2014 Volkswagen Passat Review

The Car Connection Expert Rating Breakdown?

7.8
on a scale of 1 to 10
Styling
7.0
Expert Rating
Performance
7.0
Expert Rating
Comfort & Quality
9.0
Expert Rating
Safety
9.0
Expert Rating
Features
7.0
Expert Rating
Fuel Economy
8.0
Expert Rating
Consumer Reviews
7 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
See the nominees and vote »
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 15, 2014

The 2014 VW Passat gains a good new four-cylinder, while it keeps its grip on TDI economy, excellent interior room, and top-notch crash-test scores.

The 2014 Volkswagen Passat is the mid-size sedan that has taken VW more firmly into the mainstream of the U.S. market than many buyers realize. It became the company's first U.S.-built vehicle in a quarter of a century, and the Passat combines that distinctly U.S. virtue--lots of rear-seat room--with the allure of German technology and engineering to offer its strongest-ever entry in a tough and very competitive class.

The Passat faces off against the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry, among other mid-sized four-doors. It's a category where the difference between winners and losers is separated by a few critical factors: space, price, and safety. Now in its third model year, the VW Passat makes a good argument that growing out of its Euro roots into a new and genuinely larger size, and becoming selectively more American in the process, has made a car that can get beyond the company's traditional niche. For 2014, a new engine finishes off its transformation.

The familiar design of the Passat will reassure VW fans, getting them into the new and larger car. The look of today's model is pure VW, and a tame rendition at that. But the styling goes far in slimming down the Passat's bulk, particularly in its slim grille. Inside it's Volkswagen at its most cleanly rendered, with a layout of controls that's almost stark compared to the chaos of lines and surfaces found in some of its competition. There are some passages with less appealing finishes than VW sedans from the past, but they're still at least on par with the other base versions of the most popular family sedans.

Review continues below

VW's base Passat still totes a weary five-cylinder engine, but it's on the way out. The 170-hp five feels flat and colorless, and doesn't deliver acceleration or fuel economy to beat anything in its segment. Not so the new 1.8-liter turbo four that's being introduced gradually, in a single model this year. With the same power output and slightly more torque, the turbo four's peak torque shows up much earlier, and stays much longer--while it revs much more sweetly. It's our backup choice for those who can't quite come to grips with VW's slower but gold-star-efficient turbodiesel. The Passat TDI's eager off-the-line torque is paired with a 43-mpg EPA highway rating and an optional dual-clutch automatic for good urban drivability. There's a V-6 option with 280 horsepower and a more muscular attitude, but it seems opulent and indulgent in such a bare, restrained car.

Road manners are as close to the VW standard as they possibly can be, given the long wheelbase. Minor differences among models amount to the steering feel (the base car has an older hydraulic rack, all others have electric power steering) and due to tire sizes. Still, the Passat is a large car, so it's not nimble in the strictest sense of the word--it just carries its size well.

The Passat's gained its family-sedan status in one big way. The rear seat is tremendous, bigger than the bench in an Azera or an Avalon, with the kind of ease of entry and exit we're used to getting in a minivan. The trunk's also pretty vast. But it's also earned excellent safety scores, and adds a rearview camera on some models this year, addressing a real dearth of useful safety technology.

It remains shy of some infotainment and luxury features, either altogether or specifically on some models and combinations. Want a base Passat TDI with cloth seats, satellite radio and a USB port? It doesn't exist. The Passat S doesn't have rear-seat air vents. Leather is more widely available now, though the synthetic stuff on most models does a convincing job.

We're sold on the packaging, but when it comes to a specific Passat, the TDI is the hands-down choice. For about $26,000 base, you'll get a sedan with about 700 miles of driving in each tank of fuel, limousine-like rear-seat room, with a dash of the handling brio you'd expect from a Volkswagen. If those attributes top your shopping list for a new family sedan, the Passat rules--knowing there may be better values, better lookers and better straight-line performers out there.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)

7

2014 Volkswagen Passat

Styling

The Passat skips all the drama, and poses out a classic--very understated--look.

Call it conservative or sober, or enduring, the VW Passat bucks the trend in family sedans to grab at eyeballs. It's the polar opposite of designs from Kia, Hyundai, Ford, even Nissan--and much more in lockstep with the traditional themes that play out on the Accord and Camry.

