Test Drive: 2020 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SEL
2020 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SEL
Class: Midsize Car
Miles driven: 429
Fuel used: 15.7 gallons
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||A|
|Power and Performance||B-|
|Fit and Finish||B|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||174-hp 2.0-liter|
|Engine Type||Turbo 4-cyl|
Real-world fuel economy: 27.3 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 23/34/27 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $31,095 (not including $920 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: None
Price as tested: $32,015
The great: Generous interior room, especially in the rear seats; spacious trunk
The good: Straightforward control layout; competitive pricing for a top-line model; classy styling
The not so good: Aging basic design; only one powertrain available
More Passat price and availability information
Who can say how many roof fetishists are out in the world (you know who you are), but any of them who liked the lid on the 2019 Volkswagen Passat will be unnaturally happy to know that it’s still a part of the 2020 VW midsize sedan. It’s the only body surface that hasn’t changed on the Passat.
While not a complete redesign—chassis and powertrain are, for the most part, left alone—the ’20 car employs that familiar roof panel in a more coupe-like profile. There is pronounced body sculpting at the sides, and a big—some might call it bold—grille. Inside, the instrument panel gets a modernized look, and the infotainment touchscreen is now covered in glass. Cabin materials come in for a bit of an upgrade, too. Consumer Guide sampled a line-topping SEL with Vienna leather upholstery, a car completely free of options that came to $32,015 with delivery.
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The manufacturer has left alone some things that were likable about the Passat, but they are things that have been around for a long time. U.S.-market customers get a car fundamentally like the one that came out for 2012. That’s to help hold the line on costs. In other global markets, where sedans enjoy a healthier demand, there is an updated Passat. Controls remain easy to work, even if they are starting to show the limitations of age. There’s still a spacious interior, and in contrast to the compact Jetta’s retreat to a beam rear axle (effective with its model-year-2019 redesign), the Passat still has an independent multilink rear with coil springs, telescopic dampers, and an antiroll bar.
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A lone engine choice looks like another carryover piece, and it mostly is. It’s a 174-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. What is different about it is a 22-lb-ft increase in torque, to 206. While acceleration falls short of some newer entries in the class, it still possesses plenty of smoothly delivered power for most day-in/day-out driving. The 6-speed automatic transmission accomplishes snappy, positive upshifts, as well as prompt kickdown when passing power is required. City and highway fuel-mileage estimates from the EPA show the ’20 Passat actually losing two mpg in city and highway driving; current projections are 23 mpg in town, 34 mpg on the open road, and 27 combined. This driver managed to surpass the combined estimate, logging 30.2 mpg from a stint of 189 miles that involved 50 percent city-type operation.
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Sign up for the SEL and you’ll get standard 18-inch alloy wheels, power-folding heated side mirrors, full-LED lighting, adaptive headlights, power sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel on a tilt/telescoping column, heated front and rear seats, ambient interior lighting, and stainless-steel pedal trim. The complement of technology and convenience stuff includes a parking-assist system; keyless entry and starting; hands-free trunklid; color multifunction vehicle-information display; Discover Media with touchscreen, navigation, and satellite radio; Fender premium audio system; and VW App-Connect smartphone interface. Safety-oriented touches run to forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.
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The Passat is an easy, if not wholly engaging, car to drive. Steering is light but still commendably responsive, and the car handles smoothly. Ride displays a little firmness, and might let in a jolt from a good bump, but is otherwise pleasantly set up. As for braking, it ultimately stops well even if pedal action doesn’t come off as exactly linear.
VW’s midsizer is very roomy overall. The generously sized back seat is a particular Passat asset. Legroom is fine, and three adults probably will fit across the rear, even though the center occupant will be kind of close to the headliner and will have to straddle a floor hump. There is great driver vision all around the cabin.
A benefit of the Passat’s persistence is that it hasn’t gone over to the dark side of maddeningly complex infotainment controls. The 6.3-inch touchscreen appears small relative to later vehicles’ shift to tablet-sized screens, but it has external volume and tuning knobs for the simply ordered radio. Climate controls have three no-muss dials for temperature settings and fan speed, with plainly marked buttons for other functions.
That said, the test car’s Titan Black (a very dark gray) interior came off as somewhat bland, even with woodgrain dash and door-panel trim trying to dress things up. There are padded surfaces on top of the dash, all door tops, and armrests and door centers, but there’s still lots of hard plastic, grained or not. For personal-item storage there is an ample glove box, but a small covered console box. Additional resources are a pull-out drawer to left of the steering wheel, an open bin with device inputs at the front of the console, a pouch on the back of each front seat, and pockets with bottle holders in each door. Twin cup holders are found in the console and the retractable armrest in the rear seat.
The trunk has lots of room, and a minimal liftover makes the load space easy to get to. The decklid swings far up to maximize loading. The backs of the rear 60/40-split seats fold in an unbroken form with the trunk floor, but they don’t rest exactly flat, and the bulkhead behind the seat narrows the threshold slightly.
With the things done to the 2020 Passat, Volkswagen probably has made its loyalists (and fetishists) happy. Prying members of the shrinking sedan-buying population from other brands’ offerings may be a little harder to do.
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2020 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SEL
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