Where to start?
The little Passat is a fun car to drive, when running properly. I think that the German engineering that went into the engine and transmission make them needlessly complex and expensive to maintain, but the appeal is undeniable. The medium-sized sedan rockets forward and hugs corners like a much smaller car. Even after 150K miles the little motor has no problems passing the onerous California Emissions Control test. Last weekend she zipped the family up to San Francisco from LA and back again without a complaint. The car was loaded and the AC was on, so I took the steepest hills at about 50MPH, but it could've gone faster.
Sadly, it's the chassis that drops the ball on an otherwise stellar drivetrain. The poor car has been absolutely plagued by electrical problems. There is a fuse that keeps popping, and the dealer wants to charge me $85 just to look at it, they won't even guarantee that they can locate or fix the problem. The ignition went bad and I forget the dealer quote, but it was so high that I installed a button inside the car to activate the starter rather than have them fix it. (To be honest, an independent mechanic would've been cheaper) The front passenger window kept making rapid, thumping noises as it constantly tried to roll up, even though it already was rolled up and no one was fiddling with it. Eventually it burned itself out and now won't budge.
The car has it's share of physical maladies as well. The thermostat housing cracked twice as apparently it's made of plastic. That's not the thermostat, which I consider normal wear and tear, but the HOUSING that's cracked twice, and subsequently dumped all the coolant onto the street. The driver's door window regulator broke three times causing the glass to fall into the door with a bang. Even the dealer can't seem to fix the issue properly. Even now, the window grinds and pops and will not fully close. The rear doors do not open from the outside. The dealer charged us to lubricate the door handle mechanisms, and they worked for a few months, then they slowly got stickier until altogether failing again. The hood popped up and smashed the windshield on my wife ala "Tommy Boy." I blamed the kid figuring that he must not have latched it securely after checking the oil level. But it did it again, and I know that I slammed it down tight. The latch had failed.
Many of these problems are the result of cheap materials. The cup holder is made from flimsy plastic that seems designed to break at the slightest provocation, and then placed right in the passenger footwell for maximum exposure. The headliner is decent cloth, but the glue was cheap and apparently just gave up allowing the headliner to fall. The wing mirror glass was apparently affixed the same way because it just fell off. My wife shut the driver's door one day, and the passenger side mirror fell off and shattered. A few weeks later the driver's side fell off while she was driving.
Then, of course, there is the cost of maintenance. Oil changes are like any car, but most shops do not carry the correct oil filter, or if they do they will charge you more for it. The tires can be tricky to find in the correct size. Pep Boys didn't carry the right ones, neither did Costco. When found, they can cost a bit more than standard sizes. The brakes require some special VW tool, not a big deal unless you already took the brakes apart without knowing. Really, that's about it. Average, just a little pricier.
I feel like I am doing the little sedan a disservice by having nothing but bad things to say about it. So now for the positives: The seats are nice. They have a crappy knob to roll the back part forward or backward; most cars have a much more sensible lever. But they are comfy on long trips, and the leather has held up for 150K miles. The engine is a gem, even after all these miles she can make you smile. The whole reason for buying the car is that my wife wanted that germanic snob appeal, and that is alive and well. From the outside the car still looks sharp, the paint is top notch and didn't fade or rot like many American cars of the same age did. Peek inside and the interior still looks great.
The best comparison I can make is that the car is like Demi Moore. At her peak she was highly sought after for both her looks and prestige. Now she is old and worn out, but still retains a hint of the features that made her desirable in the first place. The entry price has come down to a more reasonable level now that the prestige is gone. But the costs to keep her looking good will still break the bank.