The Passat looks calmer, and that's one of its design objectives, VW says. Its stylists see the move toward "overstyling," and avoid it with the Passat's clean surfaces and minimal use of details and spare lines. Some of the cues are warmly rendered: the Passat bears more than a passing resemblance to the old VW Quantum, and its grille is very finely drawn, when studied up close. That kind of introspection doesn't help it snare attention, especially when the overall outline reads like the last-generation Chevrolet Impala. It still will look contemporary in a dozen years, but there's also an opportunity cost to playing it safe.

The cabin's straightforward design is mostly an asset, too. Part of the new Passat's frugal, traditional take means there's little of the complexity of, say, the Sonata's dash to rein in, and none of the iPad homages we're seeing in some versions of the Taurus and Fusion. Here, it's all buttons and switches, right where you expect them to be, like a swig of automotive throwback Pepsi, circa 1994, right down to the handbrake on the center console.

It's divided on a north-south axis. Above the shoulder line, the Passat wears nicer, more tightly grained plastics; the harder, open-textured stuff lives below. There's an admirable straightforwardness in the controls, something Volkswagen's managed to preserve since the mid-1990s while sister brand Audi's gone totally off the function/form reservation. The dials are big and readable at a glance, with thin chrome bangles to set them off the dark backdrop. Woodgrain or metallic treatments panel the broad dash, and the ancillary controls have logical dials placed in logical places.

7

2014 Volkswagen Passat

Performance

Handling's a strong point for such a large car; the TDI is our pick of drivetrains, but the new base four runs sweetly.

The VW Passat has uniformly good handling, no matter which drivetrain you choose. If we were to choose, we'd look only at the two highest-efficiency engines, and give a pass to the cheapest and most expensive Passats in the process.

Volkswagen is giving its tired five-cylinder engine one more year at bat in the Passat, though it says it will transition completely away from the unit by the end of this model year. The time has come. The outdated 2.5-liter in-line five hasn't been tightly competitive on refinement, acceleration, or fuel economy, not when compared to the excellent four-cylinders from Honda, even Nissan and Ford. The five feels flat and vibrates coarsely as it winds up with a characteristic off-key burr, accelerating the Passat to 60 mph in about 8.2 seconds when it's paired with a rare-find five-speed manual transmission; with the six-speed automatic, add another half-second. Its best EPA highway gas mileage rating of 32 mpg lags the Altima's four-cylinder/CVT combination by 6 mpg.

The picture brightens considerably with the new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that will replace the five entirely next year. For now available in just one trim level, the new turbo four specs out with the same 170 hp as the in-line five, but finely tuned turbocharging and clever tech features like an integrated exhaust manifold bring its 184 pound-feet torque peak much lower. That torque peak is more a plateau, holding steady from below 2000 rpm to above 5000 rpm, completely unlike the lumpy five. VW quotes a 0-60 mph time for the manual turbo four Passat at 7.3 seconds, and it's clear from our first drives how it delivers on that promise. The turbo four isn't just more capable, it's happier in its mission. It winds energetically and much more smoothly toward redline, and can be paired with paddle shift controls for more direct control over the willing six-speed automatic. Gas mileage is much improved, and so is the car's whole demeanor.

Even so, the turbodiesel 2.0-liter four is the clear winner in the Passat lineup, even though it's somewhat slower to 60 mph than even the five-cylinder. The diesel sounds light on horsepower on paper, but it's heavy on torque and strong in fuel economy. Horsepower totals just 140, but the powerplant turns in 236 pound-feet of torque, ample enough to accelerate to 60 mph in an estimated 9.3 seconds with the manual transmission, and 9.1 seconds with the dual-clutch automatic. Top speed is pegged at 118 mph. Objectively slower, the turbodiesel feels more lively in urban cruising than its 0-60 mph times admit, and its 43-mpg EPA highway rating is easily within reach. The manual six-speed here is a fair alternative to the dual-clutch transmission, which doesn't offer paddle controls. Its gears are well spaced, it shifts quickly, and feels fluid in sporty driving.

The 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 version arrived late in the 2012 model year, and we've driven it briefly to confirm our impression that its 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds, and top speed of 130 mph, are fine for those who need to spend more. On a sedan that frankly lacks all the full-tilt luxury items found on some other sedans, and that acquits itself so well with its high-economy model, the V-6 seems like an invisible extravagance.

