5 Reasons We’ll Miss the Volkswagen Passat (and 4 Reasons We Won’t)

2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line 2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line | photo by Aaron Bragman

The steady march of the mid-size sedan into the annals of American history continues as buyers choose taller, pricier SUVs over the former mainstay body style in the domestic marketplace. The Chrysler 200, the Dodge Avenger, the Ford Fusion, the Chevrolet Malibu — all of them have either gone (or will go soon) to that big parking lot in the sky. So it goes for Volkswagen: The automaker has reportedly said the latest Passat sedan will also be the last one for the U.S. market, with the focus shifting to producing the new ID.4 electric SUV. 

Related: 2020 Volkswagen Passat Review: VW Hedges Its Bet on Sedan’s Future

Shop the 2021 Volkswagen Passat near you

2021 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T S
47,640 mi.
Great Deal | $589 under
2021 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SE
34,472 mi.
Great Deal | $1,388 under

All of it adds up to this being the final Passat after more than three decades of sales in the U.S., and I don’t think I’m alone in saying we’ll miss it. The Passat has progressed through several different versions, and we’re decidedly fans of the latest one, a 2021 Passat R-Line that I recently spent a week with. Here are five reasons we’ll miss the latest Passat (and four reasons we won’t).

What We’ll Miss

1. All That Space

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Passat since it became a separate car from the European version for model-year 2012 is the room inside — especially the backseat. It’s cavernous, with nearly limousine-like legroom for rear passengers. Even with tall occupants up front, backseat passengers rarely see their knees touch the front seatbacks. There’s decent headroom back there, too, thanks to a more formal, upright roofline than you’d see in competitors like the old Ford Fusion or current Honda Accord. The strange thing is that on paper, the Passat doesn’t measure any larger than rival sedans inside — but when you’re sitting in it, the differences are obvious.

2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line backseat 2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line | photo by Aaron Bragman

2. Great Visibility

While other cars have started to adopt the high-beltline, small-glass aesthetic that’s as much a manufacturing choice around weight and cost savings as it is styling, the Passat retains a big greenhouse and low beltline. That means it also has a low dashboard, and that translates into being able to easily see in all directions. This is how Hondas used to feel 20-30 years ago, but modern sedans increasingly feel like you’re sitting in a tub. Not so with a Passat.

2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line steering wheel and dashboard 2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line | photo by Aaron Bragman

3. Smooth Powertrain

The Passat’s more powerful V-6 engine option was discontinued after the 2018 model year, with the only remaining engine now a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s matched up with a six-speed automatic transmission. That’s a couple of gears short of what competitors are offering, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying what VW has created here: a smooth-shifting, decidedly peppy powertrain with plenty of torque. It isn’t quite as thrilling as the old V-6 but remains happy to get the big Passat moving quickly.

2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line headlight and grille 2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line | photo by Aaron Bragman

4. Great Ride

The Passat rides smoothly even on the blasted Midwest pavement. The R-Line is the top 2021 trim, and it comes with some sexy 19-inch two-tone wheels on low-profile 40-series tires. But despite this aggressively thin rubber, the Passat is tuned for comfort, providing a quiet and stable ride at any speed.

2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line front wheel 2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line | photo by Aaron Bragman

5. Decent Value

The Passat is very well equipped, has a ton of usable space, drives well, looks good and has a ton of standard electronic safety systems. For all that, it starts about $1,000 less than a base-model Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. A Passat R-Line like this one stickers just below $31,000 including destination, and it only comes one way: loaded. All you need to do is pick a color.

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What We Won’t Miss

1. That Awful Fake Leather

The Passat’s SEL trim level is no more, so you can’t get real leather except on the steering wheel and gear selector. But Volkswagen’s real leather and fake leather are both generall awful — it’s actually difficult to tell the difference on a modern VW, and it’s not because the fake stuff is so good. Thankfully, VW offers some high-quality cloth seats in many models. They’re only available on the Passat’s base trim, called the S, but those are the ones you’ll want.

2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line fake leather front seats 2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line | photo by Aaron Bragman

2. Small Multimedia Screen

The biggest touchscreen offered in the Passat is dinky by today’s standards. It’s a 6.3-inch display on all models, with the higher-trim R-Line getting navigation and HD radio. Given the much more advanced — and larger — systems in competitor vehicles, this is one feature we won’t miss.

2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line touchscreen 2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line | photo by Aaron Bragman

3. Questionable Interior Materials

While the interior seems pretty well glued together, it’s an obvious area where VW cut some corners on materials quality. The dashboard and door plastics feel cheap and hollow, a complaint we’ve had about other VWs, such as the Atlas, for years.

2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line gearshift 2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line | photo by Aaron Bragman

4. Utter Lack of Steering Feel

The Passat used to be a driving enthusiast’s choice for a mid-size sedan, with crisp European handling and rewarding overall performance. It’s since become a more Americanized family hauler, and that means very little steering feel. The ratio is quick, but the feedback is more akin to a video-game controller than a car.

Related Video:  2018 Volkswagen Passat Review’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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