Full 2010 Volkswagen Passat Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Volkswagen Passat receives VW's DSG dual-clutch automated manual transmission in lieu of the old conventional automatic. It also gets a new multifunction steering wheel, a new radio, standard Bluetooth connectivity and optional 18-inch wheels.
For most of its production run, the Volkswagen Passat has served as a pricier alternative to mainstream family sedans like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. We've generally been fond of this niche approach, noting that the Passat's combination of a premium design, upscale features and strong engines usually proved to be worth the extra dough.
Last year, however, VW started tinkering with the Passat formula. With the advent of the upscale Passat-based CC, VW chose to position the Passat below this new four-seat sedan. As such, some features were removed, including a formerly optional V6 engine and all-wheel drive, which could now be specified only on the CC. However, the Passat retained its traditional elevated pricing, going head-to-head with fancy V6-powered versions of rival sedans. This approach hasn't been particularly successful with consumers -- sales numbers for the Passat pretty much dropped off a cliff during 2009.
In its favor, the 2010 Volkswagen Passat receives some interesting tweaks, chief among them the replacement of the old conventional automatic transmission with VW's excellent DSG dual-clutch automated manual, a first for the family sedan segment. It still competes for customers with more potent V6-powered sedans, but there are numerous points in the Passat's favor.
On the road, the autobahn-bred suspension hits an enviable trifecta of reassuring handling, a supple ride and utter composure at elevated cruising speeds. The interior is arguably the finest in this segment, boasting high-quality materials and a classy look. The new DSG transmission is a revelation, handily topping rivals with its quick yet smooth shifts. Another feather in the Passat's cap is the fact that there's a wagon version available, a rarity in this SUV-happy era.
Yes, the Passat's engine is down a few cylinders, but that's not really an issue in light of its peppy turbocharged performance, relaxed highway manner and respectable fuel economy. While we recommend checking out other top sedans like the Ford Fusion, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima and Subaru Legacy (and the Legacy Outback and Toyota Venza as alternatives to the wagon), as well as the similar CC if you don't need maximum passenger and cargo space, the Passat still has enough virtues to warrant serious consideration. It's a bit pricey, but this VW is a good example of getting what you pay for.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Volkswagen Passat is available as a midsize sedan or wagon. Both body styles come in Komfort trim only. Standard equipment on the sedan includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield washer nozzles, foglights, a sunroof, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, leatherette vinyl upholstery, a power driver seat, heated front seats, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The wagon features all of the sedan's standard equipment and adds chrome roof rails.
Options include 18-inch alloy wheels, a variety of exterior appearance packages (sedan only), an iPod adapter (replaces the standard aux jack) and a hard-drive-based touchscreen navigation system with a USB port, an iPod interface and 20GB available for digital music storage.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2010 Volkswagen Passat is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps out 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. The only available transmission is VW's responsive DSG, a six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual.
Based on previous testing of a Passat with the conventional automatic, we expect the 2010 model to run from zero to 60 mph in the mid-7-second range. This is a bit slower than V6-powered rivals but still plenty quick for most buyers, particularly with the engine's abundance of low-end torque.
Fuel economy is quite good given the Passat's peppy performance. EPA estimates stand at 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined for both the wagon and sedan.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, anti-whiplash front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags are all standard on the Passat, while rear-seat side airbags are optional.
In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the 2010 Volkswagen Passat earned four stars out of five for its protection of front occupants in head-on collisions. Side-impact tests resulted in five stars for protection of front passengers and four for those in the rear. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Passat as "Good" (the best rating possible) in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The VW Passat's comfortable and upscale cabin is one of its high points. Fit and finish is superb, and there's a feeling of precision to all the controls. Interior materials quality is first-rate -- the Passat is more akin to entry-level luxury sedans than family sedans in this regard. Even the leatherette vinyl upholstery looks and feels better than many cars' cow-sourced upholstery.
Trunk capacity stands at 14.2 cubic feet, which is about average for this class. The wagon has 35.8 cubic feet of cargo room with the second-row seats up, and a cavernous 72.6 cubic feet with the seats folded down -- that's about the same as compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.
Although the 2010 Volkswagen Passat is tuned for comfort, its well-sorted chassis imbues it with a confident feel. The steering is light but precise. Thanks to its German bloodlines, the Passat feels unflappable at higher velocities. The turbo-4 provides more than adequate power under most circumstances, and it sounds good, too. Our only real complaint is the somewhat intrusive road noise.