2020 Volkswagen Passat

2020 Volkswagen Passat Review: Does The Basics Right

by Morgan Carter

While not much may have changed mechanically for the Volkswagen Passat, it has been restyled to look more modern beside leading competitors like the Honda Accord and Mazda 6. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine maintains the same 174 horsepower from last year, but the torque has been bumped up to 206 lb-ft. Alongside the sedan's solid safety and infotainment offering, which includes standard collision avoidance and smartphone integration, these improvements help the Passat to remain competitive in a very saturated market segment. The starting price of $22,995 will appeal to buyers who want the best value for money. There may be more mechanically and technically advanced sedans on the market, and many that offer a more thrilling driving experience, but the VW has mastered the basics, making it a great no-nonsense offering.

2020 Volkswagen Passat Changes: What’s the difference vs 2019 Passat?

Most of the changes to the 2020 Passat are skin-deep, but there have been a few under the hood and in the cabin, too. The exterior appearance has been totally facelifted with all-new sheet metal, which has resulted in slightly altered dimensions over previous years. The front grille has been redesigned and boasts a stronger chrome accent, while the character line has been shifted from the hood to the side of the sedan. LED headlights are now standard, with forward collision avoidance and blind-spot warning moved down to the base trim level. SiriusXM and App-Connect with smartphone integration are available on every model. The upgraded engine now produces 206 lb-ft of torque, a 12 percent increase over last year's model. The range's increased value is reflected in the base S model retaining its MSRP but having an extra $1,720 worth of extra content added to the standard specification.

Pros and Cons

  • Spacious rear seats
  • Large trunk capacity
  • Good standard safety features
  • Affordable price range
  • Even better value for money in the new year
  • Single underwhelming powertrain
  • Not a very fun driver
  • Despite updates, still looks rather plain

Passat Exterior

Volkswagen gave the 2020 Passat a more modern and mainstream makeover, completely replacing the sheet metal. However, the underlying chassis remains the same. Sadly, this makeover doesn't make the Passat any more appealing aesthetically. The tri-bar chrome-accented grille has been enlarged to take up all the space between the newly added automatic LED headlights. The taillights are LEDs, too, stretched out widely over the rear fascia, while LED daytime running lights are standard across the range. The wheels are 17-inch alloys as standard, with available 18- or 19-inch variants, while a power sunroof and hands-free trunk are available on the higher trim levels. The R-Line trim gets a sport rear valance and front bumper, but it only looks a bit sportier and doesn't perform any better than other models in the range.

2020 Volkswagen Passat Front View Driving Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Passat Front View Driving 1 Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Passat Rear Angle View Volkswagen
See All 2020 Volkswagen Passat Exterior Photos

Dimensions

With its new exterior design, the Passat has gained a few inches overall, now measuring 193.6 inches long (1.7 inches longer than before), although the wheelbase remains 110.4 inches long. The midsize sedan shouldn't struggle too much to find a suitable parking spot with an overall width of 72.2 inches, but it doesn't offer the best road visibility at 58 inches tall. Regardless of the trim level, the VW weighs in at a respectable 3,325 lbs.

Exterior Colors

As plain as the exterior of the Passat may be, it does offer a modicum of customization with a choice of six colors, unlimited by trim level. Pure White and Deep Black Pearl comprise the standard solid options, while the metallics include Tourmaline Blue, Reflex Silver, and Platinum Gray. A single premium paint color is offered, Aurora Red Metallic, for $395. There are limited exterior/interior color combinations.

  • Aurora Red Metallic
  • Pure White
  • Deep Black Pearl
  • Tourmaline Blue Metallic
  • Platinum Gray Metallic
  • Reflex Silver Metallic

Passat Performance

The Volkswagen Passat is designed to be a reliable daily driver, not a high-performance sedan. As such, the 174 hp and 206 lb-ft delivered by the turbo-four engine is adequate for daily driving. The unrefined six-speed automatic gearbox doesn't really help matters, getting the midsize sedan up to 60 mph in a modest 7.6 seconds. The VW is also not the fastest car on the road, with a maximum speed of only 115 mph.

Only front-wheel-drive is offered on the Passat where the smaller Tiguan or several rival brands provide the option of an all-wheel drivetrain. Sadly, the Volkswagen doesn't boast a very high maximum towing capacity, being able to pull only 1000 lbs, where rivals like the Honda Accord can handle much higher limits of up to 3,500 lbs.

2020 Volkswagen Passat Front Angle View Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Passat Wheel Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Passat Taillights Volkswagen

Engine and Transmission

Unlike in the past, only one engine is offered on the Passat these days. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine develops 174 hp as it always has, but some retuning of the system has increased its overall torque output to 206 lb-ft. The powertrain comes mated to a bit of a clunky six-speed automatic transmission, whereas many rivals have upgraded to more refined eight-speed gearboxes. Similarly, only a front-wheel drivetrain is offered, while some rivals, like the Nissan Altima, offer an all-wheel-drive option.

The engine may not be overly powerful, but the VW doesn't market itself as a particularly sporty sedan, despite the R-Line trim level. It has enough power to get around town without feeling too lethargic, though, and it can pass slower vehicles on the highway when necessary.

  • Engine
    2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Driving the Passat isn't about having a thrilling experience. The steering is light but steady, making it ideal for cruising in a straight line down the highway, while the brakes are powerful and a bit sensitive to help you stop in a hurry rather than modulate speed or direction. The wheels offer enough grip to keep you confident on the road, but not enough to really have fun with, and there is no communication between them and the steering wheel.

The suspension is a bit on the firm side for a car that seems designed for town driving, but it does a good job of absorbing most road imperfections. It is smoother on the highway where bumps are rare, and, at these higher speeds, imperfections are dealt with more easily. The sedan is well-insulated against external noises, so it remains relatively quiet even when cruising.

Overall, the VW Passat is a sensible sedan, but it won't get your blood pumping, and pushing it to do so will only lead to disappointment. This is a car made for town driving and getting everything done in a day that you may need to. It isn't designed to satisfy wants.

Passat Gas Mileage

The VW Passat isn't the most accomplished when it comes to fuel economy, but it doesn't lag behind its direct competitors. With only one engine and drivetrain available, the sedan can get up to 23/34/27 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. The Honda Accord gets a similar 23/34/27 mpg, while the Nissan Altima does quite a bit better at 28/39/32 mpg. Burning regular gasoline, the Passat can cover up to 500 miles on a single 18.5-gallon tank in a combination of city and highway driving.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    18.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 23/34 mpg
* 2020 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T S Automatic

Passat Interior

The cabin is quite spacious for a standard midsize sedan, with particularly large rear seats. The design is quite bland, though, and the material choices leave something to be desired. Nonetheless, the cabin is reasonably well-appointed with enough comfort and convenience features to keep most buyers happy, and the controls are laid out in a way that makes them easy to interact with, even when on the move. Visibility is pretty good from the get-go, and advanced driver-assistance features come standard even on the base model.

2020 Volkswagen Passat Dashboard Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Passat Central Console Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Passat Infotainment System Volkswagen
See All 2020 Volkswagen Passat Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The VW is a five-seater midsize sedan with impressive cabin space. The front seats supply enough head- and legroom for even large adults, but it's the rear seats that really impress. The back bench is wide enough to accommodate three passengers, with even adults fitting in rather easily, but it's still best to keep it to two adults in the back at most. As standard, the front seats offer six directions of manual adjustability, but they can be upgraded to eight-way power front seats on upper trims. Driver seat memory is also available, and you can get heating for both the front and rear seats, which is a bit rare for the segment. The lack of standard adjustability and the placement of the front seats mean that it can be tricky to find a comfortable driving position, but visibility is pretty good, although the long rear requires extra caution when backing up.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

While Volkswagen has tried to keep costs down by opting for cheaper materials where possible, the interior is certainly not low-grade. The S trim comes standard with cloth upholstery, although it is only available in Titan Black. This is upgraded to V-Tex synthetic leather on the SE and R-Line trims, with Shetland Beige and Maura Brown added to the color palette. The sporty R-Line gets a unique two-tone interior option in Titan Black/Shetland. Only the top-tier SEL gets the premium leather-appointed seats, although no extra hues are offered. The dash is lined in soft-touch plastic, but it's harder and grainier than what you'd find in more refined competitors. Wood trim lines the interior on the higher trim levels, but it doesn't look or feel that great.

Passat Trunk and Cargo Space

Trunk space is very competitive in the midsize sedan, with 15.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. While not quite as much as leading segment rivals like the Honda Accord, with its 16.7 cubic feet, the Passat still supplies more than enough space for just about any daily task. You could fit a dozen grocery bags, half that many carry-ons, or even a few full-size suitcases without too much trouble. If you do have something a bit larger to stow, you can fold down the rear seats in a 60/40 split to free up additional cargo room.

Small-item storage is adequate, if not overly abundant. There are a couple of cupholders up front, just in front of the center stack storage bin. The armrest storage cubby is a little smaller than average, but the glove compartment and door pockets are reasonably sized. There is a center seat armrest with cupholders in the rear.