The Passat's ride and handling are a cut above most of its competitors, with the possible exceptions of the Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion. With 16-inch wheels and hydraulic steering, the five-cylinder Passat sounds pedestrian but has the nuanced feel--a taut ride without too much stiffness--that distinguishes it from the still-learning Korean brands. It's compliant over small bumps, and stands out on interstate drives for its composure alongside the Altima. On other models, the steering goes electric, which lends fuel-economy benefits and a slightly zippier steering feel. The TDI Passat had the best heft-to-accuracy ratio of its kind, up there with the all-electric steering in the Fusion and some versions of the new Chevy Malibu. In all, the Passat's eager turn-in and body control are better than cars half a foot shorter in wheelbase.

9

2014 Volkswagen Passat

Comfort & Quality

Superlative interior and trunk space is the Passat's big win, even if rear-seat headroom is snug for the tallest passengers.

Some four-door family sedans have shrunk in the quest for fuel economy. The VW Passat has taken the opposite tack for its big American debut. It's larger than it ever was, when our Passats came from Germany, and the payoff is clear in its vast back seat and trunk.

By the numbers, the Passat is one of the biggest cars in its class, just shy of full-size interior volumes. It's 191.7 inches long, with a 110.4-inch wheelbase, and sits 72.2 inches wide. Compared to others in its class, the Passat measures up: it's a couple inches longer than the Sonata, marginally shorter than the Accord. Those numbers play out clearly in the amount of interior space in obvious ways, but in more subtle ways too--such as the way the Passat's more vertical cabin doesn't lose interior space under the front and rear glass, as we see in the Korean sedans.

All Passats have plenty of adult room in front, but depending on the model, come with different trim. Base cars are the only ones to have or even offer cloth upholstery, something we'd like to see spread across the lineup. Most other versions come with sporty buckets covered in synthetic leather--yes, it's vinyl, but with excellent appearance and a supple feel. These buckets have firm bolsters and lots of long-distance support; some have power adjustment, but when they don't, VW's fiddly system of levers and knobs can be spun and pulled for a good driving position. The steering wheel is offset toward the center, though, a legacy of the Passat's design--it's a widened, improved version of a previous architecture.

Since it's so wide, the Passat doesn't lack for shoulder or knee room--though there's more room on the outboard side, and though the Passat has less front-seat travel than some of its competition. As a result, its official front leg room measurements read on the shy side: at 38.3 inches, it might seem small compared to the Sonata's 45.5 inches and the Accord's 41.4 inches, but the Passat's compact dash and upright styling makes more of that space usable.

In back, the Passat offers up the most space of any mid-size sedan, even more than the likes of the Hyundai Azera and the outgoing Toyota Avalon. A six-foot adult can ride behind another six-foot adult and cross leg over knee, there's so much leg room, and still have a couple of inches of space left to spare. For the record, the Passat's rear-seat leg room measures 42.4 inches; the Avalon and Azera are well behind at about 38 inches, while the Honda Accord is about a tenth of an inch longer. That said, the Passat's roof arcs downward right over the rear headrests, and very tall passengers will make contact with the headliner, even in cars without the optional sunroof.

Big cupholders hide under a flip-up lid next to the Passat's handbrake, and a bin ahead of the shift lever can hold cell phones and keyfobs. The glovebox and door pockets are fairly large, and the Passat's trunk is nearly the biggest in its class at 15.9 cubic feet. It's a cube larger than the trunk in the Accord, a half-cube shy of the one in the Sonata and almost three cubic feet smaller than in the Impala. The seatback releases on most Passats are pull-type knobs mounted inside the trunk, where they seem to make better sense, just as you'll find when loading up a Sonata.

One distinct area of improvement the Passat's engineers need to focus on is wind and road noise. The Passat's big cabin is louder than it needs to be; to be fair, the Sonata can present a fair amount of engine noise, but the Passat's wind ruffles over the mirrors, and over the B-pillar, of all places, stood out as unusual in the class. A thicker set of windows could clean up the noise profile nicely, since it doesn't seem to emanate from the car's wheel wells or the trunk area.

9

2014 Volkswagen Passat

Safety

The Passat has top-flight crash-test scores, and a rearview camera is now more widely available.

The Passat earns some of the best crash-test scores in the family-sedan segment, and it's gradually improving the availability of some new safety technology we recommend.

Those crash tests prove the Passat's essential safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the sedan an overall rating of five stars, with only a four-star rating for rollover resistance keeping it from a perfect score. (Most sedans are rated four stars in that mathematical test.) The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) puts the Passat on its Top Safety Pick+ list, which means it achieves 'good' scores on all current tests. On the new but not-yet-factored-in small-overlap test, the Passat gets an 'acceptable' rating.

Standard equipment on all Passats, apart from the usual airbags and stability control, includes a hill-holder function for manual-transmission models, and Bluetooth, which we consider a safety feature. A rearview camera is now standard on the Passat SE and higher trim levels, but is not available on the Passat S.

Visibility is one of the Passat's strongest safety attributes. The large glass areas, fold-down rear headrests and slim roof pillars give drivers a nearly panoramic view of the world around them.

For this, its third model year, the Passat still lacks the advanced tech features becoming more common on other family sedans--new assistants like front and rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitors. A new service, Car-Net, offers emergency services like those on GM's OnStar system, with stolen-car tracking, speed limits, and remote unlocking, all accessible via a smartphone app.

7

2014 Volkswagen Passat

Features

Some features found on other family sedans just aren't offered on the Passat, but its options are packaged sensibly.

The Passat is built in the U.S., and it's a philosophical change for VW in more than one way. When it comes to features, VW is bundled--even omitting--some features from some trim levels, to make prices more competitive with cars like the Sonata, Optima, Altima, and Accord.

You'll notice the sea change most in the base Passat S, which comes with the five-cylinder engine and either a manual five-speed or an automatic six-speed. It gets standard Bluetooth; an AM/FM/CD player; 16-inch wheels; air conditioning; cruise control; and power windows, locks, and mirrors. A USB port, satellite radio, non-cloth seats? They're not available on this version, which is priced right near the $21,500 sweet spot of the mid-size sedan market.

The Passat adds more features as it rolls through powertrain combinations and the SE and SEL trim levels--and VW has been adding some features back into the mix in these versions. For example, leather seating is now available on TDI models. There's also a special Wolfsburg Edition this year, which bundles alloy wheels, heated front seats, a power driver seat, iPod connectivity and satellite radio.

Other options or features on upper trim levels include pushbutton start; woodgrain trim; ambient lighting; and 17-inch or 18-inch wheels.

The new turbo four-cylinder will initially be available only in SEL trim, and equipped with navigation, Fender audio, leather seating surfaces, and power front seats.

VW Passat infotainment

On all Passats, an AM/FM/CD player is standard. The SE version adds a six-disc in-dash CD changer just when those changers themselves are being bypassed in favor of streaming audio in vehicles like the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata, even the upcoming Toyota Camry.

As an option, the Passat can be equipped with a five-inch LCD touchscreen along with a GPS system that has some confusing menu operations, but fairly clean map layouts. On the SEL, there's a 6.5-inch LCD touchscreen with a 30GB hard drive for GPS maps and for music files. Neither of the VW navigation systems have the fluid map rescaling and routing of the latest systems. The nav screen displays output from a rearview camera that's standard for 2014 on all versions except the Passat S.

VW's fast-pairing Bluetooth integration can throw new users for a loop. Most drivers are used to speaking a command or touching a screen to pair phones. On the Passat without navigation, the vehicle doesn't prompt you at all--you simply seek on your phone and connect with a blanket four-digit password. It's either fiendishly simple, or just fiendish, if you're used to driving the process with your voice or with a finger.

While we're on the subject of talking, the Passat offers no voice command control of systems like climate control and audio, as SYNC, UVO, Blue Link and Entune enable. But it has added Car-Net, a new OnStar-style service that includes smartphone access for functions like crash notification, speed alerts, service reminders, and roadside assistance. The hardware is standard on all models except the Passat S, along with six months of free service.

 


8

2014 Volkswagen Passat

Fuel Economy

Who needs a hybrid, when the Passat delivers 43-mpg EPA highway ratings?

The Passat's on its way to dumping its underachieving five-cylinder engine. While it's still available, there's a new smaller-displacement option, with one fewer cylinder, that justifies a look higher on the price and fuel-economy charts.

