COAL: 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S – Dad Trades In His First Honda

In my farewell post to dad’s 2006 Taurus, I used the past tense to talk about his 2013 Honda Civic coupe. That was intentional, because he traded it in at the tail end of 2017. This was a pretty crazy move for dad. But to fully understand why you’re gonna need some context.

Year/Make/ModelYears OwnedMiles When Purchased/Miles When Sold Or JunkedColorReason For Selling Or Junking
1986 VW Golf 5 door1986-2000<20k / 380kWhitetransmission failure / end of useful life
1989 Chevy Celebrity sedan1993-2001<20k / 280kWhiteheadgasket failure / end of useful life
1989 Ford Taurus wagon2001-2004*100k / 190kWhite*given to son in 2003 / junked in 2004 due to heater core failure / end of useful life
1990 Buick Regal coupe2002-2010approx. 70k / 190kBlueend of useful life
2003 VW Golf 3 door2003-2010*<15k / 76kWhite*daughter's car until 2007 / didn't like it
2006 Ford Taurus sedan2007-201710k / 176kWhiteboredom?
2013 Honda Civic coupe2017-201746k / 50kBluedidn't like it
2016 Volkswagen Passat sedan2017-present8k Whiten/a

This table highlights something I didn’t really understand until I got older: dad generally purchased younger cars and drove them until they outlived their usefulness. The Taurus and Regal, purchased about a year apart from each other and at higher mileages than his previous vehicles, were partial exceptions to the rule. But they fit right in with the other vehicles for one simple reason: they were good deals.

The ’86 VW? Former rental that a friend had on his lot, when his friend was still alive and operated a small used car dealership. The Chevy belonged to a manager as a company car, which then became available for others to purchase after the lease expired. He found all the others via newspaper, or in more recent times, online using his iPad.

The Honda was no different. But the Civic was obviously an aberration due to the short period in which he owned it. To understand why dad ultimately didn’t keep the coupe, let’s explore the reasons why he sold the 2003 Volkswagen Golf at a relatively young 76,000 miles.

This picture was taken when I was too dumb to understand the pointlessness of hiding a license plate and too lazy to grab a screwdriver. It also highlights a major problem area that still impacts the Golf : the giant C pillars. Dad and I never fully warmed up to the VW because of how much visibility is lost in that section.

Another problem area with the Golf was its lack of power. I believe the nickname for this engine is “two point slow,” which is accurate. The little hatchback could never get out of its own way, and as an added insult, almost never surpassed 30 miles per gallon.

The Golf also presented itself as a typical VAG product by being trouble prone in a few areas. The coil pack failed at about 70,000 miles, and the entire antenna and some of the related electronics also stopped functioning properly. Both were annoyingly expensive to replace. And the car killed brake light bulbs every couple of months.

All of those issues ultimately motivated dad to sell the car. So what went wrong with the Honda?

The first issue involved dad rubbing the Civic up against the side of the garage. At that point he had already started to realize just how hard it is to see out of the damn thing. Then he decided to rely on the backup camera to judge how the sides of the car were lining up with the garage when backing in, resulting in the damage you see above.

While its obvious dad didn’t use the backup camera as the engineers at Honda intended, its not hard to figure out why he thought it was a more preferable alternative to looking out the window.

The Civic’s long doors also made ingress and egress more difficult when the car was in the garage. The placement of the support beam is not something either of us even considered when looking at the Honda and I suspect a lot of people overlook similar issues when they’re out car shopping. The Passat, like all the other four door cars before it, handles the situation just fine.

Honda’s two-tier dash setup eventually wore on dad as well. The design does a great job at making you feel small in a car that is already a bit compact. Not a good quality.

Honda also equips some (maybe all?) of their cars with a “cold engine” light, a warning indicator that activates when you start the car in cold temperatures. Let’s just say dad didn’t uh, “warm up” to the big and bright blue light that turned on every time he got in the car.

Last but certainly not least, papa Snitkoff felt that the Honda just didn’t have enough power. I briefly discussed this in my COAL about the 2006 Taurus, and several commenters pointed out that all he needed to do was to step on the gas a bit to get it going. While I agree with that assessment, its important to remember that car ownership relies on emotion more than we’d like to admit. In other words, perception is reality, and if dad thinks the car lacks oomph, then its true.

Despite taking his time in searching for a newer car, when dad finally got around to actually check something out, he rushed right into it. It would be extremely hypocritical for me to criticize him for putting the horse before the cart though, because I did the same exact thing when I decided to acquire my Focus. The key difference is that after five years of ownership I still enjoy my car very much.

Dad didn’t let me know he was actively looking for a car until he approached me about a Certified Pre-Owned Passat he saw on Mohegan Lake VW’s website. A 2016 1.8T S with 8,000 miles on it with an asking price of $14,000. A quick bit of research indicated that their price was the lowest around, so I endorsed his decision to check it out.

