The 2006 VW Passat arrives just in time for me to jump in and pick my kids up from school. Admittedly, I'm running a tad late, but what's new? I jump in, adjust the seat (which I'll get to a little later) and mirrors and try to start the car. How do I start this thing?

There's no key, just a key fob and a slot that it seems to fit in. It doesn't turn, however. OK, I'm running way too late now to fuss with it, so out comes the owner's manual. Let's see ... insert the key fob, and press in to start. Whatever happened to turning a key to start a car's engine? It's a little strange at first, but I quickly adapt and overcome and am soon running errands like a champ in the '06 Passat.

Now, back to those seats. There's a power switch to recline the driver's seat, and a power lumbar adjuster, but would you believe that I actually have to move my seat up and forward manually! Now, I don't like to think of myself as prissy or spoiled, but it seems very strange that this 'luxe little car with leather seats, heated seats, navigation, satellite radio, sunroof and more doesn't have power adjusting seats. Why would they take the time and effort to make a power lumbar adjuster (does anyone actually use that?), yet I have to pump a lever to raise my seat high enough to see?

The steering wheel adjusts up and down and telescopes in and out, allowing me to find a comfortable fit after all.

The rear seat of the Passat fits two children and their child car seats comfortably. My older child in a booster seat is able to open the door, climb in and buckle her seatbelt independently. Trying to squeeze in a third child for morning carpool, however, leaves me with a huge headache. I manage to push and pull the seats so that I can fit a third child (and second booster seat) in the middle, but getting the kids out of those seats is another story. The moral is, don't try this at home! The Passat is not built for three child safety seats.

Storage compartments in this car are pretty efficient. The front doors have space for water bottles (or a canister of wet wipes) with room left over to store my office-on-the-go (letter-size files and kids' coloring books mingle happily here). The small pop-out container at the back of the center console, facing the rear passengers, proves to be a pain. As my children climb in, out and through this car, that storage bin keeps catching on their feet and popping out.

On a much "cooler" note, the center console and glove box have air vents in them allowing me to direct AC into those compartments, keeping my kids' drinks and snacks cool while driving. That's innovation!

The 2006 VW Passat comes equipped with some family friendly safety features, and what's even better is that they're standard equipment, so budget conscious families need not be left out: Driver and front passenger front airbags, driver and front passenger side airbags, side curtain protection (head airbags for front and rear passengers), pinch protection on the power windows and a tire pressure monitoring system (that after a recent cold spell is telling me my tire pressure is too low).

The rear seat of the Passat features an armrest that folds down to reveal a pass-through to the trunk perfect for storing long, skinny items like skis or ... skis (I can't think of anything else that would fit here). Although we don't get much rain in the middle of winter in my neck of the woods, I'm thrilled to find a secret compartment in the driver's door storing an emergency umbrella complete with the VW logo. How thoughtful!

Although we don't get rain here in the winter, we do get snow, and plenty of it. The standard front wheel drive does a pretty darn good job at tackling icy, snowy and slushy roads. Just think what it can do in dry conditions! Volkswagen's 4Motion permanent 4-wheel-drive is available as an upgrade.

In all this cold weather, I'm greatly appreciative of the rear air vents at the back of the center console. I'm able to blast the heat to the back to warm up my little snug-bugs pretty quickly.

The 2006 VW Passat is a budget-conscious vehicle that, although marketed to a young crowd, can last well into the young family years. Just know in advance that when you have 2.5 kids, you'll have to move onto to something roomier.

*For more information on the VW Passat and its safety features visit

LET'S TALK NUMBERS LATCH Connectors: 2 Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

SENSE AND STYLE Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some - Good Times