Volkswagen has figured out how to sell a sedan when buyers are increasingly favoring crossover SUVs — offer a lot of car for little money.
The well-designed and incredibly roomy midsize 2020 VW Passat starts at $23,915, which is $2,275 less than last year's version. It features a responsive but economical 2.0-liter four cylinder engine mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, Our even better equipped SE version was under $27,760, including an optional power sunroof.
That's about what some other manufacturers charge for their comparably equipped compact cars these days.
One reason for the bargain pricing is, even the newest version of the Passat is a relatively old car. The current generation was first introduced in 2012, which is a long time in today's automotive world. As a result, some of it is a little behind the time, like the standard 6.3-inch display screen, which is smaller than those now being offered by practically everyone else. On the other hand, not everyone is in love with the iPad-size display screens being offered in more and more cars, which can be distracting to operate. And the backup camera image is good enough.
An 8-inch display screen is available on the top models, however.
But in fact, continual upgrades have helped keep the 2020 Passat competitive. It may not have the most advanced platform or engine, but drives like a German road car should and has plenty of power, especially when the transmission is set in Sport mode. The ride is very quiet, smooth and comfortable, which is what most families are looking for in an affordable midsize car.
The styling is also contemporary enough, if more restrained than what some competitors are now pushing. Once again, that's not a bad thing. Not everyone wants a car with attention-seeking sharp exterior angles and Star Wars-influenced dashes.
The 2020 Passat is nothing is not tasteful, aided this year by a slightly more aggressive front grill and more pronounced integrated rear spoiler. The interior design remains tasteful, in the traditional German form follows function mode, with deceptively simple controls that are easy to understand and use.
If all this sounds like VW is selling an update version of a traditional Buick, well, that's not entirely wrong. And it's not a bad thing, either. Affordable family cars don't need to be flashy or packed with the most advanced infotainment systems that hardly anyone can fully understand. It's more important they have ample interior room, a stable ride, enough power to climb hills and keep up with freeway traffic, and a level of refinement that makes the drivers feel good when they get behind the wheel.
The 2002 VW Passat easily exceeds all those expectiatons at a very tempting price. Give it a try before buying that more expensive crossover SUV.
2020 VW Passat SE
Base price: $25,845
Price as tested: $27,760
Style: Midsize sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter 4 (174 hp, 206 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with Sport mode
EPA fuel economy: 23/34
Length: 191.9 inches
Weight: 3,600 pounds
Final assembly: Chattanooga, Tennessee
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