isn't exciting, nor does it thrive at being a mere commuter-mobile, making it hard to truly recommend. If, after a test drive of a more contemporary rival and an objective comparison, your heart is still set on the VW, keep in mind that sales will end with this 2022 model, so 2021 is not the best time to buy one. If you can hold off pulling the trigger a little, you may get a good deal in terms of price, just don't expect a near-luxury experience.
Volkswagen's aim with the Passat is to keep costs down, and its base price is on par with that of the Toyota Camry. The entry-level SE trim starts at an MSRP of $27,295 and the R-Line will ask $29,295 from your coffers. The new Limited Edition costs $30,295 The price of the Volkswagen Passat excludes tax, registration, licensing, and VW's $995 destination charge.
There are three trim levels in the 2022 Volkswagen Passat lineup: SE, R-Line, and Limited Edition. Mechanically, they are identical, with a 174-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
The base SE rides on five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels and has automatic LED headlights, tail lights, and daytime running lights, as well as rain-sensing wipers and a tilting/sliding power sunroof. Standard interior features include V-Tex leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, a power driver's seat, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear shifter, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless access and start, and remote engine start. Safety features include six airbags, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keep assist. The infotainment system has a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM, HD radio, four USB ports, and a six-speaker audio system.
The R-Line trim adds to the SE's features model-specific 19-inch alloy wheels, a sporty front bumper and rear valance, and a black trunk-lid spoiler. Inside, it gains ambient lighting and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Additional safety features are adaptive headlights with automatic high beams. The infotainment system gains navigation and a Fender nine-speaker audio system.
The Limited Edition reverts to model-specific 18-inch alloy wheels, but adds power-folding exterior mirrors with black mirror caps and a hands-free trunk lid. Inside, it gets a power passenger seat, leather upholstery, and heated outboard rear seats.
Volkswagen offers a selection of standalone options to customize a Passat, rather than any comprehensive packages. The notable items on the list for 2022 are an enhanced rearview mirror with HomeLink ($285) and a universal tablet holder on the front seatbacks ($110). You can specify a rear trunk spoiler for $345.
If the Passat is a candidate for your garage, then it is likely that value is a big factor in your decision-making process. We recommend the SE; this trim has V-Tex leatherette upholstery, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and front-seat heating, along with dual-zone climate control, a power tilting/sliding sunroof, and four USB ports. The driver gets keyless access with push-button start and remote start, and lane-keep assist is added on the safety front. If you've got to spend money on a Passat, it doesn't seem worth the extra $2k for the R-Line when the main upgrades are to how it looks, and the quality of the sound system. However, if you want to own a piece of Passat history and you can still get your hands on the Limited Edition, we'd take it in its unique Racing Green.
The Honda Accord is considered the top pick of the midsize sedans - it's a well-packaged machine, offering a large rear seat and trunk competing with that of the Passat. However, Honda takes it several steps further by giving the driver a vehicle talented in the handling department, with impressive efficiency from smaller turbo engines and a hybrid, and thoughtful comfort and convenience technologies to boot. The base-price LX models have an eight-inch touchscreen integrated with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlights, push-button start, and dual-zone automatic air conditioning. Sport configurations in the Accord range have 12-way power adjustment for the driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, keyless entry, and eight-speaker audio systems. Top-end Touring trims add a head-up display, which isn't available to the Passat at all. In IIHS safety testing, the 2021 Accord earned a Top Safety Pick+ award, and 2022 NHTSA reviews were equally positive. Entry-level pricing starts at around $2,300 cheaper than the Passat, but with the luxurious Touring trim topping out over $36k, this is money well spent. We'll take the Honda.
The Camry has a history of being the best-selling passenger car in America, and with an affordable price tag, comfy interior, loads of safety tech, and even AWD for adverse weather, it offers a lot over and above the Passat. But, like the Passat, the quality of the Camry's cabin materials is not premium, however, occupants will enjoy the more engaging design. The floating infotainment display is available in seven inches or nine inches, both larger than the Passat's and with greater functionality, including support for Amazon Alexa. When it comes to drivetrain options, the Toyota's offering includes four- and six-cylinder options, and a hybrid, with fuel economy figures that are far better than what the Passat can manage. And, if you want more power, you can consider the 3.5-liter V6 with 301 hp, which is available to the top configurations in the Camry lineup. With pricing not that far off what the Passat asks, it's a no-brainer here - pass up on the VW this time round.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Volkswagen Passat: