And this was done on purpose.
First things first: The US-spec Volkswagen Passat is a fine sedan. It may not look all that exciting, but it holds its own well enough against competitors like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Ford Fusion. It's a solid all-around family sedan that's both affordable and comfortable, but it's almost plain vanilla. It wasn't always like that. Up until the current generation, the Passat was different than those aforementioned competitors in that it had a higher level of quality and refinement.
Premium materials were everywhere inside the cabin. Many considered the Passat to be a more affordable version of the Audi A6, and they weren't far off. The old Passat appealed directly to those who not only took pleasure in driving, but also in Euro refinement. They knew they were driving something much nicer than their neighbor's Camry. So why is the current US Passat so different? VW wanted to dramatically increase its US sales, and the data indicated that a proper family sedan was one of the main ways to do so. Just give it a bigger trunk, a large backseat (Americans love space and junk food), and a $21k base price.
To save on costs, all the "premium-ness" had to go. The scheme has worked well so far. Now that we've seen the all-new Euro-spec Passat, the realization of what America is missing out on has fully set in. Europe's new Passat has retained (and then some) its premium standards inside and out. And we're immensely jealous. Our suggestion, for those in the US who feel the same, is opt for the Passat CC. It may be based on the previous-gen Passat and carries a $32k price of entry, but it's the best and only true affordable A6 alternative VW offers in the US. Let those who don't know well enough stick with the overall bland standard Passat.