View Local Inventory
Save

2012 Volkswagen Passat

Change year or vehicle
$2,571 — $17,659 USED
6
Photos
Sedan
5 Seats
24-36 MPG
(Combined)
Key specs of the base trim
 — 
Compare 8 trims

Overview

Is this the car for you?

The Good

  • Comfortable, composed ride
  • Five-cylinder drivetrain's refinement
  • Diesel rated at 43 mpg highway
  • Roomy cabin, especially backseat
  • More competitive pricing

The Bad

  • Steering lacks road feel
  • Hesitation with optional dual-clutch transmission
  • Five-cylinder's high-speed passing power
  • V-6 needs premium gas
Cars.com trophy.
2012 Cars.com Awards: Best Car of the Year
2012 Volkswagen Passat exterior side view

What to Know

about the 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • Redesigned for 2012
  • Choice of three engines, including a diesel
  • Standard dual-zone automatic A/C
  • Optional Fender stereo
  • Built in America

We’re looking for the best deals on a Volkswagen near you…

Are you looking for more listings?

Change location

Please enter a valid 5-digit ZIP code.

Search Again

— OR —

Sign up for listing notifications

Sign Up

2012 Volkswagen Passat Review

from the Cars.com expert editorial team

Cars.com's Mike Hanley takes a look at the 2012 Volkswagen Passat 3.6. It competes with the Ford Fusion and the Hyundai Sonata.

By Mike Hanley

For many car shoppers, price is king — so it’s no wonder the prior-generation Volkswagen Passat, a 2010 model that started at $27,195, didn’t have much of a chance against family sedans from Honda, Toyota and others that cost thousands less.

Now, however, its chances are much better.

The redesigned 2012 Passat combines the driving dynamics and interior quality that VW fans expect with the roominess, comfort and value that the wider public demands.

The 2012 Passat has been designed specifically for the American market, and it starts at $19,995 — squarely in the heart of the midsize segment. Expect it at dealerships nationwide by the fall.

Offered in three trim levels — S, SE and SEL — the Passat is available with a choice of three engines, including a diesel (TDI). I drove two versions of the car: an SE with the 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder gas engine, priced at $23,725, and an SEL with the diesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder that lists for $32,195. A gas 3.6-liter V-6 is also offered. Models with that engine start at $28,995.

Ride & Handling
One of the Passat’s most impressive qualities is its forgiving suspension, which translates into comfortable highway cruising. The four-wheel independent suspension yields ride quality that’s nearly as soft as a Toyota Camry’s, but with better body control over big dips and rises. It’s a departure from the previous-generation Passat’s firmer ride, but the move makes a lot of sense for this ...

For many car shoppers, price is king — so it’s no wonder the prior-generation Volkswagen Passat, a 2010 model that started at $27,195, didn’t have much of a chance against family sedans from Honda, Toyota and others that cost thousands less.

Now, however, its chances are much better.

The redesigned 2012 Passat combines the driving dynamics and interior quality that VW fans expect with the roominess, comfort and value that the wider public demands.

The 2012 Passat has been designed specifically for the American market, and it starts at $19,995 — squarely in the heart of the midsize segment. Expect it at dealerships nationwide by the fall.

Offered in three trim levels — S, SE and SEL — the Passat is available with a choice of three engines, including a diesel (TDI). I drove two versions of the car: an SE with the 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder gas engine, priced at $23,725, and an SEL with the diesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder that lists for $32,195. A gas 3.6-liter V-6 is also offered. Models with that engine start at $28,995.

Ride & Handling
One of the Passat’s most impressive qualities is its forgiving suspension, which translates into comfortable highway cruising. The four-wheel independent suspension yields ride quality that’s nearly as soft as a Toyota Camry’s, but with better body control over big dips and rises. It’s a departure from the previous-generation Passat’s firmer ride, but the move makes a lot of sense for this car class, where comfort is more important than sportiness.

As with other Volkswagens, the Passat has light-effort steering whether you get the gas engine, which uses hydraulic power steering, or the diesel, which has electric power assist. The steering wheel provides virtually no road feel — typical for this class — but good precision makes it easy to steer on winding country roads.

Despite the comfy suspension tuning, the Passat doesn’t turn into a wallowing mess on serpentine roads. For a big sedan, body roll is well-controlled. All versions of the Passat have the same suspension tuning, but wheel sizes range from 16 to 18 inches.

Gas or Diesel Power
Volkswagen expects most Passat buyers to choose the 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder engine, which is new to the Passat for 2012. I had my reservations about how well this engine could perform in a large sedan, but it impressed me with acceptable power in city driving. It also had no trouble maintaining a steady highway cruising speed of 65 mph even in hilly country around Chattanooga, Tenn. It sounds more refined and works more harmoniously with the optional automatic transmission than the same engine manages in VW’s recently redesigned Jetta. The only time the five-cylinder’s power trailed off was when dipping into its reserve for high-speed passing; at that point, the well was pretty dry.

