Best & Worst Volkswagen Passat Years

We have ranked each Volkswagen Passat model for every generation so you can avoid picking the worst Volkswagen Passat years and pick the best one.

In this guide, I’ll analyze the most recent Volkswagen Passat generations, revealing the best Passat years to buy and the worst years to avoid.

Our analysis draws on extensive data, including owner feedback and expert reviews, with insights from trusted sources like the NHTSA and Consumer Reports.

I’ll cover almost every aspect, from engine performance and resale values to safety features, common problems, and recalls, helping you decide which model year suits your needs best.

Let’s dive right in!

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Table of ContentsShow

Volkswagen Passat Generations

The Volkswagen Passat, a mid-size family car, first graced the automotive world with its presence in the early 1970s. Known for its blend of comfort, practicality, and German engineering, the Passat has undergone several transformations.

Here is an overview of the Passat’s generations from 1998 to its discontinuation in the US market after 2022.

GenerationYears
5th Generation (B5)1998-2005
6th Generation (B6)2006-2010
7th Generation (A32/A33)2012-2019
8th Generation2020-2022

As each generation of the Volkswagen Passat features unique attributes and improvements, generational changes may be crucial in deciding the best model year.

Volkswagen Passat Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When evaluating the best and worst years for the Volkswagen Passat, we consider various factors to provide an accurate overview for potential buyers. These include:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • Cars.com owner ratings

Our upcoming graph consolidates these various ratings, visually representing the Passat’s performance across different years and generations.

Volkswagen Passat Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Based on our comprehensive research, the forthcoming table categorizes each model year of the Volkswagen Passat into the best, neutral, and worst categories.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
5th Generation (B5)2004
2005
N/A1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
6th Generation (B6)2008
2009
2010
N/A2006
2007
7th Generation (A32/A33)2016
2017
2018
2019
20152012
2013
2014
8th Generation2021
2022
N/A2020

“Neutral years” generally offer acceptable performance and reliability but may lack the standout qualities of the best years.

Some factors, like NHTSA recalls, can significantly impact a car’s reliability rating. Higher numbers of complaints and recalls typically indicate lower reliability.

Let’s dive into the best, neutral, and worst years for the Volkswagen Passat.

Best & Worst Years for Volkswagen Passat 5th Generation (1998-2005)

Volkswagen Passat 5th generation 1998 model
The 1998 Volkswagen Passat

The Volkswagen Passat 5th generation (B5) was a significant leap forward in design and technology. This generation showcased Volkswagen’s commitment to safety, comfort, and performance, offering a range of engine and trim options until 2005.

2004 and 2005 are the best VW Passat years of the generation, while 1998-2003 are the worst years to avoid.

The Best Years: 2004, 2005

The 2004 and 2005 Volkswagen Passat models stood out as the best years for their improved reliability and reduced frequency of issues.

These years offered a choice of engines, including the efficient 1.8L Turbo (1.8T) EA113 engine and the powerful V6.

The 1.8T engine offered around 19 city/28 highway mpg, appealing to those seeking economic performance.

These models were equipped with advanced safety features for the time, such as the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).

Higher trim levels, like the GLX, came with luxurious amenities, including leather seats and sunroofs, enhancing the overall driving experience.

While these models had minor electrical issues, they were generally well-regarded for their build quality and reliability.

The Worst Years: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

What are the worst VW Passat years? 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 are the VW Passat years to avoid due to many owner complaints and recalls by NHTSA.

From 1998 to 2003, VW Passats were plagued with problems, including oil sludge formation damaging the engine and electrical issues like ignition coil failures.

Notably, the oil sludge issue was particularly severe in models with the 1.8T engine, necessitating regular oil changes with synthetic oil to avoid engine damage.

Additionally, there were reports of ABS module failures and suspension problems, with recalls addressing issues like brake booster failures, fuel pump defects, and tie rods.

The 2003 Passat also faced challenges with fuel pump failures and fuel tank leaks.

See NHTSA 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 Volkswagen Passat recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Volkswagen Passat 6th Generation (2006-2010)

Volkswagen Passat 6th generation 2006 model
The 2006 Volkswagen Passat

The 6th generation Volkswagen Passat (B6), introduced in 2006, marked a significant redesign over its predecessor, featuring a more modern look and advanced technology.

2006 and 2007 are the worst sixth-generation Volkswagen Passat years, while 2008-2010 are the best years to buy.

The Best Years: 2008, 2009, 2010

The 2008, 2009, and 2010 Passat models are considered the best years of this generation, known for their reliability and refined features.

These years offered various engine options, including the robust 2.0L Turbocharged TSI engine and the powerful 3.6L V6 FSI.

The 2.0L TSI engine, in particular, offered around 19 city/28 highway mpg.

These models also boasted high safety ratings, with features like Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and a full array of airbags.

The trim levels ranged from the basic S to the luxurious Highline, offering amenities like touchscreen navigation, premium audio systems, and leather seating.

Despite a recall for fuel pump failures, these models’ overall build quality and technological advancements made them popular among consumers.

