The Passat underachieves on fuel economy, at least where gasoline is concerned. But it handily outstrips most of the competition, including some hybrids, when its stellar turbodiesel numbers are factored in.
The standard-issue, 170-horsepower, five-cylinder Passat doesn't quite match the benchmarks in the mid-size sedan segment. It's rated by the EPA at 22 miles per gallon city, 32 miles per gallon highway, for a combined rating of 26 mpg. That's the manual-transmission model; the automatic-equipped sedan has a highway rating of 31 mpg. Compared to the four-cylinder economy of the 2013 Nissan Altima--it's rated at 38 mpg--this Passat can't quite keep up the pace.
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 turbodiesel Passat TDI is where the fuel-economy action is. Offered with a five-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic without shift paddles, the Passat TDI 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. Volkswagen says those figures make the Passat TDI the most fuel-efficient mid-size vehicle offered for sale in the U.S.
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.)