I have owned my used Passat for less than a year. I bought it with 70k miles, and it currently has 85k. In that time I spent $4000 maintaining this car. Engine leaks from everywhere, bad coils, and some preventative maintenance changing the timing belt and water pump. There are still issues with it I simply can't afford to fix. I really wanted to love this car. I really wanted a reliable car. This wasn't the right choice.
Drives well when there's nothing wrong with it.
The interior was really poorly designed, and cheaply made. There seems to be no end to what can go wrong with the engine, and even minor issues are extremely expensive to fix.
The car was brought brand new, driven with great care, never been in accident, oil changed every 4000-5000 miles. But it died twice and had to be towed in 3 years, same problem - the secondary air pump filled with water! The drive train was covered 100K / 10 years, but that pump was part of the "emission system" so I had to pay $750 each time to have that fixed. The second time it happened I traded it in for a new Toyota 2 days later and never will walk into a VW dealer again.
Great interior / exterior design.
1st to 2nd gear (manual) is rough. Poor quality, poor workmanship. Irresponsible dealers refuse to honor a chronic design problem.
Engine poor. Once motor reached 100 miles, motor needed constant repair. Have spent over $3k on major engine repair. The wagon was intended for family with two children, but has proven to be very unreliable. Wife, toddler and infant have been towed several times from side of freeway. Mechanically, the engine is poor and unreliable, asked master mechanic "Would you drive this car?", he answered, "Me? No. The motor is no good, we see 'em all the time".
I loved this car until the sludge set in. The dealer indicates that there is sludge ruining the engine of this car (and thousands of others like it). It is outrageous that VW will not remedy this problem. It is clearly a design flaw that is costing VW customers thousands of dollars. Also, I have had to replace the O2 sensor several times.
I love the interior of the car. The lighting, seat belts (for car seats), and seats.
2001 Passat GLS 1.8T wagon, 5 speed. A few mods, VW sport springs, wider wheels and tires, rear sway bar. To my surprise this has been the most reliable car I have ever owned. Almost 70,000 miles, driven pretty hard by several people. No major problems yet and only a handful of minor ones. All fixed at home. Changed the oil religiously with Mobil 1 synthetic, upgraded brake rotors and pads. Great car. Just got lucky I guess.
We call this our Goldilocks car. Not too big, not too small, gets pretty good mileage, corners pretty hard, holds pretty much stuff. The ultimate "does everything pretty well" car. Even looks cool in black. Wagons look way better then sedans.
Should come with a sport suspension. Easy enough to retrofit. VW sport springs and Bilstein HD shocks plus a rear swaybar.