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Used Volkswagen Passat review: 1995-1997


Its lines were pleasant rather than challenging. It was a car that blended into the scene. Inside, the Passat was neat and clean. The dash was well laid out, with all controls neatly arranged within easy reach of the driver, the seats were comfortable, and the ambience airy.

The on-road experience probably ensured the Passat avoided the bland tag. It drove like a European car, which meant it was a much more rewarding experience to drive compared to most Japanese cars. The road holding was good, the handling safe and secure, the brakes powerful and confidence inspiring.

Underneath, the Passat rode on four-link front suspension with a spring and shock absorber unit, while the rear was a torsion beam with trailing arms and separate coil springs and sway bar. The punch was provided by one of two engines, the first an 85kW 2.0-litre single overhead camshaft four-cylinder that delivered a spirited performance, at least in manual form. The other was a 128kW 2.8-litre single overhead camshaft V6 that was shoehorned lengthwise under the bonnet making for a rather cramped engine bay when it came to servicing.

If the four-cylinder was more leisurely, the V6 had oodles of get-up-and-go, making the Passat something of a sports sedan with credibility. VW offered the choice of a five-speed manual with a decent shift, and a four-speed auto. There were two models, one the the GL, which was well equipped with airconditioning, dual airbags, anti-skid electronics, six-speaker sound, cruise control, on-board trip computer, power windows, mirrors and steering, and cloth trim.

The sporty VR6 added alloy wheels, traction control and a leather steering wheel, as well as the V6 engine.

A thorough makeover was launched in 1998 when the styling was smoothed for an even cleaner look with a new grille, front bumper and headlights. A wagon also joined the range. New 1.8-litre double overhead camshaft four-cylinder engines were used. The base engine boasted 92kW, while the turbocharged version had 110kW. The V6 went up to 142kW.


While the main mechanical components are quite reliable and robust, the Passat does suffer from a number of problems. The airconditioning evaporator cracks and the ABS brake controller can fail. Both require replacements costing about $2000 for each.

It's worth having the front suspension and drive shafts checked, in particular the rubber seals over the joints. The seals protecting the control arm joints are known to split or crack and once that happens the grease lubricating the joints leaks out and grit and grime gets in, which hastens the end of the joints.

As with most modern VW engines the Passat's engines can use a little oil so it pays to keep a watch on the oil level. VW configures the piston rings such that the engine will consume a little oil as a way of protecting it at high speed on the German autobahns, but it can be worrying for anyone used to Japanese engines which don't use any oil at all. Using the oil isn't something to worry about, but it does pay to check the oil level regularly to make sure it doesn't drop to a dangerously low level.


Dual airbags across the range and side airbags on some models give the Passat decent crash protection, while standard ABS in tandem with the Passat's chassis balance means a good level of active safety.


Year Price From Price To
1997 $2,800 $5,500
1996 $2,800 $5,500
1995 $2,800 $5,500

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Range and Specs

GL 2.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $3,000 – 5,170 1995 Volkswagen Passat 1995 GL Pricing and Specs
GL VR6 2.8L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $3,100 – 5,280 1995 Volkswagen Passat 1995 GL VR6 Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist


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