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2012 volkswagen passat

2012 Passat

Here is the story of the 2012 Volkswagen Passat ($23,975-$37,475): size matters.

While VW does a smaller and also all-new Passat in Europe and other markets, this Passat has been designed for full-size North American buyers and it's being built at a new VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. VW's idea here is to give buyers on this continent a front-drive Passat with enough space to stretch out in comfort.

Moreover, engine choices include VW's ubiquitous 2.5-litre, inline-five-cylinder, as well as VW's 2.0-litre, inline-four-cylinder diesel and a 3.6-litre V-6. Transmission choices include a six-speed automatic and a six-speed manual, too.

More than anything, what sets the Passat apart from the Honda Accords and Ford Fusions of the world is the available TDI diesel. No one else offers a diesel in the mid-size family class and while the horsepower number seems modest (140), the torque output at 235 lb-ft is almost the same as the V-6 in this lineup (280 hp and 258 lb-ft).

Will the all-new, made-in-America Passat catch on with North American buyers? If size matters and diesels resonate for fuel efficiency in the middle market, then yes.