Welcome to Depreciation Appreciation, a regular column where we dig up an instance of how depreciation can make for an extraordinary used car deal.

Today, we’re looking at one of the most modest large sedans on the road. The Volkswagen Passat is a vehicle highly worthy of consideration by the used car shopper who wants a fuel-efficient car that’s comfortable for the long haul, has enough space to spare, and offers a simple, elegant, and tidy cabin.

A used Passat of this vintage (2012–2019) will offer numerous engine options including both gasoline and diesel turbocharged four-cylinder units and a 280-horsepower V6.

If it’s in your budget, a 2016 or newer model would be an ideal pick, as an overhaul that year added new styling, a slew of new safety gear, and plenty of the latest connectivity tech.

A big draw to the Passat? It’s big, comfortable, quiet, and easy on fuel. For many drivers, this lays the foundation for a relaxing and laid-back cruiser that’ll squeeze many kilometres from a tank.

Owners say the tidy cabin, simple-to-use tech, and upscale features were key purchase factors. Several awards from industry authorities celebrating the Passat’s value, comfort, and safety helped many shoppers gain confidence in the purchase decision.

Engines and Features

All models were four-door, five-seat sedans with front-wheel drive. The 280-horsepower V6 is a lovely engine with plenty of power, but it’s thirsty. Earlier units may have a 2.5-litre five-cylinder, while newer ones got a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. A diesel four-cylinder engine was available as well. The Passat was quiet and smooth, but four-cylinder models were not the fastest.

Features included automatic lights and climate control, heated leather seats, a premium stereo system, push-button start, power seats, a sunroof, a smart-key system, adaptive cruise control, a full driver computer, and plenty more.

Approximate New Value

Depending on the trim grade and equipment level, new Passat pricing ranged from the mid-20s up towards about $40,000 when new.

Approximate Used Value

Today, the Passat commands reasonable used pricing, especially given the upscale driving experience and what seems to be relatively solid reliability as used models age.

Here’s a used model with TDI power and modestly high mileage that puts one of the thriftiest big sedans on the road at your disposal for about $10,000. And here’s another example with TDI power and even lower mileage. Looking to upgrade your daily long-distance commute? Both of these sedans will turn in very small fuel bills and provide comfortable cruising.

If you’re not afraid of some mileage or if you’re comfortable performing some maintenance and upkeep on your own, high-mileage units like this one can be had for under $8,000 all day long.

Those with a higher budget can consider near-new models like this, with pricing around the high-teens.

Remember, the real value on a used Passat comes not only from its depreciated price and upscale drive, but also its use of long-proven drivelines, engines, and electronics. Much of Passat’s componentry is well established from plenty of use in various other models, so VW had a lot of time to work out any issues.

As such, a unit that’s been properly cared for and properly inspected before you buy should turn in minimal risk of surprises.

Test Drive Tips

Start your test drive by approaching any used Passat assuming it needs a full tune-up, fluid change, new tires, new brakes, and a new clutch (if equipped with manual transmission). Work backwards from an expectation standpoint and assume you’ll need to spend money on all of the above until you have proof to the contrary.

At a minimum, all units should be subjected to an electronic diagnostic scan, which can quickly reveal sensor and electronics-related issues with the engine or powertrain. A diagnostic scan like this is an excellent idea before you buy any car and becomes even more important if you happen to see a Check Engine Light (CEL) or notice any sluggish or jerky performance on your test drive.

Ask your local dealer to see if any outstanding software updates need to be applied to the vehicle you’re considering, as these can help improve vehicle operation. If you’re buying a used Passat that’s been regularly serviced by a dealership (which is highly advised), then these software updates have likely been taken care of already.

Finally, check the alloy wheels for signs of corrosion or bubbling on their finish, and be sure to triple check all steering-wheel-mounted controls including the horn several times on your test drive. Any issues with control functionality, possibly accompanied by an airbag warning light, may indicate the need to replace the steering wheel’s clock-spring, which facilitates the electrical connection to the controls mounted to it.

The Verdict

The majority of Passat owners seem to be enjoying a fuss-free sedan that’s comfortable, spacious, and easy on fuel, provided you skip the V6 engine. Problems reported seem fairly rare and are mostly minor, meaning that shoppers can buy confidently after a satisfactory Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) by a qualified technician to confirm proper vehicle health.