My five-cylinder test car had an optional six-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual is standard). The automatic is well-matched to the engine, and it makes refined upshifts and kickdowns. I actually liked it better than Volkswagen’s dual-clutch six-speed automatic, which is optional with the diesel engine (a six-speed manual is standard). That dual-clutch transmission has a tendency to let go when shifting, producing a slight hesitation, and it isn’t as smooth at low speeds compared with the traditional automatic (which teams with the five-cylinder engine).

The five-cylinder Passat gets an estimated 21/32 mpg city/highway with a manual transmission and 22/31 mpg with the automatic. Those figures trail the estimates for the four-cylinder Kia Optima and Honda Accord, but the diesel significantly improves efficiency with a rating of 31/43 mpg, regardless of the transmission. Passats with the diesel engine include an exhaust after-treatment system for better emissions; Volkswagen recommends that the system’s fluid reservoir be replenished at normal service intervals. The V-6, meanwhile, gets 20/28 mpg and requires more expensive premium gas.

In addition to the diesel’s superior fuel economy, the engine feels stronger than the five-cylinder at city speeds. Thank the diesel’s abundant torque — 236 pounds-feet at a low 1,500 rpm — for the edge. The power difference narrows at highway speeds, but the diesel still feels a little stronger. In terms of pure acceleration, Volkswagen says manual-transmission versions of the five-cylinder and diesel can go from zero to 60 mph in about 8 seconds. The V-6 can hit 60 mph in a significantly quicker 6.5 seconds.

The Inside
I’ve been critical of Volkswagen’s decision to remove some of the upscale cabin niceties in its redesigned Jetta compact sedan in order to price the car more competitively. Likewise, the new Passat goes without some features that VW enthusiasts might appreciate, like a height-adjustable front armrest, but the overall materials quality, attention to detail and standard features — like one-touch up/down power windows for front and rear occupants, Bluetooth cell phone connectivity and dual-zone automatic air conditioning — make the Passat competitive with the best the family sedan segment has to offer.

The Passat has grown some with its redesign — 4 inches in length, half an inch in width and half an inch in height — but the cabin feels substantially roomier than the outgoing Passat. Legroom and shoulder room have increased — considerably in some instances. I’m 6-foot-1, and even with the front seat adjusted for me, the backseat has nearly as much legroom as a long-wheelbase full-size sedan, which the Passat isn’t. This is the kind of car four tall adults could take on a long road trip and arrive no worse for wear — even those sitting in back.

The cavernous passenger area doesn’t come at the expense of cargo room, as the trunk measures a competitive 15.9 cubic feet. It’s very deep and rectangular, with few intrusions. A 60/40-split folding backseat is standard, and lowering the rear backrests reveals a large opening between the trunk and the cabin.

Safety
As of publication, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had crash-tested the 2012 Passat.

As required of all vehicles starting with the 2012 model year, the Passat includes an electronic stability system. Also standard are antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and active head restraints for the front seats, and side curtain airbags for both rows.

Passat in the Market
Kevin Joostema, Volkswagen’s general manager for product marketing and strategy, called the Passat critical for the brand in the U.S., where the family sedan is a way of life for many drivers. It’s also critical to the automaker’s business goals: VW is on a mission to sell lots of cars — 800,000 annually in the U.S. by 2018, more than triple its 2010 sales — and to get there it needs a high-volume family sedan.

The Passat may have had a hard time fitting into the mainstream midsize segment in the past, but it’s clear the 2012 edition has a lot that will appeal to American buyers in addition to its competitive price.

Send Mike an email  

Consumer Reviews

What drivers are saying

4.7
119 reviews — Read All reviews
Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.5)
Interior Design
(4.6)
Comfort
(4.6)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(4.7)

Read reviews that mention:

(4.0)

Safe and reliable car brought for my daughter

by DonnetteS from Lake Jackson on December 7, 2019

Handles great even in bad weather. Drives well in snow and rain. Very comfortable and safe. My daighter loved it but she has inherited her grandmothers car so no longer needs it. Read full review

(5.0)

Excellent on gas and super reliable!!

by modernsigns from Bloomingdale, New Jersey on September 22, 2019

Awesome car for the money. Great on gas and very stylish. Super reliable and very easy to maintain. I bought this car used but glad I went with the gas engine. Read full review

Safety

Recalls and crash tests

Recalls

The 2012 Volkswagen Passat currently has 8 recalls


Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Warranty

New car and certified pre-owned programs by Volkswagen

New Car Program Benefits

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    36 months / 36,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits

  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    7 years/less than 72,000 or 75,000 miles (model-year specific)

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    Model-year 2017 and older, 2 years/24,000 miles; model-year 2018 and forward, 1 year/12,000 miles; TDI models, 2 years/unlimited miles

  • Powertrain

    5 years/60,000 miles

  • Dealer Certification Required

    100-plus point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All CPO Program Details

Latest 2012 Passat Stories

Change Year or Vehicle

0 Photos
0 / 0

Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Passat received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker

What's your location?

To find the best deals near you, please enter your ZIP code.