2020 Volkswagen Passat Front Angle View 1 Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Passat Side View Volkswagen
2020 Volkswagen Passat Side View 1 Volkswagen
  • Trunk Volume
    15.9 ft³

Passat Infotainment and Features

Features

While not as well-equipped as a luxury sedan, the affordable Passat comes with all the essentials and even a few nice-to-haves. The base-level S gets manual air conditioning, and cloth-upholstered comfort seats with six-way manual adjustment. A rearview camera and cruise control come standard, with adaptive cruise control offered at the higher trim levels. Standard safety features include rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and pedestrian detection. The cloth is replaced with leatherette on the mid-tier trims or leather on the top-most trim, while eight-way power front seats are installed, with options for heated front and rear seats. Dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, and park distance control are all added to the upper trims, too. Driver-seat memory, a hands-free power trunk lid, and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof are all standard on the SEL.

Infotainment

It may not get the larger eight- or ten-inch touchscreen available on more modern VWs, but the Passat makes do with a 6.3-inch variant. From this interface, users can access the Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, and SiriusXM. Navigation is also added on the top-tier SEL, along with SiriusXM Traffic. A single data USB port is provided up front, with an additional two charging USB ports added to every trim above the base model. As standard, all music is played back through a six-speaker sound system, but this is upgraded to a nine-speaker premium Fender sound system on the final trim.

Passat Problems and Reliability

J.D. Power has not yet evaluated the facelifted VW sedan for reliability, but the previous year's score of 80 out of 100 will most likely carry over unchanged. The Passat has received a few complaints and was recalled once in 2019 for the possibility that the headlights could be adjusted outside of specified parameters. Two more recalls were issued in 2018, both regarding problems with the brake calipers. Volkswagen offers a 50,000-mile/48-month bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty on new purchases, while roadside assistance is covered for 36,000 miles/36 months. While the limited warranty has been reduced from its usual six-year coverage, VW has added two years of maintenance cover to its standard warranty for 2020.

Passat Safety

While it hasn't been rated yet for 2020, the Passat earned a five-star safety score from the NHTSA in 2019. The IIHS, however, has evaluated the new year's model and has awarded it a score of Good in every category.

Key Safety Features

With its high safety ratings, it's not surprising that the Volkswagen Passat comes equipped with a fair number of standard safety features. The basics include ABS, EBD, stability and traction control, and six airbags: dual front, front side, and side curtain. The advanced safety features comprise blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, pedestrian detection, and forward collision avoidance. Available on the upper trims are lane keeping systems, park distance control, park assist, and rain-sensing wipers.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Volkswagen Passat a good car?

The Volkswagen Passat has a reputation as a reliable daily commuter that emphasizes value over extravagance. The 2020 facelift may not have done much to improve upon this, but the sifting down of more advanced features to the lower trims without increasing cost has definitely helped its appeal.

Even with that said, the Passat has some stiff competition in the form of the Honda Accord and Mazda 6, which each offer similar features and a better driving experience at a similar price tag. Moving up the trim levels, the VW doesn't grow much in price despite the dearth of extra features added, but it still has trouble pulling ahead of its rivals in terms of value for money.

With its facelift, the Passat looks a bit more stylish but it doesn't stand out from the host of similar sedans on the market. If you have your heart set on an executive sedan, the Volkswagen won't disappoint, but it won't really impress either. There are certainly better options out there.

What's the Price of the 2020 Volkswagen Passat?

Volkswagen has made a concerted effort to keep costs on the Passat moving forward. The sedan may not be as plush as its more luxurious rivals, nor as well-appointed as its more tech-minded competitors, but it offers a good balance of the two for a reasonable price. The entry-level S trim gets the ball rolling at $22,995, while the slightly better-appointed SE ups the ante by another $2,850. If you want the sportier-looking, if not performing, R-Line, then you will need to put aside $28,645. Getting behind the wheel of the top-tier SEL will set you back a fair $31,095. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, and VW's $920 destination charge.

2020 Volkswagen Passat Models

Four trim levels are offered for the 2020 Passat: S, SE, R-Line, and SEL. All four are powered by the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 174 hp and 206 lb-ft to the front wheels only. Rowing the gears for the sedan is a six-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox is not as refined as what some rivals offer, and no all-wheel drivetrain is available like it is on many competitors.

The entry-level S trim rides on 17-inch alloy wheels and gets LED headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights. Inside, it gets cloth upholstery with manual air conditioning to keep occupants comfortable. The sedan does get some nice standard safety features in the form of forward collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. However, the 6.3-inch infotainment touchscreen is a bit small, even if it does support Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, and SiriusXM.

