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The 2021 Volkswagen Passat is exactly a top contender in its segment, mostly due to how it looks woefully outdated from the outside, in. Driving it is about as equally enthralling, as the standard 2.0-L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine does little to create initial thrust and generate momentum when you need it for merging onto the highway and passing other vehicles. Its performance is acceptable, sure, but it is nothing to write home about and can be kind of frustrating. But, that being said, there are a lot of things to enjoy about the practical Passat. It is designed for comfort and is actually more spacious than you might think. Oh, and it is affordable. Don't believe us? Let's go over what's new, what's to like, what might frustrate you, and how the 2021 Passat stacks up against the competition.
What's New for 2021?
Nothing has really changed from 2020's line-up. The price tags have all been ever-so-slightly increased. The only big change is that the formerly line-topping SEL trim has been dropped from the line-up. Apparently, it did not offer enough value for buyers and wasn't selling enough units. Plus, with the Passat scheduled to be entirely phased out by 2023 in favor of the already-highly anticipated all-electric ID.4. In other words, don't expect to see too many changes made to the Passat until it is eliminated altogether. 2020's alterations (updated interior and exterior styling elements, more torque from the turbo 4-cylinder, and a few more luxury features and driver aids) hang on for this year, and the SEL's features have mostly been redistributed. We just can't seem to find its awesome Fender Premium Sound System anywhere on the features list this year - a huge bummer.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Volkswagen Passat – The Pros
1. A Quiet Ride
The 2021 Volkswagen Passat is probably the most well-liked for its quiet cabin. Seriously, take this thing up to speed on the highway and listen. What can you hear? Engine whining? Road noise? Wind whistling in your ears? Nope. Just your music playing, your passengers chatting, your phone conversation, or pure silence. VW insulates its cabins well, and the Passat is a prime example. We hope that they will manage to carry this over on the future ID.4.
2. Plenty of Comfort
Comfort takes precedence over performance in the Passat. The ride quality itself is plush almost to a fault, but the seats are just about right. The front seats are smoothly sculpted and have plenty of width, lending a fair amount of lateral support to their occupants. They are massively padded, but what they have will certainly suffice. Even the rear seats feel comfortable enough and hold out on long road trips.
3. An Excellent Ride Quality
Firm and sporty, it is not, but the Passat's ride quality is comfortable for your average daily driver - and that's who this vehicle really caters to anyway. The suspension smooths out bumps with ease, and nothing will send the cabin into a frenzy. Even jagged road surfaces can be smoothed over by the Passat's suspension.
4. A Spacious Rear Seat
The VW Passat's rear seat is one of the cozier and more spacious ones you will find in this segment. Hips, heads, and legs all fit with enough space left over. While the driver's knee might rub up against the center console, rear seat passengers have nothing hindering them from relaxing their legs and just kicking back.
5. Plenty of Cargo Space
Not only does the Passat have a lot of rear seat space, but its amount of cargo space is also quite generous. The 60/40-split folding rear seats go down flat, and the cargo floor is both deep and wide, making it easy to get bulkier items into the cargo area. Of course, some cargo space did get sacrificed for the Passat to have a huge back seat, but the way the cargo area is shaped is nonetheless utilitarian in nature.
6. Composed Handling and Steering
Steering and handling are both strong in terms of their capabilities. The steering doesn't provide a ton of feedback, but it has a light and easy feeling that makes the vehicle quick to maneuver. This definitely comes in handy in tight parking spots and while going down crowded city streets. Handling feels smooth, and the Passat remains composed while rounding through even tight turns. Body roll is absent, and the wheels feel firmly planted on the ground.
7. The Dual-zone Climate Control System
The Passat's standard dual-zone automatic climate control system pumps out air to the cabin with ease. There are HVAC vents in the rear, so occupants in the back can get their fair share of warm or cool air flow. Whether you need the heat or air conditioning, the system does a good job at regulating the desired temperature and keeping everyone at the optimal comfort level.
