2012 Volkswagen Passat

Change Year or Vehicle
$5,532–$14,664 Inventory Prices
SAVE
Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
Photos
Reviews
Safety & Recalls
Warranty & CPO
Compare
Back to top

Key Specs

of the 2012 Volkswagen Passat. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    24-36 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    170-hp, 2.5-liter I-5 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    5-speed manual w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

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

Notable Features of 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

2012 Volkswagen Passat Road Test

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 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  



2012 Passat Video

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.

Latest 2012 Passat Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.4)
Interior Design
(4.6)
Comfort
(4.6)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(4.7)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Bought it Brand New

by Ali from SF Bay Area on August 3, 2018

This was the best decision i ever made. Great Car and no problems I have had it now for 6 years- around 92 k miles.. and all i do is change the Engine Oil on time.. I recently changed all lights to ... Read full review

(5.0)

Most comfortable car I've owned.

by qhay15 from Lansing MI on June 6, 2018

This car has met all the things I had wanted, roomy and comfy. This car drives very well and offers all the gadgets of a high-end car. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2012 Volkswagen Passat currently has 7 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5L S

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Driver Side

Overall Evaluation
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    36 months / 36,000 miles

Change Year or Vehicle

0 / 0 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