Used 1996 Volkswagen Passat Sedan

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1996 Volkswagen Passat
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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

The Passat has never sold well in the United States. Weak engines plagued the early editions, ineffective marketing has played a role, and a muddled brand identity that has defeated sales across the board have all contributed to this car's seemingly invisible presence on the sedan market. Of course, its plain-vanilla styling didn't let the Passat stand out for much recognition other than the lack of a grille on the nose.

Volkswagen has been trying to change things lately, and the Passat has received a good bit of attention. The 2.8-liter V6 that has literally transformed Volkswagen's lineup from staid German sedans to road cars brimming with vitality was transplanted into the Passat. Last year, a revised exterior design gave this Volkswagen more character, and included a grille for the first time. Passats came fully loaded in one trim level for 1995; the only options were an automatic transmission, a sunroof and a CD player. Antilock brakes and traction control were standard equipment. With a singular GLX trim level, fresh styling, and renewed performance ability, Volkswagen focused the Passat's mission, and became the focus of people who appreciate quick, well-equipped German cars. Priced in the low 20's, and equipped with a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty, the Passat GLX was a real bargain.

It seems Volkswagen has decided to fiddle with the Passat recipe again, and we fear that the focus placed on the excellent GLX will become blurred with the arrival of newcomers. Late last year, a bare-bones entry-level Passat GLS debuted with the meager 2.0-liter four cylinder from the Golf. At $18,000, the GLS is no match for the Ford Contour SE, which offers the same tight European driving manners and a whole lot more speed for the same price. Even Volkswagen's own Jetta GLS makes better sense, and you lose little interior room in the swap to the smaller VW sedan.

Later in 1996, a TDI (Turbo Direct Injection) diesel model will arrive. Volkswagen says this is one diesel that will be quick, clean and quiet. We've followed a few test mules around on the streets of Tempe, Arizona and concur; the TDI loses nothing in acceleration ability to the GLS. Still, the hit-and-miss availability of diesel fuel and relatively low prices for gasoline in the United States make us wonder why VW thinks North America needs a diesel Passat.

The GLX is still the one and only Passat to consider, in our opinion. It continues to offer an excellent blend of value, performance and exclusivity, in either sedan or wagon format. So what do you think a fully loaded German sport sedan (or wagon) might cost? The base price of a new Passat GLX is roughly equivalent to the price of a well-equipped Taurus LX. Surprise, surprise. We think you ought to try the Passat whether or not performance is important to you. It's a good car at a fair price, with the ability to put a grin on your face every time you drive it.

1996 Highlights

Daytime running lights debut, two new colors are added to the palette, and a new price-leader GLS model powered by a 2.0-liter, 115-horsepower, four-cylinder engine is introduced. Midyear, a Turbo Direct Injection (TDI) diesel model appears in sedan and wagon form.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1996 Volkswagen Passat.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

runs forever
carracer,06/17/2005
I've had this 1996 passat since it was brand new and it's been in the shop no more than 3 or 4 times. I have the car in a manual (I hate automatics) and the ORIGINAL clutch is still working perfectly. There's a little rust on the drivers side door, but I live in a heavily salted part of Vermont, so that's understandable. The fuel economy is great for such an old car (28-34 mpg). The gearing gets a little iffy on the highway with a 4 cylinder (it does 70mph at 3200 rpm). Overall a really nice car with a great audio system in a car that refuses to fail.
No more VWs
tyler,09/06/2008
As almost all reviews have implied this car is too expensive to service and problems are constant. VW should have recalled the entire car. Yes, great V6 engine but definitely a real headache and expensive to repair.
NEVER AGAIN!
nofear,07/17/2002
I will never buy a VW again. I can't believe how much $$$ I've spent repairing this car - even the guy at garage says he can't believe how often he sees me. It's in the shop as I write this! Sure its kinda fun drive, but I'm not having any fun at all driving a rental yet again while the suspension and air conditioner compressor replaced. Got luck when the transmission went at about 100 miles to go on my drive train warranty. NEVER AGAIN!
Plagued with Problems
mlm,04/16/2002
Repairs for this vehicle are frequent and expensive, and VW does everything possible to get out of warranty agreements. Here is my list of MAJOR, not minor, defects occuring since I bought my car: (1) battery exploded when car started (2) electric cluster panel showing mileage, gas, odometer not functioning (3) transmission died (4) failed smog check - Gross Poluter (5) trunk & driver window won't open (6) leather seats cracked (7) seat warmers broke
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Features & Specs

MPG
17 city / 24 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
172 hp @ 5800 rpm
MPG
18 city / 26 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
MPG
31 city / 41 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Diesel
90 hp @ 3750 rpm
See all Used 1996 Volkswagen Passat Sedan features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Poor

More about the 1996 Volkswagen Passat
Used 1996 Volkswagen Passat Sedan Overview

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Can't find a used 1996 Volkswagen Passat Passat Sedan you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Volkswagen Passat for sale - 8 great deals out of 8 listings starting at $16,039.

Find a used Volkswagen for sale - 3 great deals out of 8 listings starting at $17,547.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen Passat for sale - 11 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $13,078.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen for sale - 10 great deals out of 18 listings starting at $19,403.

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Should I lease or buy a 1996 Volkswagen Passat?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Volkswagen lease specials
Check out Volkswagen Passat lease specials