Since last year’s introduction of the new Jetta, Volkswagen has been touting the fact that it is less expensive than the previous generation. That’s because it has fewer standard features and older technology. Not only does it revert to a twist-beam rear suspension like the car from two generations prior, but the old 2.0-liter four-cylinder from that car reappears, too. Most buyers will opt for the 2.5-liter five-cylinder, which is a far better match for the rather sizable Jetta. The back seat is enormous, and visibility is great. The navigation system, however, isn’t as good as the unit it replaces. VW has dialed back the Jetta’s materials quality, but the interior is still competitive with the best cars in the class. All the decontenting doesn’t apply to the Jetta Sportwagen, which is still based on the previous car, or the performance-minded GLI sedan. Both of those models retain the multilink rear suspension, the sharper steering, and the higher-quality interior that the Jetta’s reputation was built on. Both the sedan and the wagon are available with a frugal, spirited, and quiet diesel engine that can be mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The diesel returns hybridlike fuel economy. The Jetta looks more expensive than it is, and its build quality is impressive. It doesn’t drive as well as the previous car, but it is still a comfortable cruiser.
trim levels: 2.5L, 3.6L, TDI
Body style: Sedan, 5-passenger
Engines: 2.0L turbo-diesel, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft
2.5L I-5, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft
3.6L V-6, 280 hp, 258 lb-ft
Transmissions: 5- or 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
Passenger volume: 102.0 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15.9 cu ft
The 2012 Passat isn’t just a new car for Volkswagen, it moves the brand in a new direction. The mid-size sedan sold here breaks from the European model and is designed specifically for the American and Chinese markets. It is larger, softer, and less expensive, with the base price dropping from $27,000 to $20,000. In rethinking the Passat, Volkswagen has designed it much closer to the standards of a typical mid-size, American-market sedan.
ABS; front, side, and side curtain air bags; tire-pressure monitoring; and traction and stability control are standard on all Passats. The Passat comes with Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System, which responds to an accident by unlocking the doors, shutting off the fuel pump, and turning on the hazard lights.
All: 20-31 mpg city/ 28-43 mpg highway
- Plush ride
- Efficient diesel engine
- Acres of legroom
- Not as sporty as it once was
- Interior has lost some of its
German engineering specifically for America.
- Ford Fusion
- Honda Accord
- Hyundai Sonata
- Toyota Camry