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.