2020 Volkswagen Passat: A grown up car for the city

2020 Volkswagen Passat: A grown up car for the city
2020 Volkswagen Passat (photo by Jill Ciminillo)

To me, the Volkswagen Passat has always been a “grown up” car. 

It’s the kind of vehicle you buy when you want something that’s kind of nice, a little spacious and generally attractive — but don’t have a lot of money to spend.

The 2020 Passat gets a redesign and manages to become even better than it was, and it’s always been good.


The exterior design of the Passat gets a little bolder for 2020. I might even call it austere. It’s conservative, yet handsome, and it’s exactly the kind of vehicle you’d be OK taking your boss or client to lunch in. They won’t think you’re being overpaid, but they will think you have nice taste.

This handsome design is backed by fun-to-drive dynamics (though I wouldn’t show your boss or client how aggressive it can be). It has quick acceleration for urban driving, and it manages highway passing fairly well.

Another bonus: Even though this is equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, there is no real turbo lag.

As a midsize sedan, it has a decent turning radius and it’s not too long to maneuver in tight city spaces.

Something else to note: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, so no need to upgrade to a top trim with navigation.

The biggest hit, however, is the fact that options are minimal and the trim structure appropriately advances the features. The Passat is well-stocked with blind spot monitoring, CarPlay and LED headlights at just less than $24k, then you get a little more at each trim bump, topping out at $32k for leather seats, navigation, premium audio and loads of other whistles and bells. 

And in a very un-German-like move, there’s only one paint color that is an option: Aurora Red Metallic ($395). Everything else is (gasp) included.


The interior of the Passat is boring. I suppose that’s a comfort to Volkswagen owners because every VW interior looks basically the same. But it could use a little something, something to add visual interest.

Which takes me to my biggest disappointment.

I find it weird that the Passat is slotted above the Jetta, yet it doesn’t have one of the coolest features the new Jetta got last year: the Digital Cockpit. 

If you’re not familiar with this feature, it’s basically VW’s take on the Audi Virtual Cockpit. It’s a little simpler than the Audi version, but still a visual delight with a large configurable digital screen behind the steering wheel. It can house a large instrument cluster or a detailed digital map. But it’s very tech forward as well as attractive.

I’m perplexed by this, and frankly, I’m just surprised it’s not even an option on a redesigned vehicle for 2020.


The trim structure is very straight forward, and I like the fact that it’s a WYSIWYG. There aren’t a lot of hidden options, though there are several dealer accessories that can be added at each trim.

  • S: $23,915
  • SE: $26,765 +920
  • R-Line: $29,565
  • SEL: $32,015

The Chicago Factor

The Volkswagen Passat is one of those great city vehicles that looks more expensive than it is, so you won’t be afraid to park it on the street or let it get a little dirty. It’s also large enough to fit some people and stuff, but not so big that it’s difficult to maneuver in a cramped parking garage.

For my money, I’d opt for the SE trim, which is one level off base and adds leatherette seating surfaces, heated front seats, remote start and adaptive cruise control. With standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto for navigation, you really don’t need much more than that for an urban vehicle.

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Snow day car swap. Trying to get some photos before the #cardujour is completely trashed. @vw Passat #vwpassat

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The Specs
Engine: 2.0-L, 4-cyl, turbo
Horsepower: 174
Torque: 206 lb-ft
Fuel economy (combined): 27 mpg
Drivetrain: FWD
Length: 193.6 inches
Width: 72.2 inches
Wheelbase: 110.4 inches
Seating capacity: 5
Cargo capacity: 15.9 cu-ft
Base price: $23,915
Price as tested: $29,565

Filed under: #cardujour, Reviews

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