From The Hip
+ Great powertrain, untouchable value
- Navigation should be standard across the board

Every once in while, a car comes out of nowhere and really surprises us. Sometimes it's with unexpected performance or aesthetics that worked better once we witnessed them in three dimensions rather than in pictures. Other times-with this Passat, for example-it's incredible value for money.

We weren't expecting much from a base Passat. We've been really impressed with our specced-out 3.6L 4Motion, so after that, a stripped-out four-cylinder could be a letdown. But this Passat almost seems like a completely different car-lighter and more nimble. The 2.0T's instantaneous torque means thrust at will and, coupled with the manual transmission, is loads of tire-smoking fun.

It isn't quite as classy our 3.6, but still impresses with solid build quality and overall appearance. The suspension is stiff enough to be fun on freeway ramps, yet compliant for long drives with passengers. This isn't a sports car by any means, but not far off a sport sedan.

The biggest shock is the price. Our tester, with a thoroughly enjoyable manual gearbox and heated seats, came in under $25,000. There isn't another European sedan at this price that comes even close. Surprisingly, the only real competition comes from VW's own Jetta. The decision will ultimately come down to how much space is required.-Michael Febbo

2008 VW Passat 2.0T

*Layout
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
*Engine
2.0-liter inline four, dohc, 16-valve, turbocharged, direct injection
*Transmission
Six-speed manual
*Performance
Peak Power: 200 hp @ 5100 rpm
Peak Torque: 207 lb-ft @1800 rpm
0-60 mph: 6.9 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph
Fuel Economy: 21/29

Price as tested: $24,905

By Mike Febbo
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