Midsize car; Built in Germany
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $1,800*

1990 Volkswagen Passat GL 4-door sedan

1991 Volkswagen Passat GL 4-door wagon

1990 Volkswagen Passat GL 4-door sedan

1993 Volkswagen Passat GLX 4-door sedan

1993 Volkswagen Passat interior

  • Acceleration (V6)
  • Optional antilock brakes
  • Handling/roadholding
  • Traction control (V6)
  • Passenger and cargo room
  • Automatic-transmission performance (4 cyl)
  • Noise
  • Ride (GLX)

Roomy and competent, the 1990-94 Passat can be a good choice in a well-equipped compact sedan or wagon, if you can live with the ride harshness and tire noise.


Ranking as VW’s biggest car, Passat was available as either a 4-door sedan or 4-door station wagon, in a single GL trim level. Power came from either a twin-cam, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard on the sedan, with 4-speed automatic optional. Wagons had the automatic as standard. Four-wheel disc brakes were standard on both body styles, while antilock braking was among the few options.

Yearly Updates

1991 Passat
Power-window switches moved from their original vertical position on door panels, to an easier-to-reach spot on the horizontal surface of the door armrest. An automatic-transmission gear-indicator display was added to the instrument cluster.
1992 Passat
Joining the original GL trim level was a new entry-grade CL sedan with the 4-cylinder engine.
1993 Passat
A new 4-cylinder GLS Passat became the midlevel model, and the entry-level CL disappeared, making GL the base version. The new line-topping GLX came with Volkswagen’s first V6. Called VR6 it displaced 2.8-liters and made 172 horsepower. Traction control also arrived for 1993, only in GLX V6 sedans and wagons. In addition to a slightly different front-end look with integrated fog lamps, the GLX got 215/50HR15 tires on new 6-spoke alloy wheels. All models gained a multifunction trip computer and CFC-free air conditioning.
1994 Passat
Only V6 Passats went on sale in 1994, in top-line GLX trim.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Two engines have been available in Passats: a 134- horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with dual-overhead camshafts; or a 2.8-liter V6 that developed 172 horsepower. Only the 4-cylinder model was offered until 1993, and only the V6 in ’94. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard; 4-speed automatic optional.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 134
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 133
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.8/170
Engine HP 172
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 177
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

Early automatic transmissions are downright ill-mannered, shifting with unpleasant harshness and responding sluggishly. Too bad, because with the 4-cylinder engine, a Passat accelerates with some briskness, even with automatic. A GLX with the V6 is faster still. Smooth and responsive, the V6 does produce a lot of low-end torque for good acceleration from low speeds. More important, with the V6 engine, the Passat’s automatic transmission operates much more smoothly. Fuel economy with the 4-cylinder engine is exceptional, and average for the V6.

A taut suspension delivers a stable feel and nimble handling, though the ride grows nasty on rough spots. It’s a little softer in 1994 models, but we also noticed some floatiness over high-speed dips. All Passats handle capably, but the GLX corners like a sport sedan. Though power steering demands rather high effort at parking speeds, it’s quick and precise at higher velocities. One major negative: Road and wind noise are troublesome.

Four passengers have plenty of room, but the back-seat isn’t wide enough for three large folks. Leg space is ample front and rear, and 6-footers enjoy good head room. Not merely ample, the sedan’s trunk borders on cavernous in size. Folding down one or both rear seatbacks creates even more space. Controls are well laid out and easy to reach. Visibility is good. Optional antilock braking provides strong stopping power and excellent control.


Model Tested: 1992 Volkswagen Passat GL auto

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 4


Value - 4

Total: 47


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.3 180.0 67.1 56.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.4 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.6 37.4 43.6 35.3
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.3 179.9 67.1 58.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
68.9 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.0 39.0 43.6 35.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1993 Passat 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 2
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 146
Injury 110
Theft 161

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: Models equipped with a variable-displacement A/C compressor may not cool properly due to restrictions in the system. (1993-94)
Coolant leak
Description: A low-coolant-level malfunction can be the result of the wrong concentration of antifreeze or a bad coolant sensor. (1990-94)
Hard starting
Description: No-starts or stalling may be traced to a faulty power relay to the engine-control computer. (1994)
Rough idle
Description: Backfires due to faulty plugs dislodge the idle control damper from the rear of the VR6 engine causing rough, or no idle. (1992-94)
Tire wear
Description: Uneven tire wear may be due to too much toe-in. A replacement rear stub axle is available. (1990-93)
Description: A broken wire between the alternator and warning light causes intermittent charging. (1992)

Recall History

Description: If engine operates continuously in overheated condition, hot coolant might escape.
1990-92 w/16-valve engine and California emission controls
Description: Tube in throttle-valve housing can loosen and fall, preventing throttle plate from returning to full idle; results in unwanted engine speed when car goes into gear.
Description: Lock nuts may break and allow front axles to separate from struts, which can cause vehicle to pull to side and may result in loss of control.
1993-94 w/VR6 engine
Description: Radiator-fan-motor shaft could wear, get noisy and seize, making fan inoperative and eventually causing engine to overheat and stall.

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