2014 Volkswagen Passat Sport Review By Steve Purdy

2014 Volkswagen Passat Sport

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

The current generation Volkswagen Passat is designed for the North American market and meant to compete directly in one of the most hotly contested market segments. Its range of powertrain options gives it an edge and the base price – just under 21 grand - puts it right with, if not a tad lower, than the others. Our choice would probably be the diesel in spite of a substantial price premium at around 26 grand, but the entire range of Passat offerings deserves a look from shoppers. And, as an added bonus, it’s assembled in the U.S.

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The 5-passenger, midsize, 4-door, front-wheel drive VW Passat Sport is in our driveway this week. It lists at $27,295 including destination charge and is well equipped for that price. It does not have navigation or sun roof but just about everything else we might expect, like: power driver’s seat, rear view camera, two-tone leatherette seats, premium touchscreen audio controls, rear spoiler, trip computer, fog lights, and 19-inch alloy wheels with all-season Continental tires.

The good folks in Chattanooga, TN built it, but does that make it an American car? Well, yes and no. It was designed to appeal to U.S. customers while maintaining the simple, functional and sturdy Teutonic character so many of us respect. It also has 40% U.S. and Canadian content, with transmission from Argentina and Engine from Mexico. Figure in the assembly and distribution elements and we find it is more American than many cars from the U.S. makers.

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I was among those who thought this car was too plain to be attractive when it was first shown at the Detroit Auto Show a couple years ago. I was wrong. Each time I’ve encountered it since I gain more appreciation for its unpretentious but confident design focused on functionality, quality and craftsmanship. The simple design theme with mostly horizontal elements lacks the embellishments embraced by many of the other cars in its class like the swoopy Sonata, angular Altima, trendy Malibu and exotic-looking Fusion. Passat keeps it simple and that works. Our Passat Sport also comes with those 19-inch alloy wheels noted above that add a muscular element and athletic stance to the otherwise unadorned ambiance of the car.

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Inside we find the same horizontal lines extending across the dash. The arched brow over the instrument cluster and the round analog clock are the exception. A simple, functional panel with touch screen in the center stack houses the audio, HVAC and other controls that are mostly intuitive but some functions are rather slow to respond, like radio tuning. The dash is of unusual design in that the top panel is one large molded piece and the shiny trim across the middle is not wood or piano black. Rather, it appears to be an attempt to look like a stylized version of carbon fiber. In any case, it works within the context of subtlety. Materials, fit and finish are first rate. We found the front seats (driver’s has power and lumbar support - passenger’ seat has neither) exceptionally comfortable and not overly firm and bolstered. Grab handles above all doors will please many oldsters.

Only one complaint I’ll register is the trip computer that entirely stymied me when looking for information. I particularly wanted the cumulative MPG screen and simply could not find it after a week of searching. (Someone had copped the manual.) The guy who picked it up to take it away finally found it for me in a most unlikely screen location. It was as if the VW engineers wanted to hide it for some sadistic reason.

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The charm of the interior, in addition to great quality, is its feel of roominess. Folks who are used to full size sedans will feel right at home. VW claims best in class rear legroom and I’ll not challenge that because it looks and feels generous. Rear seat backs fold 60/40 and a better than average pass-thorough will make the cargo area more usable. Trunk space is already a generous 15.9 cubic feet.

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One of this car’s best features is under the hood. This new turbocharged 1.8-liter, direct injected engine makes 170 horsepower and a good 184 pound-feet of torque. While it is not particularly fast we never felt the need for more power even on our cloverleaf freeway entrance with the short merging lane. Our test car came with a 5-speed manual gearbox, which adds to the fun and the versatility. We can more easily keep the revs up when we want to feel a bit more exhilaration. The EPA estimated fuel mileage is 24 in the city, 35 on the highway and 28 combined on regular fuel. We used barely more than a tank of fuel this week and that rating seems right on the mark.

Handling, as we expect from the German products, including VW, is excellent. Since it is designed and tuned for the US market it is not as stiff and crisp as some of the other Teutonic entries and is just right for someone who likes to drive a bit spiritedly on occasion without sacrificing a comfortable ride. We like the electro-mechanical steering though it does not provide a lot of feedback. Suspension geometry and design are conventional but particularly well tuned.

Volkswagen’s warrantee is among the least generous and covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Routine scheduled maintenance is free for the first 2 years or 24,000 miles.

As one who has owned a number of VW’s over the years, both good ones and bad ones, I found the Passat Sport to be a car I could happily live with, particularly with the manual transmission.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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