With many family sedans holding steady at their current dimensions, or even shrinking in the case of the Chevy Malibu, the VW Passat grew larger last year in its quest to lure in more American buyers.
Today, the Passat is one of the largest mid-size sedans on sale. At 191.7 inches long, the Passat is also 72.2 inches wide, and rides on a 110.4-inch wheelbase. The Hyundai Sonata has a fractionally shorter wheelbase, but it's nearly two inches shorter overall. The current Honda Accord? It's about the same between the wheels, but about three inches longer overall.
The Passat's outsized dimensions play out in much more interior space than its predecessor ever had, and its generally upright styling makes more of that space available to passengers--it doesn't trap a lot under the glass, as the Sonata and Optima do.
Up front, the Passat sports cloth seats on base models. On most other versions, more sporty buckets are covered in synthetic leather-like material--we'd call it vinyl, but it's more sophisticated in appearance and durability than that. Still, a cloth option would be ideal for warm climates. The seats themselves are firm and bolstered in the right places to provide great support on long-distance drives, the kind of drives at which the TDI models excel. Non-power seats have a trio of levers and knobs for adjustments.
As wide as a Honda Accord, the Passat's interior offers plenty of knee and shoulder room, but the front seats are set in closer to the console than to the door panels. The seat travel is less than in some competitors, so by the measuring tape, leg room is on the shy side, at 38.3 inches, compared to the Sonata's 45.5 inches and the Accord's 41.4 inches.
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.