2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI — Flash Drive
This 2012 review is representative of model years 2012 to 2014.
By Staff of MSN Autos
The Volkswagen Jetta diesel is better than the Volkswagen Passat diesel. The Passat may have a little more passenger space than the Jetta, but while the Jetta is one of the few diesel cars that really feels lively and fun to drive, the Passat feels inert and awkward. When I drove the Passat I got the impression that the steering wheel wasn't directly in front of the driver's seat; my arms and shoulders were reaching toward the center of the car somehow. Everything about the Passat feels just a little bit off. The engine is a little noisier than other modern diesels. The fuel economy isn't quite as impressive for the size of vehicle. The styling doesn't really gel or impress. Everything about the Passat just whispers ho-hum to me. – Paul Hagger
The Volkswagen Passat is redesigned for 2012 and the midsize sedan is both larger and less expensive than its predecessor. But the best news is that the diesel engine option returns and that the Passat TDI SE clean diesel delivers over 40 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg around town. From a standstill, the Passat TDI takes a little adjustment by the driver because it doesn't respond as quickly as a gasoline engine, and the DSG transmission must engage the clutch before it starts to move, but the excellent fuel economy is worth the change. The new styling is nondescript, inside and out, and it feels like the interior materials were a target of cost savings. The Passat also feels like Volkswagen tuned the suspension and steering to appeal to a more mainstream audience — the steering is light and vague, lacking the sporty edge and crisp reflexes expected from a German sedan. The new design offers lots of room for rear-seat passengers. – Mike Meredith
The Passat is great family sedan with a comfortable interior, a very large back seat and plenty of trunk space, but I don't know that it stands out from the very crowded family-sedan market based on those attributes. Styling is simple and the look clearly fits with the rest of the VW lineup. Where this car really stands out is when it's equipped with the available TDI diesel engine. Without losing any performance, the TDI achieves more than 40 mpg, an impressive feat for a car this size. In my testing, I saw over 40 mpg on several occasions, and never failed to achieve mileage in at least the mid-30s. But the TDI's high torque made it difficult to launch the Passat smoothly — small increments of throttle resulted in lots of torque very quickly — and this was especially problematic in the rain. I've always been a big diesel fan, but with the improvement in hybrids such as Kia Optima and Ford Fusion, and the premium you have to pay for diesel, the 40-plus-mpg mileage for the TDI may not be enough to make it the top choice of fuel-efficient family sedans. – Perry Stern