8. An Easy-to-use Infotainment System
The Passat's infotainment system might not be the most high-end, high-tech thing out there, but it is functional and easy to use. Once you get used to how the screen is situated along the dash, you can quickly scroll through the clear-cut menus and find whatever you are looking for on the system's well-structured interface. No manual required!
9. Smartphone App Integration is Standard
Smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard on the VW Passat. Syncing your smartphone is quick and takes very few steps to complete. Crashes aren't reportedly common, and the system works as a good alternative to upgrading to the built-in navigation that comes on the R-Line trim level (which used to be the former line-topper, the SEL). Drivers tend to like the easy and efficacy of smartphone app integration for VW vehicles.
10. The LATCH System is Easy to Access
Given how much space there is in the rear, fitting a child safety seat (or two) in there is not a problem. The door sills are wide, which means you can even get bulky rear-facing car seats in and out without a hassle. The LATCH tethers are within reach, and the anchors are easy to find. Making adjustments when needed to the seats is simple, so parents can worry more on the tasks at hand and less on getting their little ones in and out of their car seats.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Volkswagen Passat – The Cons
1. A Boring Engine Without Any Other Choices
We'll be honest, the Passat's biggest flaw is that the sole engine is a snooze-fest. The turbo 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine that comes on all of the Passat's trim levels cannot be swapped out for any upgrade, and it is just boring. The Passat's acceleration time is exceedingly slow for its segment because of this engine's lack of initial thrust. Press down on the acceleration and you'll notice a clear delay between your foot's input and the return on power.
2. The Brakes
The brakes also hold the Passat back from greatness. Panic stops are a lot longer than the segment's average, and the uneven pedal response keeps the Passat from making a smooth stop under normal circumstances. You probably won't ever feel totally secure with how the brakes perform. They do better on winding roads, but that isn't exactly promising.
3. A Sluggish Transmission
The transmission is a drag on the already lackluster engine. This contraption likes to upshift a lot. This just puts a nail in the coffin when it comes to power delivery. There is nothing exciting, not even a spark of excitement. This six-speed transmission is not what we would want paired with this turbo 4-cylinder.
4. A Small Touchscreen Display
The standard infotainment touchscreen display is only 6.3 inches, which is significantly smaller than the base models offered by rival automakers. The only upgrade you can get is to an 8-inch screen on the R-Line, which is about the same size as the base screens found in many other vehicles. The 6.3-inch screen reinforces how outdated the Passat feels and makes it difficult for drivers to press its tiny buttons.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Volkswagen Passat vs. 2021 Honda Accord
The 2021 Honda Accord offers a couple of fuel efficient engines that also happen to be pretty powerful, making the Accord more fun to drive than the Passat. Also, the Accord has a cavernous interior design with a ton of expensive-looking materials. Of course, Honda - known for their emphasis on safety - packs it to the brim with standard driver aids. Not to mention, you get a bigger base infotainment screen. The downsides? It isn't as quiet as the Passat, and the low seat positions make for more difficult entrances and exits.
2021 Volkswagen Passat vs. 2021 Audi A4
The 2021 Audi A4 is also a formidable competitor for the Passat. It is also a lot pricier. So, what do you get for the extra cost? A snappy acceleration (especially from the 45 TFSI's turbo engine), a spacious rear seat, a plethora of user-friendly infotainment and safety features, and a downright cool-looking cabin. Premium stuff, for the most part. However, the A4's transmission shows a little hesitation when you first go to accelerate. Also, drivers might not feel as involved in the driving itself since steering doesn't deliver much feedback.
Time is passing for your chance to get a new Passat. In just a few years, they will be a thing of the past. The demand for sedans has changed, and the Passat just hasn't kept up its pace. Still, it is comfortable and quiet with plenty of space for those who need it. The Passat's line-up offers reasonably-priced trim level options, but the powertrain holds this vehicle back from competing with the likes of the Honda Accord. Were the Passat a bit more powerful and equipped with stronger, more reliable brakes, we think its demise might not be happening so soon.
• Why buy a 2020 Volkswagen Passat? w/ pros vs cons