The 2017 VW Passat Is Exactly What You Need, and Nothing More, and That’s a Good Thing

There's an art to being perfectly capable and unremarkably handsome. This car is that, exactly.

2017 VW Passat Review
Eric Goeres/TheDrive.com

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SEL Premium

WHAT THE HELL IS IT? The 2017 VW Passat is a sweet, comfy, easy-handling and good-looking midsize sedan that can be had for $30,000. It’s quiet on the inside, has plenty of room up front, in back, and in the trunk. The instrument cluster is good looking in clear white, and the cockpit controls are very well thought out—clear and straightforward. During driving, the interior is well lit at night with red LED lights from the headliner and dim white lighting in the footwells.

New for 2017 are a nice collection of safety enhancements, including emergency braking and forward collision warning across all trims. Upgrade to SE (as we tested) and you get more fun stuff, like remote start, LED lights, and 18-inch alloy rims.

The handling is a little breezy, with the steering feeling quite loose for a German sedan, which speaks to VW “Americanizing” their line. Overall, though, the handling does feel capable and the car does feel planted at 3,392 pounds.

We tested it with a 170-hp 1.8-liter turbo four, and that had plenty of power for us. But if you’re feeling really zoomy, you can opt for the 280-hp, 3.6-liter V-6. Note, though, that the gas mileage isn’t so great; on the smaller 1.8-liter, the EPA gives it 27 mpg combined. In our testing, we sometimes saw averages of just 22 mpg. This merits a 6 on the 1-10 EPA fuel efficiency scale. It does, however, boast a 5-star government overall safety rating.

Eric Goeres/TheDrive.com

WHO IS IT FOR? Middle-aged women in the suburbs, with one or two kids. A junior executive, perhaps. Tech startup guy, kicking off his career, or maybe an Uber driver. Up and comer who is on the BMW/Audi track. Young family car. Commuter who is putting 100+ miles a day on the road. Grad student.

In other words, it’s for people who have other things to worry about, but have an appreciation for being a little different ... or a love of extremely clean German design.

WHERE DID WE TEST IT? We drove it through the streets of Manhattan, New York state’s finest parkways, and into the back roads and state parks of the lower Hudson Valley. We took it through day and night, through rain, snow, and sunshine.

THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE IS: There’s very little to dislike. Nothing stands out as obviously bad, which is very hard to accomplish these days. We appreciate that, and think it’s one of the most endearing things about Americanized VWs.

Eric Goeres/TheDrive.com

THING THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO NOTICE, BUT YOU DO ANYWAY: It’s Americanized. It was designed for the US market, and it feels that way.

CAR IS GOOD AT: The Passat is an excellent example of clean design, inside and out. You call it boring, I call it nothing more than needed.

CAR IS BAD AT: Well, handling-wise, it’s not great at being German. We would have liked it to feel more robust, more present and responsive in that uniquely German way. As is, it does handle and feel very much like a Ford Fusion.

RATE 1 (VERY POOR) TO 5 (EXCELLENT):

• PERFORMANCE: 3

• COMFORT: 5

• LUXURY: 3

• HAULING PEOPLE: 4

• HAULING STUFF: 3

• CURB APPEAL: 4

• “WOW” FACTOR: 3

• OVERALL: 4.4

WOULD YOU BUY IT? I would buy it. My girlfriend wouldn’t; she found it to be too generic.

Eric Goeres/TheDrive.com

SPECS:

• PRICE: $31,815

• ENGINE: 170-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

 MPG (CITY/HIGHWAY): 23/34

• BUILT IN: Chattanooga, TN

Eric Goeres/TheDrive.com