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What makes the best year of the Volkswagen Passat?
We use a few methods of deciding which vehicles are the best of a given model. We also assume that you are either researching for fun or are using this information to decide which preowned vehicle to buy or drive.
While reliability doesn't make the car, it definitely helps the owner want to keep it longer. For people who aren't mechanics, bringing a vehicle with an unknown problem to the shop can bring a sense of dread. How much is it going to cost to fix? How long will I will be out of a car? Should I just trade it in or sell it? Some cars are made well, some are not. We use reliability because people want their vehicles to be reliable.
Did the vehicle change in style, technology, or in drivetrain from previous years? A Volkswagen Passat that added something unique, interesting, or helpful can find it's way onto our best list with new innovations that drivers love.
You'll notice that many vehicles on our list are a bit more recent. Cars before 2010 can be more difficult to find because their miles might be rather high, or they've exhausted their life span and aren't driveable anymore. When considering which vehicles might be available, we use websites like AutoTrader and Cars.com to see which years are most commonly actually around.
Not every rating has to be about keeping a vehicle out of the shop – or whether or not you can find one. Some vehicles are just fun to drive.
The best years of Volkswagen Passet
In no particular order, we present our favorites:
2013 Volkswagen Passat
The 2013 Volkswagen Passat sold well, and without being the cheapest car on the market, that's a pretty big accomplishment. The 2013 become a Motor Trend Car of the Year before it's release, and it rode the hype – and a great design, to being one of the better years of Passat. So what did you get in the 2013 Passat? Your choice of three engines, including a five-cylinder, four cylinder turbo diesel or a 6-cylinder engine. All were well made and reliable, earning very few complaints from CarComplaints.com.
For a reasonably low starting price of $21,640, you got some serious value. The 2013 had a nice, upscale interior in addition a large enough trunk for some golf clubs. It also handled and rode pretty well. This was also the first Passat to come with a backup camera.
The chief complaint about the 2013 Passat was more subjective – as both US News and many reviews stated that they navigation system isn't fast. We have been in many, many cars and noticed that most navigation systems built before 2018 and the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto usually aren't very quick!
For it's overall “Fun Factor”, the 2013 Passat earned very high scores in J.D. Power's driving experience category while the reliability rating wasn't great for the first two years at 76. While we do rely on the quality report from J.D. Power, it's worth noting that the award covers every aspect of the vehicle – and the navigation issues can drag it down with the same priority as a serious engine problem.
2012 Volkswagen Passat
The 2012 Volkswagen also did pretty well in the US market, for a good reason. Though it had a slightly higher starting price in the mid $26,000 range, it had great fuel economy topping out at 35 miles per gallon highway with the 2.5L 5-cylinder engine. The 2.0 4-cylinder turbodiesel, though less common, pulled 43 miles per gallon and offered nice torque. Just like the 2013, a 6-cylinder model was also available.
The 2012 was rated as offering a slightly better driving experience than the 2013, which is saying a lot! Drivers loved all three peppy engines. All three engines were pretty reliable, earning few complains on CarComplaints, most of which cited erratic idling without any mention of serious, time consuming or expensive issues.
What didn't drivers like? US News didn't like the interior styling and thought it was boring. This is of course quite subjective as vehicle manufacturers test their own markets before releasing a new design. Speaking of which, the exterior was in fact redesigned with a sleek new body style.
2018 Volkswagen Passat
While MSRP values have climbed in the last couple of decades with the addition of technology and other “stuff” the 2018 started at a great price of $22,995. The 2018 did something a bit unique: they included the option of a GT package, with a 280hp, torquey engine starting at under $30,000. The GT package was priced thousands less than similarly equipped sports cars, including higher end Nissan Altimas and the Camry XLE. It comes with a unique story too – managers and engineers at a Volkswagen plant dreamed up their own vehicle and were given permission from Volkswagen to make it – it was truly uniquely made.
The exterior of the car had just a few visual changes with more black added, in addition to 19” wheels.
As one might expect from an even more recent model, you also have many more options for safety features including automatic emergency braking and more. Previous models we mentioned didn't have these safety features as they weren't common most non-luxury vehicles quite yet.
So far, the 2018 Passat also has a good JD Power reliability score – outscoring previous years with an 81 out of 100. The driving experience is actually a little lower at 81 – though it's not clear if they tested the GT package too.
2018 also gave a serious upgrade for infotainment, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – and maybe taking some burden off Volkswagen to design a unique infotainment system – which isn't a bad thing, really.
2007 Volkswagen Passat Station Wagon
You'll have a little bit of a harder time finding one of these, admittedly, because Volkswagen didn't make that many. The Volkswagen Passat Station Wagon was made over many years, but the 2007 stands out for it's redesign and relatively lack of problems over a long period. Drivers raved about the amount of space with comfortable seating for 5 and the power engine choices including a 4-cylinder and a 6-cylinder. According to some reviewers, the Passat Wagon also had the European driving style that VW crave, though they felt like the electronic steering systems were a bit numb off road.
