I purchased a new 2003 Passat GL 4-door sedan. Not including regular maintenance, here are the repairs headings taken directly from my receipts: CV Boot. MOC Cleaner. Light bulb. Power steering Pump. Battery. Coolant Leak. Serpentine belt, AC belt. Power steering pressure hose. Timing Belt. Brake light. CV boot. Driver headlight. Coolant leak. Transmission fluid leak. Cam tensioner seal leak. Rear coolant flange coolant leak. Axle boot. Engine & transmission mounts. Coolant leak. Master Power Window switches. Vacuum check valves and connecting hoses. Automatic transmission service. Brake boost vacuum mechanical failure. Headlamp. Coolant bottle and multiple coolant leaks. Axles/CV boots/CV joints. Recharge A/C system. Power steering leak. Glove box door latch broken/replaced. Coolant leak. Thermostat cover. Engine leak/pan gasket. Axles/CV boots/CV joints. Passenger headlamp. Radiator hose leak. Front lower spoiler and hoot strut replaced. Rear shocks and front upper link bushings. Splash guard/front grill replaced. Anti-lock brake system. Cooling system and oil leak. An average of more than $3,000 a year for repairs over the last 6 years. Worst car I have ever owned. THE LEMONADER.
We bought our 2003 Passat GLS 1.8T wagon with a little over 70k miles on it, which I guess is high mileage for a VW. If you're a real enthusiast or VERY handy with a wrench, then by all means get one of these. Otherwise, be advised to stay the hell away from these pieces of cr*p. Every year is thousands of $$$ to keep it on the road. The car has a complicated and involved service procedure, so anything under the hood will be expensive to replace. Two shops quoted me $500 just for the valve cover gasket, and most of that was labor. German engineering = myth.
Performance is awesome for a wagon, even with the little 1.8T. Turbo is laggy, but once it kicks in, you're off. Heated seats are nice. Interior and exterior styling hold up well, even 10 years later.
Make it so that routine service procedures don't require the entire front fascia to be removed (Google "service position"). Make it so that coolant can stay in the cooling system longer than one month without service. Make it so it doesn't require the MOST EXPENSIVE oil, gas and coolant. Or, skip all that, and just make an auto-self destruct feature that warns the buyer that the car will destroy itself at 80k miles...that's pretty much what happens anyway.
I bought new, now have over 230,000 miles. This is a fun car to drive, especially with the manual. Have not had any major mechanical issues. The paint and interior have held up very well. Only annoyance is that the headlights burn out more often than most, but are easy to replace. Keeping up with preventive maintenance and fixing small problems quickly are essential though! Parts are expensive, and I agree with other reviewers that dealer service departments are terrible- I found a great VW mechanic locally.
Steering and suspension, build quality, transmission, leather seats, fuel economy.
More power- the stock 1.8T is a little weak. I upgraded with a power chip that adds 20 hp or so and quite a bit of torque- definitely was worthwhile to me.
I've had my Passat for two years now, and besides regular maintenance and a few repairs I could do myself (Aged plastic hoses, etc.) which ANY car would need replaced at 120,000 miles, it has been an excellent purchase! There are a lot of reviews on here saying the Passat is junk, but if you can't properly inspect a car to see if it has been maintained like any car should before you buy it, you're a moron, and have no right to slander a perfectly good car. After initial purchase with 110,000 miles, I changed the water pump and timing belt myself. Yes, I had to take off the front bumper. Boo Hoo! This is one of the EASIEST cars I've ever owned to work on. I've had an RX-7, Impreza, Accord.
Turbocharger. I hate automatics, and promised myself I'd never buy one, but I like the Tiptronic. However, my next Passat or Jetta will be a manual transmission, and probably a TDI. They have ridiculous torque and superb MPG.
I wish it came in a manual, turbo, all-wheel drive model that was easy to find for the same price.
Bought it used from an as is dealer. Trunk only opened with a key and the coolant looked a little funny, but I talked him down and thought I was getting a good deal even after I had to sink some money into it. $1900 later I gave up. The car kept over heating as engine oil was getting into the coolant system. Had the engine oil cooler, water pump, belts and thermostat replaced and it overheated again. I had to call it when they said the next step was to replace the turbo and if that didn't work, the head gaskets. Oh and the electrical module under the seat was faulty causing the trunk problems. Please take it to a dealer for an inspection before you buy it used. Had it for a month