The Budget-Friendly 2020 VW Passat Proves Sedans Aren’t Passé

Vw Passat
Photo: Jill Robbins

Are sedans a thing of the past? Maybe not.

It seems like the popularity of sport utility vehicles and crossovers are at an all-time high. In the “mom circles” I run in, I see lots of crossovers, full-size SUVs and of course, the perpetually well-represented minivan. But I don’t see many sedans. So, I have to ask — are sedans passé? After testing the 2020 Volkswagen Passat for a week, I have to say, sedans might just make a comeback.

I’m a mid-sized crossover kind of girl. I have all the room I need, for me, for my family, and for whatever stuff I’m carrying with me on any given day. Not too small and not too big. If Goldilocks had a car, it would probably be a mid-sized crossover because it would be just right.

However…. the Passat could work.

It worked for me during my test drive. I took my kids to the park, the pool, and I went grocery shopping. I never once thought, “I don’t have enough space.” No matter the arena, I was pleasantly surprised.

While driving a sedan is a different experience — sitting so low to the ground took me a minute to get used to — the Volkswagen Passat can absolutely be a practical car for small families, and it would make an excellent second car or commuter car for a larger family.

Related: 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport: Space, Space, and More Space

Vw Passat

The Volkswagen Passat offers style and room without being a budget buster. ? Jill Robbins

So, why aren’t sedans more popular right now?

I asked myself about the decline of sedans over and over while driving the Volkswagen Passat. Sedans tend to be less expensive than SUVs or crossovers. They usually use less fuel. A small and sporty sedan like the Passat is easy to maneuver in traffic and fits easily into just about any parking space. It’s fun to drive. And it’s cooler than a minivan. What’s not to love?

To boot, the 2020 VW Passat has a starting MSRP of $22,995, and the 2021 models are following pretty much the same pricing models, with very minor increases that dealer incentives can probably negate. For the car buyer on a budget who still wants an attractive, solid ride, this is definitely worth a look.

And, while the sedan might not be the most popular kid on the block out here in suburban Texas, sedan manufacturing is still strong. Plenty of city drivers and buyers outside the United States prefer sedans for their compactness, maneuverability and price.

Vw Passat

While the Passat’s trunk couldn’t handle a large family Costco haul, the trunk space is respectable and will do most of what the average family with two kids needs it to do, space-wise. ? Jill Robbins

You should look into the VW Passat if…

As my photos show, the Volkswagen Passat can definitely work for a family. Your lifestyle and job will dictate whether it will work for your main ride, but I think there’s a lot about the Volkswagen Passat that’s very practical. It’s comfortable.  I’ve been both a driver, a front seat passenger and a rear seat passenger and I wasn’t cramped in any place in this car, and I’m 5’10.

Vw Passat

This is an average mid-week “I forgot to get XYZ” grocery run. See? Plenty of space. ? Jill Robbins

Who else is a good fit for the VW Passat?

  • Young professionals — The price point makes this a good choice for a first car;
  • A family’s second car — The VW Passat would be a great commuter car or a second car for a large family when not everyone needs to go, such as taking one child to an appointment, a date night for the parents, or if one person frequently drives long distances solo;
  • Single parent households — With an affordable price and enough space for a few kids, this is a great option for anyone parenting solo;
  • Empty nesters who don’t need a ton of room but still want to comfortably transport their grandkids;
  • VW enthusiasts who want a sedan;
  • Anyone who needs a dependable, nicely loaded ride on a tight budget. You can get an R-Line Passat, the top of the line, for well-under $30K
Vw Passat

A taller-than-average adult can comfortably sit in the back seat of the Passat without asking the people in the front seat to scooch all the way up. ? Jill Robbins

Related: 2020 Atlas Cross Sport: Space, Space, and More Space

What I loved about the VW Passat.

I love that it surprised me. I drove the 2019 model a couple of years ago on a a trip from LA to Palm Springs with a couple of girlfriends. It was the perfect car for a girl’s road trip, but I just didn’t see it being a “mom car.” Not until I drove it this summer, that is. It has more than enough cargo and rear seat space to be a practical purchase for a smaller family. Once I got used to riding lower to the ground, I found the Passat to be a fun little car that was easy to maneuver and well suited for my day-to-day needs.

I also really like the price of this one. There are four trim levels beginning at $22,995 for the S and topping out at $30,095 for the R-Line (which will give you luxuries like Fender audio, leather seating, upgraded alloy wheels and more cool stuff.) No, it’s not the cheapest sedan on the market, but it’s fully reasonable for a single person or for a small family.

I liked the seats with lumbar support and the ease of making adjustments to the seating and steering position. I’m at the age where “lumbar support” gets more cool points than looks, although the VW Passat is pretty to look at, too. A comfortable ride is always a bonus for folks making long commutes or for anyone who would rather not get out of the car feeling stiff as a board!

Vw Passat

The steering and seat position are very easy to adjust. ? Jill Robbins

Safety Features That Make a Sedan Feel as Safe as a Crossover,

I’ve been spoiled by the ride height of being a minivan driver, and it’s hard for me to adjust to a lower view of the road. But many of the Passat’s safety measures make up for the low ride height and give that sense of security that many folks have in a taller vehicle.

First, blind spot monitors are standard, as is forward crash detection and prevention, a standard feature that stabilizes your car automatically when it senses you no longer have the capacity to solve a problem. And in the event of a crash, VW’s “Intelligent Crash Response” system goes into action with a set of automatic procedures: it contacts emergency services and alerts them to your location, unlocks the doors, turns on the hazard lights and interior lights, and disengages any high-voltage electronics.

Vw Passat

I stood up a little taller coming out of the grocery story knowing.I was climbing into a Passat! ? Jill Robbins

What you need to know:

  • Volkswagen has an outstanding warranty program: 6 years/72K miles. Most VW owners tend to hold on to their cars, but if you don’t, the warranty is transferrable to the new owner
  • The trunk is roomy enough to fit four medium sized suitcases
  • Made in America: the Passat is manufactured in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Fuel Economy: 23 city/34 highway
  • While not classed as a luxury car, the top trim level, SEL (upgraded wheels, leather seats, premium sound), and smooth ride give it that luxury feel. This is a great car for someone who wants those luxury touches but doesn’t quite have the budget to jump up into a full-on luxury sedan
  • At the peak price point you can also get bumpers coated in anti-scratch paintAt the peak price point, you can also get bumpers coated in anti-scratch paint

Related: The 2021 Kia Seltos is here, and yes, you want one.

Vw Passat

The front console and all the adjustments are pretty intuitive. The between-the-seats space in front is smallish, so no storage here for a purse or bookbag. ? Jill Robbins

The Bottom Line: This Sedan May be the Crossover Alternative You’re Looking For

The Volkswagen Passat is stylish and fun to drive without being a budget-buster. You can have a comfortable car with a solid amount of bells and whistles for a much lower price than what you’d pay for most starting level trims on a mid-size crossover. Plus, VWs are solid, safe and hold their value. If I was in the market for a sedan, this would be high on my list for sure.

Perhaps Goldilocks would say the VW Passat is “just right” after all.

Disclosure: Volkswagen provided me with a Passat to test and review. All opinions are my own.

Vw Passat

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Jill is the oldest mom with the youngest kids pretty much everywhere she goes. She has a 29-year-old daughter... More about Jill Robbins