The Worst Years: 2006, 2007

Are 2006 and 2007 VW Passat models good? Not. The 2006 and 2007 Passats had issues with the steering, electrical system, and engine, so they should be avoided.

These models were frequently reported for steering column lock malfunctions and significant engine issues, especially with broken oil pump bolts in the 2.0L engine leading to severe engine damage.

The electrical system also posed problems, with instances of inoperative windshield wipers and other malfunctions.

These models were subject to recalls concerning fuel pump failures and brake vacuum line disconnections in the 2.0L models, which could compromise the vehicle’s safety and performance.

See NHTSA 2006, 2007 Volkswagen Passat recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Volkswagen Passat 7th Generation (2012-2019)

Volkswagen Passat 7th generation 2012 model
The 2012 Volkswagen Passat

The 7th generation Volkswagen Passat, launched in 2011, was designed with American consumers in mind, offering more space and comfort while maintaining Volkswagen’s signature driving dynamics.

The best years for the seventh-generation Volkswagen Passat span between 2016 and 2019. Model years between 2012 and 2014 are the Passat years to avoid.

The Best Years: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

Which Volkswagen Passat is the best? Our research shows that 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 are the best years for the Volkswagen Passat, in its seventh generation.

These years offered efficient engine options, including the 1.8L TSI and the 2.0L TDI, known for their balance of power and fuel economy, with the TSI engine achieving approximately 23 city/34 highway mpg.

These models also came with a six-speed automatic transmission that provided smooth and responsive shifts.

Safety was a priority, with features like Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitor, and Autonomous Emergency Braking.

The trim levels ranged from the practical S to the luxurious SEL Premium, offering amenities like leather seats, Fender premium audio system, and advanced infotainment with smartphone integration.

Along with the good owner ratings on Consumer Reports and J.D. Power, the overall package of these years made them highly appealing in the used car market.

The Neutral Year: 2015

The 2015 Passat models are considered neutral, offering a good balance of reliability and features.

Although not as refined as the later years, the 2015 Passat still provided a solid driving experience.

It continued with the 1.8L TSI and 2.0L TDI engines, offering decent fuel economy and performance.

This model year also saw some recalls, including issues related to the camshaft lobe fracture affecting power brakes and fuel leaks into the engine compartment, which could be a concern for potential buyers.

The Worst Years: 2012, 2013, 2014

What are the Volkswagen Passat years to avoid? The early years of the seventh generation, particularly 2012-2014, are the Passat years buyers should avoid.

These models were commonly reported for airbag clock spring failures, which led to malfunctions in steering wheel electrical components and engine stalling issues.

There were also complaints about excessive oil consumption and performance issues in the engine.

Recalls for these years included problems with airbag inflators, water corrosion on electric terminals, and exterior lighting components, which raised safety concerns.

The 2014 Passat specifically saw additional recalls for fuel leaks and oil leaks in 1.8T engine models with torque converter automatic transmissions.

See NHTSA 2012, 2013, 2014 Volkswagen Passat recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Volkswagen Passat 8th Generation (2020-2022)

Volkswagen Passat 8th generation 2020 model
The 2020 Volkswagen Passat

The 8th generation of the Volkswagen Passat, introduced in 2020, marked the end of an era as it was announced to be the last generation of Passats to be sold in the United States, concluding in 2022.

This generation continued the legacy of the Passat line with its focus on comfort, space, and a more modern aesthetic. The design was refreshed to offer a sleeker, more contemporary look, appealing to a broad range of consumers.

The Best Years: 2021, 2022

What year is the most reliable Passat? The 2021 and 2022 Passat models are considered the best years of this generation, showcasing the culmination of Volkswagen’s efforts to refine the Passat.

These models were equipped with a 2.0L TSI four-cylinder engine, delivering a balanced blend of performance and efficiency, with fuel economy ratings hovering around 24 city/36 highway mpg.

They were paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that provided smooth and efficient power delivery.

Regarding safety and technology, these models were equipped with advanced features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, and a comprehensive infotainment system with smartphone integration.

The trim levels ranged from the standard S to the more luxurious R-Line, offering upscale amenities like leatherette seating, premium audio systems, and larger alloy wheels.

The Worst Year: 2020

The 2020 Passat, despite being part of the refreshed eighth generation, faced some challenges. As the introductory year for the generation, it experienced some teething problems.

Although it featured the same 2.0L TSI engine and six-speed automatic transmission as its successors, it lacked some of the refinements and updates introduced in later years. 

While it offered a competent package overall, the 2020 Passat lagged slightly behind in terms of the overall value proposition, especially considering the advancements made in subsequent years.

NHTSA 2020 Volkswagen Passat recalls and complaints.

Volkswagen Passat Resale Values

Explore the fluctuating resale values of the Volkswagen Passat across different model years in this detailed graph.

Volkswagen Passat Average List Price

Conclusion

In summary, for the Volkswagen Passat, the 2008-2010, 2016-2019, and 2021-2022 model years stand out as the best years to buy, while it’s wise to avoid the 1998-2003, 2006, 2007, and 2012-2014 models. 

If you own or have owned a Passat, which model year did you choose and why?

Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.