2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI Diesel: Review Roundup

Volkswagen Passat TDI diesel 2012
photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America

Shopping for a 2012 clean diesel car and thinking about the Volkswagen Passat TDI? Here’s a summary of major reviews of the vehicle to help you decide. Be sure to leave a comment at the bottom if you have questions, or something to add!

The 2.0 turbocharged diesel inline 4 engine in the 2012 Volkswagen Passat has a dazzling EPA fuel economy rating of 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway. Although many may find that it lacks punch on initial acceleration, it’s been clocked at 9.1 seconds in the 0-60 mph test.

The Diesel Driver — 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Review and Report

 The Diesel Driver wrote, “I found the Passat TDI to be an excellent Autobahn cruiser.  Expansion joints, bumps, and potholes go practically unnoticed. Passengers will not be disturbed. It is Verboten.”

It was the torque that they really liked. “Ultimately, it’s the torque of the diesel engine we’re after, not the horsepower, and the omnipresent 236 pound-feet available to the driver made overtaking on highways something to look forward to,” they continued.

They called the interior of the Passat “high end.” “Fit and finish is excellent and outclasses what one finds in other VWs.  The comfortable seats with suede seating surfaces are quite suitable for backpain-free longer drives,” they praised. They also noted that the car is a little longer and that helps with additional legroom in the front and rear.

They did find a problem with a missing safety feature. “…the lack of a telematics solution that includes ACN (automatic collision notification) and SOS/emergency calling is a glaring omission.” But they were happy to report that Volkswagen had signed an agreement with Hughes Telematics to provide those services starting with the 2013 model year.

They conclude that the SEL Premium diesel model is “$755 less than the petrol variant and, in addition to these savings, the buyer gets 35% better fuel economy (43 mpg/5.47 l/100 km versus 28 mpg/8.4 l/100 km) while giving up a mere 22 pound-feet of torque. While the V-6 has more horsepower (280 v. 140), it’s still a fair match.  While the V-6 will clearly be appreciably faster off the line, the TDI can go 800 miles (1,287 km) between fill-ups.”

Car and Driver — 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE

Car and Driver liked the torque of the car as well as the EPA fuel economy ratings and they found the cruising range of the car when the 18.5 gallon gas tank is taken into account to be 670 miles.

They cautioned, “If you plan on purchasing a Passat TDI, order it with the manual transmission. The dual-clutch automatic is an awkward match with the diesel engine.”

They found good and bad things about the ride. “…the TDI is an excellent highway cruiser. … Cornering is less rewarding…. The TDI feels nose-heavy, and the steering is slow to respond to driver inputs. But the brakes offer easy modulation and a commendable 178-foot 70-to-0 stopping distance (13 feet shorter than the six-cylinder).”

C&D noted that the initial acceleration could be better. “A 0-to-60 time of 8.6 seconds is decent, too, but the quarter-mile figure of 16.8 seconds at 83 mph reflects the patience required to cope with the car’s meager 140 horsepower.”

They praised the interior trim, including a brushed aluminum-look trim along the beltline, soft touch plastic that covered the dashboard,  and the touchscreen radio.

They concluded, “Meanwhile, the TDI quietly achieves something we have yet to experience in a hybrid — better-than-promised fuel economy. It’s the sort of thing we wish other car companies were eager to copy.”

MotorWeek — 2012 Volkswagen Passat: Road Test

MotorWeek began their piece with this, “In the highly competitive mid-size family sedan segment, the Volkswagen Passat has always been a fun-to-drive choice. But, its too-small-size and too-big-price have kept sales more in the enthusiast realm, more so than in the mainstream. But for 2012, Volkswagen is looking to change that with a bigger, less expensive Passat that’s got Camry and Accord squarely in its sights.”

The new Passat is longer than the previous model.  “The expansion allows for a huge trunk that holds 15.9-cubic feet of cargo; that’s over 1-cubic foot more than the Honda Accord. And rear seat backs fold 60/40 to accommodate long and bulky items,” they discovered.

They found that the interior continued to hold the “classic VW sporting flare,” that space was not an issue, the seats were “incredibly comfortable” and the gauges were big and well-hooded. They also liked the Fender audio system. They described the exterior as “more classy than flashy.”

When it comes to the engine, they stated: “our choice for everyday is the available 2.0-liter TDI turbo diesel.” And they described the diesel as a “joy” to drive. “While cornering is pretty solid, the ride is on the soft side, and things can get a little floaty over big bumps. Steering however, is light and delightfully quick, helping the Passat to feel smaller than it is,” they said.

MotorWeek concluded: “It’s roomy, affordable, and can drive rings around Camry and Accord. We like it a lot.”

2012 VW Passat Clean Diesel TDI Review Summary

In conclusion, the consensus appears to be:


  • The price
  • Great fuel economy
  • Excellent cruiser
  • Responsive steering
  • Solid chassis
  • Solid and predictable brakes
  • Great torque
  • High-end interior
  • Excellent fit and finish
  • Comfortable seats
  • Decent space front and rear
  • Quiet
  • Great range
  • Larger than previous models
  • Fender Audio System


  • Lacks telematic safety features
  • Dual-clutch automatic awkward match with diesel engine
  • Cornering “less rewarding”
  • Feels nose heavy
  • Slowish acceleration
  • Bumpy shifts

Do you own this car, or have you driven one? What’s your take?

Leave a comment and help out the people who are researching this car!

2 thoughts on “2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI Diesel: Review Roundup”

  1. 2012 Passat TDi is having a huge demand in the Chinese market as it has come equipped with a new diesel engine, that assures to provide improved performance and fuel economy ratings.

  2. We have owned: a 1995 524 td BMW, several Mercedes E diesel, as well as four Jetta tdi. I can assure you that, for the money, our
    current 2012 Passat tdi SEL surpasses all previous automobiles by far.

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