My suspicion that Dad would get an unsatisfactory offer for the Civic went unfounded, fortunately. They valued the Honda at $8500, which I think was more than fair, especially considering the damage over the rear wheel well.

As for the Passat, dad took the car for a spin and liked it quite a bit. So did I. He ended up getting the car for $13,600, a very good number considering its CPO status and condition. Its essentially a brand new car.

Almost 1,000 words in and not a single shot of the car itself? Its probably overdue, so here it is in all its glory. VW deserves some criticism for sticking to conservative designs, but you really can’t argue with results. This is a good looking car and its going to age gracefully.

The S model is the base trim for the Passat, but VW decided to give it some niceties like alloy wheels, body colored mirrors and bumpers, and a tasteful amount of chrome. The end result is a lineup that doesn’t explicitly give off an inexpensive vibe.

Inside the story remains the same. Materials quality is very good, a tick more premium than a 2016 Fusion and substantially superior to the Honda. The next door neighbor, who owns a 2017 Accord, said in a somewhat exasperated tone, that “Honda really cheapened out on the Accord Sport” after sitting in the Volkswagen. Coming from a Honda convert, that’s high praise.

Aesthetically, the cabin is decidedly VW. No video game style two tier dash here. Just a nice, simple design.

The Passat S comes equipped with a 5″ touch screen that is pretty easy to operate. Surprisingly, my technologically impaired father adjusted to the setup rather quickly. And it also features Bluetooth, a USB port, and automatic dual-zone climate control. Not bad for a base model.

According to the window sticker, there were two options checked for dad’s Passat. A first aid kit we have yet to locate, and the Volkswagen CarGo Protection System. This nifty kit contains a plethora of plastic partitions that allow the owner to position goods so they don’t roll all over the place when the car is in motion. The pieces just Velcro right to the trunk mat, and they seem sturdy enough to hold a decent amount of sundries in place.

As for the human cargo management system, its damn good. The seats are comfortable and well bolstered. And the car is roomy to the extreme. The front seat is obviously adjusted for dad, who is 5′ 10″ and about 200 pounds. The both of us have space to spare, and you can see that in the above picture, with my knees being at least six inches away from the back of his seat. It’s a really cavernous setup.

When it comes to driving dynamics, the Passat is basically VW’s take on the Camry. Does that mean its bad? No. In fact its quite the opposite. The VW’s suspension is confident over road imperfections and displays competency around corners. But unlike more explicitly German products, the Passat definitely sacrifices some handling for comfort. What it also lacks is the typically heavier steering of older Volkswagen models. This is where the Passat comes closest to resembling the Camry. That being said, the VW handles better than its size would suggest, and it ultimately feels like a smaller car.

The Passat is essentially an American sedan with German roots. Ironically, if you want a more European driving experience, the Fusion is the better choice. The steering is heavier and provides better feedback, and the Ford displays more eagerness through the twisties.

Volkswagen also engineered a very refined and well behaved powertrain. The six speed auto produces extremely crisp shifts that feel almost as quick as the dual clutch setup that I’ve got in my Focus. And for the most part the 1.8 turbo works well with this setup. Take-offs were sometimes inconsistent, and I’m going to chalk it up to turbo lag. It’s really not that noticeable and I doubt its much of an issue once you get used to it.

Because no car is perfect, the Passat does have some shortcomings. The driver’s LCD display mirrors the type of low resolution found throughout a whole range of modern vehicles. While my Focus doesn’t have the capability to show audio information on its screen, its a full color unit that produces a much clearer image for the driver. The basic black and white displays should have probably been retired by now.

And there is evidence of cost cutting in the Passat. One such area is the rear shelf, which is fully plastic. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, but over bumps it rattles. My neighbor’s 2017 Accord Sport has a plastic shelf and it also makes noises over road imperfections. In both cases I believe the plastic doesn’t interact well with the rear glass, possibly due to temperature changes causing the shelving to expand or contract. Are both men bothered by the rattles? No, because neither of them can hear it. I guess hearing loss occasionally produces unexpected benefits.

If dad decides he wants to take it in to be looked at, there is no need for him to hurry. The CPO bumper-to-bumper warranty expires in 2021. And the current generation seems pretty reliable.

And those previously mentioned weak points are fairly minor. Overall, the Passat is an extremely good sedan and its made me reconsider a brand I had written off some time ago.

Sometimes a person needs to step outside their comfort zone to find out what they truly desire. With dad’s purchase of the 2016 Passat, he has found a true successor to the Taurus. And while dad’s 2017 automotive journey ended up being far more expensive than some sort of spiritual or emotional epiphany, the results were just as significant. He once again has a car that excites him beyond a superficial level. I predict nothing but smiles and smooth sailing for years to come.

Related Reading:

COAL: 2006 Ford Taurus SEL

COAL: 2013 Honda Civic EX Coupe