New or Used: Fahrvergngen Incarnate?

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
We’re committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using links in our articles. Learn more here
new or used fahrvergngen incarnate

Joana writes:

I am sure you get this all of the time…my apologies in advance. I am replacing my VW Passat 2003 GLS. It was fun to drive, but had its issues as we all know. No sludge thank goodness. Several leaks! I would like a car that is comparable in drivability, (I have a manual but will buy an auto this time), but better in reliability, and perhaps greener. Tell me what to buy please! I have read the reviews, but they are all over the place….I wish you had a favorites list! Thank you.

Sajeev answers:

Telling you what to buy is never a good idea, recommendations followed by ample amounts of test driving is the only way to go. Any of the following cars will be more durable/reliable and cheaper to fix than your current ride, so no worries there. And probably my favorite “sleeper” for a displaced Passat nut is the Toyota Camry SE, it’s quite a well sorted sedan in a place you’d never expect. Obviously the V6 is the best for acceleration but not for fuel economy, and no love for the LE or XLE’s suspension tuning.

The Mazda 6 is another perennial favorite ’round these parts, and its not impossible to have fun in a Ford Fusion “Sport” or maybe even the Nissan Altima. But, at the end of the day, the first car I’d drive for a Passat replacement would be a Sonata: SE Turbo, in this case. Aside from the sweet performance, stellar warranty and decent price, the Turbo SE Sonata has something very VW about it: arguably the best interior appointments in its class and maybe the most impressive style for any family sedan. And it could be Fahrvergnügen incarnate!

Steve answers:

Sajeev pretty much nailed it.

I will add that a well chosen set of tires can go a long way towards making this ride a keeper. I’ve had some plebian rides in my younger days (1990 Geo Prizm anyone?) that all of a sudden felt that much more crisp and sporty thanks to investing in top of the line tires. Most tires from the factory wear out in about 20k to 30k. So you may want to keep an eye out for what other owners of your model do to make their ride more of a driver’s car.

The Hyundai SE Turbo is a top consideration. I’m not much for the Mercedes-esque cocoon like design. But it is definitely a strong value in the midsized market. The Camry SE is a bit too large and stale for my tastes. The Mazda 6 is kinda caught in your cross hairs and the Subaru Legacy is another entry that fits the bill of a ‘sporty’ midsized vehicle. We can throw in the Fusion SE into this mix as well. All of these vehicles will make you happy.

You’re pretty much buying an ‘interior’ and ‘driving feel’ in this segment. The best? More than likely it’s the Sonata Turbo. Good luck!

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

More by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

Join the conversation
3 of 43 comments
  • JMII JMII on Jul 12, 2011

    No love for the Volvo S40? If you've got a turbo Passat (like I do) then lack of the torque on the (4 cylinder) TSX will be a disappointment. The Mazda 6 I drove had the right feel, but mileage was less then stellar. The Volvo's interior is in the same league as the Passats. My parent just grabbed a Sonata Turbo, so I'll have a chance to give it a spin soon as a comparo - but on paper its engine is awesome... just curious to see if the interior is really as good as the picture above indicates.

    • NulloModo NulloModo on Jul 12, 2011

      I just don't see the major 'wow' factor in the new Hyundai Sonata interior. It looks pretty nice, and I haven't sat in a limited model yet, but we've had a couple of the new Sonatas traded in that I've had some seat time in and they aren't blowing me away. I'd still rank the Mazda6, Maxima, VW CC, and even the Kia Optima over the new Sonata.

  • Sam P Sam P on Jul 12, 2011

    Total dark horse, but a Mazda6 with the V6 engine. Alternatively, get a new Passat VR6. $29.8k MSRP.

  • EBFlex Pretty awesome this thread is almost universally against this pile of garbage. Tesla really missed the mark.
  • FreedMike I suppose that in some crowded city like Rome or Tokyo, there's a market for a luxurious pint-size car. I don't think they'll be able to give them away here in the U.S.
  • TMA1 How much did exchange rates affect this decision? The Renegade is imported from Italy. I'm wondering if that's what caused the price to reach within a few hundred of the much bigger Compass. Kind of a no-brainer to pick the larger, more modern vehicle.
  • CEastwood Everytime I see one of these I think there's a dummie who could have bought a real car , but has to say look at me driving this cool thing I can't drive in the rain like an actual motorcycle that I should have bought in the first place ! It's not Batman I see driving these - it's middle age Fatman .
  • SilverCoupe I should be the potential audience for this (current A5 owner, considering an S5 in the future), but I can't say it excites me. I have never liked the vertical bars in the grilles of sporting Mercedes models, for one thing. The interior doesn't speak to me either.I would be more likely to consider a BMW 4 Series, though not the current version with the double Edsel grille. Still, I suppose it would be worth a look when the time comes to replace my current vehicle.