The 2021 Volkswagen Passat trades performance and personality for an affordable price and popular equipment. The VW sedan does boast a comfortable ride and spacious back seat that will satisfy folks with a small family. Every model comes with a solid roster of driver assists and infotainment features that includes automated emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While the front-drive-only Passat has a dutiful four-cylinder powertrain and competitive fuel economy, rivals such as the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata also offer hybrid models. And the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima both can be equipped with all-wheel drive. So, while the 2021 Passat is a one-trick pony and less engaging to drive than some sportier alternatives, it'll satisfy people who are concerned with getting places in peace versus in style.
What's New for 2021?
While Volkswagen doesn't make any major changes to the 2021 Passat, every model does receive a small price increase and the top-of-the-line SEL has been dropped from the lineup. That makes the R-Line the new headliner.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- S: $24,990
- SE: $27,990
- R-Line: $30,990
We'd recommend the Passat SE, which comes standard with plenty of features that family-sedan buyers will appreciate, including touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, 17-inch wheels, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, automatic climate control, lane-keeping assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Passat has a single powertrain option: a 174-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic transmission. In our testing, the engine was smooth and refined throughout its rev range and helped move the sedan with ease. The automatic is mostly a smooth operator, but occasionally it stumbled during our testing when crawling along at low speeds in heavy traffic. Whether eating up highway miles or tooling down back roads, the Passat is up to the challenge. It combines a soft, almost luxurious ride with predictable handling, providing a vehicle that's as comfortable as it is capable. Steering is accurate and well-weighted, but as with many others in the class, it doesn't offer as much feedback as we want.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Passat's turbocharged four-cylinder was designed to be efficient, and its EPA estimates are average among family sedans—but many rivals offer more efficient models and even hybrid options. The VW is rated at 24 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. Those figures trail both the four-cylinder Camry and Sonata. We tested all three on our 200-mile fuel-economy route—conducted at a steady 75 mph and simulating real-world highway mpg—and the Passat and Sonata both earned 36 mpg, but the Camry got an impressive 42 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside the Passat, clean, straight lines follow Volkswagen's unassuming design language. The Passat's interior is handsome in a German, utilitarian way, but it's lacking true inspiration to earn our full praise. The Volkswagen's cabin isn't completely without merit, though; it's among the most spacious and comfortable in its segment. With an open cabin and thin door pillars, outward visibility in the Passat is excellent. There is little variation in cargo capacity among family sedans. With the seats folded to their not-quite-flat resting position, we managed to fit 16 carry-on-sized boxes behind the front seats. The Passat fell to the bottom of the family-sedan pack for real-world carrying capacity, perhaps because Volkswagen sacrificed some trunk space to the Passat's huge back seat.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The standard infotainment system includes a 6.3-inch touchscreen with a three-month subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and several USB ports. The top model adds navigation, a larger 8.0-inch display, a premium sound system, and a six-month subscription to VW's Car-Net services. This allows users to locate the vehicle, call for roadside assistance, and even lock/unlock the doors remotely from their smartphone.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Passat hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the last two years, but the 2020 model earned mostly good results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). While even the base model has several standard driver-assistance technologies, only the top model has the most advanced equipment. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Volkswagen has an above-average limited warranty and below-average powertrain coverage. To offset the latter, the company provides some complimentary maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years or 20,000 miles