If you need room inside a car, the 2017 VW Passat has you covered.
Since they were big enough to be out of car seats, my kids have complained there wasn’t enough leg room in the back seats of cars—including the SUV we drove for most of their teen years. Too bad for them we didn’t buy a Volkswagen Passat instead. Even my 6-foot, 4-inch husband had plenty of leg room in the back seat of this roomy 4-door car.
Who This Car is For
- Small families
- Families with younger children
- Drivers who often have backseat passengers
- People who find it physically challenging to get in and out of a car
What This Car Costs
- The 1.8T S retails for $22,440; standard features include cloth seats, rear view camera, and dual-zone A/C.
- The 1.8 R-Line retails for $23,975; standard features include paddle shifters, blind spot monitoring and heated front seats.
- The 1.8T SE retails for $25,495; standard features include keyless access with push button start, sunroof and heated front seats.
- The 1.8T SE with the technology package retails for $27,995; standard features include adaptive cruise control, heated front and rear seats, and VW Car-Net systems.
- The 1.8T SEL Premium retails for $30,995; standard features include a full driver assist package--rearview camera, rear cross traffic alert, park assist and more.
- The V6 SE with technology retails for $29,295; standard features include heated front and rear seats, VW Car-Net and hands-free easy open trunk.
- The price of the fully loaded SEL Premium model we drove: $34,815, including destination charges.
Technology Hits and Misses
My iPhone paired easily with Apple CarPlay and I had no challenges answering calls or talking through the car’s speakers. The challenge came when I asked it to “Call Susan Stevie.” The response: “Call Yenyi Fu?” After three tries, I was forced to pull over, bypass the system and dial Susan myself.
Likewise, the park assist function—a cool baby step toward autonomous driving—didn’t work when I tried to use it to slide into an angle spot. But it worked beautifully when I needed to parallel park. As you can see in the video below, it was easy and the final parking outcome was just about perfect.
Safety Features that Are Functional—and Polite!
Without a doubt, my two favorite new car safety features are the backup camera and adaptive cruise control. Both did their jobs admirably in the 2017 VW Passat. But the adaptive cruise control made me smile.
As I suffered through a typical Chicago rush hour stop-and-go morning, I engaged the adaptive cruise to test it in the ebb and flow of commuter traffic. When the car ahead of me came to a complete standstill, I let the Passat continue to roll under the control of the adaptive cruise function, my foot ready to engage the brake if needed. To my surprise, the car continued to crawl forward, getting closer to the bumper in front. When we were about 3 feet apart, the dash display asked me to “please” apply the brakes. You can’t beat a car that is polite!
The Passat SEL Premium also comes with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert—all features aimed at helping drivers avoid collisions. I tested the lane assist just as I did the cruise control. As I let the car slide over toward the shoulder of the road, the steering wheel gently pulled it back. But, when I continued to let it head toward the shoulder, once again, the Passat asked me to “please” take over steering.
This 4-Door Midsize Sedan is Oversized Roomy
The Volkswagen Passat midsized sedan we drove is German engineered but American built at VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant. It’s a comfortable ride for a $30,000 car. We found a lot of road noise seeped in. It wasn’t enough to be unpleasant, but it was a surprise after reading review after review that praised the car’s quiet ride.
The best feature, by far, is the interior space. While I didn’t test it with babies, the space would make it easy to get a car seat in and out of the back.
I did drive the Passat over to test it on my 86-year-old mother-in-law, however. A hip replacement has made it tough for her to climb in and out of our SUV. Not so in the VW Passat. She sat down, swiveled her legs inside and pronounced the car “perfect.”
The only spot in the car that felt a little cramped is the front cabin placement of the USB port. It’s down in a small well ahead of the gear shift. I could just get my phone plugged in. My husband, who has big hands, couldn’t do it at all until we put the car in drive. Even then, it was a challenge for him.
Read More: The Volvo S90 Luxury Family Sedan
Room for Lots of Junk in the Trunk
The Passat trunk is huge for a 4-door midsize sedan and it gets even bigger when the back seat folds down to allow something long to pass through. Ski time anyone?
Accessing the trunk is easy too. Just stand at the back of the SEL Premium model with the key fob in your pocket or purse and wave your foot under the back bumper. Voila! Trunk open.
Creature Comforts of the Passat
The Passat interior is not only roomy, it’s comfortable. Seasonably pleasant fall temperatures during my week-long test drive meant that I used the sun roof, not the dual zone climate controls or the heated seats (front and back). But in the depths of a Chicago winter, both are absolute necessities.
The power lumbar support and adjustable center console arm rest made it cushy for long drives. I also liked the adjustable steering wheel—I could pull it close and high, while hubby could push it away and low.
I also liked the power folding side mirrors. Whenever I stepped out and locked the car, the side mirrors automatically folded in, reducing the chances of someone parking too close and clipping the mirrors. When I returned and unlocked the car, they returned to their fully extended position, ready to go. The side mirrors are also heated—another big plus in a Chicago winter.
I’m also a sucker for rain sensing windshield wipers. I love a car that knows when it’s time to wipe the windows!
But Can It Get Up and Go?
I can be a bit of a lead foot. In my dog of an SUV, that’s usually a good thing. Merging onto the highway requires stomping on the gas.
Not so in the Passat. The V6 engine in this baby gave it plenty of get up and go. And the smooth ride makes it easy to get going faster than you planned. OK, maybe it was just my lead foot. But I was shocked to look down at the speedometer the first time I merged onto the highway. Before I knew it, I had hit 85. I promptly backed off and engaged the adaptive cruise control. (Yes, my lead foot is yet another reason to love the cruise control!)
Even with the bigger engine, I managed 27 miles per gallon on the highway. That’s a little below the 28 mpg the manufacturer says buyers can expect.
Exploring the Dashboard in the Passat
The 6.3-inch display screen on the SEL Premium model was plenty big, although its in-dash position is a little low to make it easy to see at a glance while still keeping your eyes on the road. The display in other trim levels is a smaller 5 inches.
The screen is mounted below an actual clock—the old-fashioned kind, with a big hand and a little hand. The kind my kids struggle to read. While they learned to tell time on an actual clock at one point in their education, they spent their lifetimes reading digital clocks. That big hand and little hand are all but lost on them. I, however, found the clock to be a charming addition.
The display connects via VW Car-Net, which gives you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. One of its coolest features: a proximity sensor. When your hand gets near the touch screen, it automatically shows other icons.
Read More: 9 Safety Features you Need in Your Next Car
What We Loved
- The roomy interior
- The huge back seat
- The huge trunk
- Speedy pickup
- Responsive handling
- Dual climate controls
- Heated seats front and back
- 6 air bags, including head impact airbags
- Easy open trunk
- Split folding seats for carrying extra long cargo
What You Need to Know
- 2 USB ports, one in front and one in back
- Rated for 23 mpg in the city, 28 on highways; our experience was slightly less
- 3 year/36,000 mile new vehicle warranty
- 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty
- 12 year/120,000 corrosion perforation warranty
- 3-year/36,000 mile 24-hour roadside assistance (towing, jumpstarts, tire changes, out of fuel, and lock-out)