The base 170-horsepower five-cylinder misses the benchmarks set by other mid-size sedans. The EPA rates the manual-shift five at 22 miles per gallon city, 32 miles per gallon highway, for a combined rating of 26 mpg. With an automatic, this Passat earns a highway rating of 31 mpg. Compared to the Nissan Altima four-cylinder--it's rated at 38 mpg--this Passat is far off best-in-class economy.

New this year, the responsive 1.8-liter turbo four generates the kind of gas-mileage numbers we'd expect to see from the five-cylinder. It's rated at 24/35 mpg with the manual gearbox, and 24/34 mpg with the automatic; both earn a 28-mpg combined EPA rating. Those figures put the Passat squarely in the ranks of cars like the Accord, Fusion, Sonata and Optima, if not quite up to the Altima's lofty number.

On the V-6 Passat, which comes only with an automatic transmission, the EPA pegs it at 20/28 mpg, or 23 mpg combined. It's a bit more competitive with the other top-line models in its class, but far off the mark of more powerful four-cylinder turbos like the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.

The Passat handily outstrips most of the competition, including some hybrids, when its stellar turbodiesel numbers are factored in. Volkswagen says the Passat TDI the most fuel-efficient mid-size car on sale in America, and the numbers back up the claim: It checks in with an EPA rating of 31/43 mpg for the manual, and 30/40 mpg for the dual-clutch; they're rated at 35 mpg and 34 mpg combined, respectively.

Diesel geeks will be interested to see the Passat TDI gets better fuel-economy numbers than the smaller, lighter Jetta TDI. In this case, VW says it's because it uses a urea-spray after-treatment on emissions, which allows it to operate the same engine more efficiently in the larger car. The smaller Jetta's nearly identical turbodiesel goes without the urea treatment, while still keeping its nitrogen-oxide emissions below newer, stricter limits.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)

Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

7 Reviews
5 star
57%
4 star
29%
3 star
2 star
14%
1 star
Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
July 14, 2016
For 2014 Volkswagen Passat

an exellent value with comfort and safety

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
The Passat is a great value and with plenty of creature features. The car has plenty of room with great ease of access and comfortable seating. Power is is more than adequate with the 4 cylinder with plenty... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
May 11, 2016
2014 Volkswagen Passat 4-Door Sedan 2.0L DSG TDI SE w/Sunroof

VW has not told us the truth about the diesel and this car is unsafe to drive

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
Napleton in Sanford Florida has had the car in the shop for 10 monhs and did not fix the car and could not fix it. The car surges forward or back wards when you let your foot off the break. Not a safe car to... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
March 15, 2016
2014 Volkswagen Passat 4-Door Sedan 2.5L Automatic Wolfsburg Ed *Ltd Avail*

Great Car other than backup camera is to slow.

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
Really like the car. Only two issue is backup camera. So over all great car.
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
August 23, 2015
2014 Volkswagen Passat 4-Door Sedan 2.0L DSG TDI SE w/Sunroof

Amazing room and fuel economy...

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
My wife drives this car in her Real Estate business. It is a grown-up car. Roomy, stately but in no way pretentious. It is appropriate to with her client who are listing their $1m home and equally appropriate... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
May 12, 2015
2014 Volkswagen Passat 4-Door Sedan 2.0L DSG TDI SE w/Sunroof

The Passat performs as advertised, my only complaint was the headlights and I fixed that.

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
We bought the Passat primarily for the TDI performance. So far it has not disappointed. VW needs to address the very dim headlight issue, I had to install brighter headlight bulbs before my wife would consider... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
May 12, 2015
2014 Volkswagen Passat 4-Door Sedan 2.0L DSG TDI SE w/Sunroof & Nav

Great vehicle with good desil milage

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
I love it, it has enough room for the wheelchair and walker
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
April 16, 2015
For 2014 Volkswagen Passat

Waiting for the newly updated 2016 Passat

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
Last July I leased a new 2014 Volkswagen Passat and overall its a great car that handles well and is sporty. I got the TSI 1.8 Turbo in a five speed manual transmission and it loves to be driven hard and fast... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Compare the 2014 Volkswagen Passat against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the Volkswagen Passat?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used