As the oldest vehicle on our list so far, the 2007 Passat has had plenty of time to gather complaints – but they aren't too bad. The most frequent problem is a timing chain failure though it's most commonly reported while the vehicle is still under warranty – and only 4 problems are registered.
2003 Volkswagen Passat
We are slowly drifting away from vehicles you are likely to find in your local listings, but the 2003 Volkswagen Passat is worth mentioning anyway. In addition to ushering in a new look, the 2003 is known for having smaller, but still quick engines at a 1.8 liter turbo and a 2.8 liter turbo. For their time, you could get a lot – like leather seats and a sunroof, for under $26,000.
2003 also included the Passat W8, which was a unique twist and a bridge between the Passat and the SUV, the Phaeton. The W8 was an original station wagon. Not many were built, but they brought a blend of space, safety, and sophistication. Unfortunately, they weren't especially reliable – but they were pretty cool!
2016 Passat Sedan
One of the best additions to the 2016 Passat family is the R-line trim. While Volkswagen didn't do much to the interior or exterior in this year based on knowing that most customers were satisfied with the look, they paid a little extra attention to the R-line. Subtle changes inside added a nice feeling compared to the regular Passat, The 2016 Passat was otherwise uneventful as VW got rid of the 2.0 liter engine – which was turbocharged, in favor of a larger but non turbo. Not the greatest idea in our head, but the R-line fun made up for it.
This is the last year of production for the Passat, and we declare the last one a bit of an honorable mention for a couple of reasons. Given that VW isn't making the vehicle anymore, they didn't change much internally. A handful – and we mean just 423 of them, have a beautiful paint color known as Racing Green – which admittedly is striking and classy. They also added 15 spoke wheels and tons of interior features including heated rear seats, more readily available navigation, and paying homage to their manufacturing facility in Tennessee – Fender speakers.
While you could say that just about any practically new car has a smooth ride, this one certainly follows suit with a quick transmission and near-luxury class ride at highway speed.
Does Volkswagen make the Passat anymore?
2022 was the last year of production for the Volkswagen Passat. Like many other vehicle manufacturers, Volkswagen has shut down some of their sedans in favor of making more SUVs. While we aren't necessarily touting SUVs as the greatest vehicles, many SUVs are made on similar platforms as vehicles, and drivers prefer them because SUVs are considered safer, almost as fuel efficient, and often a bit more spacious for almost the same price.
While some drivers will surely miss the Passat and it's wide range of engine options for a sedan, they can look forward to the development of new SUVs and electric vehicles from Volkswagen.
Which Passat would you pick?
We are torn. The Passat is rather unique because it has been offered as a sedan as well as a wagon, which is more than we can say of a lot of vehicles. The GT package is very tempting for its blend of performance and an outstanding price, without sacrificing much so far in the area of reliability. Part of us prefers a fun, practical vehicle – but we would choose the 2018 GT package purely for a fun car. The station wagon models are a close second with tons of space for cargo or people.
What is the Passat known for?
Volkswagen has attempted to position the Passat as a value midsize sedan. While it is not an attempt at a luxury vehicle as you can tell from the MSRPs, VW has been known to sprinkle in some fun with the GT edition, and provide more exhilarating then average engines.
Is JD Power a good source of information?
J.D. Power can be good – but primarily for initial quality and driving performance. J.D. Power's Initial Quality surveys factor in everything about the vehicle – which can be good or bad. Some driver's won't care that a vehicle might have some minor interior issues with the infotainment system – as they are more concerned about engine problems. Customers of new cars are asked over 200 questions – a dizzying, but thorough number.
Some offer critiques of JD Power because they do in fact make money off doing surveys and license their name for use in advertisements – but only some high ranking companies are eligible to pay to use their licenses. The surveys themselves are also generally found to be unbiased.
With that said, we take their initial quality tests fairly seriously, along with their driving experience scores. Having actual customers try and drive the car can be more accurate than the average reviewer who might be used to reviewing a totally different class of car.
What about older Passats?
Volkswagen has been making Passats for a while – and though they stopped making them this year, there are quite a few on the road. We tend to avoid giving an older car the “best of” rating because they are often very difficult to find in a practical way.
Vehicles before the 2000s also tend to have much different technology and feature sets, making them incomparable.
About The Author
Matt is a VW Master Technician since 2009 after proceeding through the ranks as a Team Leader and Shop Foreman. He has developed software to increase car dealership efficiency, managed 10+ techs, and instructed students at multiple high-performance driving events since 2011. He is also the lead mechanic, engineer, and driver for Blue Goose Racing.Read More About Matt Meurer