V-Tex leatherette replaces the cloth upholstery inside the SE, while eight-way power front seats replace the manual perches. The cabin also enjoys dual-zone climate control, while the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter add extra comfort for the driver. Keyless entry and ignition are offered, along with remote engine start, while adaptive cruise control upgrades the standard option. The front seats come with heating functions and an extra two USB ports are provided for rear-seat occupants.

The R-Line is the Passat's sportier model. It doesn't offer anything in the way of mechanical improvements over the rest of the range, but it looks the part. It gets imposing 19-inch alloy wheels and an R-Line front bumper and unique badging. A rear sport valance is also provided, along with R-Line door sill protectors. A sunroof, ambient lighting, and pedal caps in sporty stainless steel are also included with this trim.

The top-of-range SEL rides on 18-inch alloys and gets both a power tilt-and-sliding sunroof and a hands-free easy-open trunk. Other than these conveniences, the sedan's safety is upgraded with park distance control and adaptive front lighting. Inside, the upholstery is all premium leather, while the driver's seat gets memory functions and the rear seats get heating. The infotainment is upgraded with built-in navigation and SiriusXM Traffic, while the standard six-speaker sound system is replaced with a nine-speaker Fender premium set-up.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.0T S
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,995
2.0T SE
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$25,845
2.0T R-Line
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$28,645
2.0T SEL
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$31,095
See All 2020 Volkswagen Passat Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

While Volkswagen doesn't offer any comprehensive packages for the Passat, it does provide a selection of standalone options to customize your ride. Notable items on the list include an enhanced rearview mirror with HomeLink ($285), a universal tablet holder on the front seatbacks ($110), or an advanced remote start fob ($246). The mid-tier SE trim also gets access to an optional sunroof for $995.

What Volkswagen Passat Model Should I Buy?

For 2020, VW has offered the Passat in a few extra trim levels, giving buyers a greater range of choice. And, while the value of the entry-level S trim has been significantly improved without raising its price, we still think that the SE should be your starting point when looking to buy the sedan. It gets all the same infotainment features as the improved S trim, but it offers greater levels of comfort with V-Tex leatherette upholstery and power-adjustable seats. The second-tier trim also gets dual-zone climate control and conveniences like keyless entry and ignition. Looking higher up the trim spectrum, the R-Line doesn't add much besides a sportier aesthetic, and the top-tier SEL is $5,000 more expensive. Most buyers looking at the Passat want the best value for their money, and the SE is exactly that, in our opinion.

2020 Volkswagen Passat Comparisons

Volkswagen Jetta Volkswagen
Honda Accord Honda

2020 Volkswagen Passat vs Volkswagen Jetta

One class below the Passat, you'll find the VW Jetta, an eminently affordable everyday family sedan that follows similar construction and quality cues to its larger sibling. As standard, it gets a less impressive turbo four-cylinder engine that develops 147 hp and 184 lb-ft, but this also allows the sedan to deliver better fuel economy of 30/40/34 mpg, making it an excellent town car. Alongside the sedan's smaller dimensions, this provides better versatility and affordability around the cramped streets and crowded parking lots that are the bane of city living. However, this also means that passenger and cargo space are not as abundant as they are in the Passat. Still, the Jetta is more agile on the road and delivers a more engaging driving experience. If that is something you want from your sedan, you may want to consider the Jetta GTI, with its much more capable 228-hp turbo inline-four engine. But, if you need the extra space and desire the added comfort features, the Passat may still be the better choice for you.

See Volkswagen Jetta Review

2020 Volkswagen Passat vs Honda Accord

Perhaps the VW Passat's most capable segment competitor, the Honda Accord remains ahead of its rival despite the VW's latest upgrades. The Honda's 1.5-liter turbo four-pot delivers a more impressive 192 hp and 252 lb-ft (and up to 252 hp when equipped with the 2.0L turbo), giving it a lot more oomph around town, while still keeping costs down with an excellent fuel economy of 30/38/33 mpg. Add to this the fact that the Accord is more engaging and fun to drive, and it becomes harder to see the Volkswagen as real competition. In fact, the Honda does just about everything the Passat does, only better. It is spacious and feels extremely upscale, even though it has a similar starting price of $24,020. It even offers more passenger and cargo space, which is perhaps the VW's strongest selling point. Overall, there really isn't anything that the Volkswagen Passat does better than the Honda Accord.

See Honda Accord Review

Volkswagen Passat Popular Comparisons

$22,995 - $31,095
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