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.
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.
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!
Major recurring service problems with nothing from VW other than a big fat bill each time. For instance, our 1996 VW Passat has been having problems with the Knock Sensor from day 1. The car has been diagnosed and "fixed" for this 4 times under warranty, plus 3 additional times at our expense for the exact same problem, for a total of 7 occurances on a part that several VW personnel and an indep. VW mechanic have told us is VERY UNLIKELY to happen at all, let alone 7 times! VW will do nothing as they claim it is out of warranty. The problem has never been fixed to begin with from when it happened in warranty, as evidenced by VW's own service records.
The 1.8L, 8 valve engine is a bit under powered for this size vehicle. The gas milage is a good balance / trade off to the power, (24 city/ 28 highway). It is a nice commuter car. Built very sturdy. 125,000 mile and not a penny of maintenance besides oil changes and tune ups. Nice stif european ride. handles well for a non sports car. Negatives: disapointing resale value, 14" wheels/tires.