2003 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8 turbo from North America


An expensive problem


The door handle has broken four times.

The rotors have become warped twice.

The trunk hydraulics became difficult to open.

The skid plate became loose at 8000 miles.

The brake lights got stuck on and would not turn off.

General Comments:

This car is nice looking and gives the appeal of an upper-class sedan, but with all the problems it has it is not a bargain.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 8th February, 2005

21st Mar 2005, 13:01

I am having similar problems with the brake light. It got stuck once, 2 yrs ago when it was months old. Now I have having the same problem; however the brake light will not come on and the fuse is not out.

How do you define broken door? I have had a cable lock replaced probably about 5 times now because the back door all of a sudden decides not to open. Are these similar problems?

Does anyone have any idea on why they are occuring? Thanks.

28th Sep 2005, 14:44

I have had the same brake light problem - lights not going out - on my '01 Jetta. It's defects in the switch in the brake pedal. I'm on my fourth switch in 3 years. Cheap Mexican plastic parts. This is a known service issue for VW dealers, but my dealer - who does all my servicing - is amazed to still be running into bad parts, the problem was supposed to have been solved a year ago.

17th Feb 2010, 08:17

My hydraulics are out in my trunk too. It is very hard to open and close.

2003 Volkswagen Passat Sport 1.8 20v turbo petrol from UK and Ireland


Smooth, comfy gas guzzling tank


Temperature gauge stopped working.

Passenger footwell trim fell off.

Intermittent misfire - dealer had it in twice and couldn't find anything wrong with it.

General Comments:

A nice car in many ways. It's big, elegant and still looks sharp even though they are everywhere now, and the design is getting on a bit. The interior design looks high quality and modern, and the performance from the 1.8 turbo engine is good.

I didn't like the steering which was too light and the brakes which were over-assisted to the point of being dangerous. Much less of a drivers car than the Peugeot 406 I had before, although it was a bit better built. Not as much so as the hype would have you believe though.

Some niggling faults, but basically reliable. Some of the trim quality and levels of fit and finish were not so good if you looked closely, despite a good, solid overall impression when you first get in the car.

The worst thing about the car though was the fuel consumption. Even on a motorway run at a steady 70-80, it wouldn't do much more than 28-30 mpg and around town it averaged 24. Not good enough for just 150 bhp really.

Generally an OK car, but like the 406 it does feel old hat now next to the Mondeo and Mazda 6. New model should be better.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 4th February, 2005

9th Feb 2005, 08:03

I had a Sapphire RS Cosworth before parenthood and "other priorities" forced me into more sensible machinery. That was a similar size to the Passat (a little smaller maybe), had 227 bhp and permanent 4wd, but would do 33 mpg at a steady 80 mph on the motorway. Admittedly, it would do as little as 14 mpg driven hard, but it didn't drink fuel when driven gently like the Passat does. When you consider there's 10 years engine development between them as well, it's even less impressive.

13th Sep 2005, 16:13

I have a 2002 1.8T Tiptronic Passat. Around town gives 27mpg and on the motorway (70-85) gives 36mpg.

And that's from an automatic.

Drive it hard and these figures drop by 5mpg. Climate control affects it by 2mpg.

Your mpg does sound quite low.

Fantastic cars though. Only thing i'd change mine for is an Audi A4.

11th Jun 2008, 10:34

My 03 Passat 1.8L also has had a "stuttering" problem which couldn't be identified. I just got a call from another dealer telling me the reason for the faults are because the following parts have gone bad and now need to be replaced:

Air Mass Meter and the Turbo Valve. Almost $800 total parts and labor. Check those parts on your VW. Maybe it will solve your problem as well and give you a smooth ride once again.

15th Oct 2008, 14:48

Hi I have got a 2003 1.8turbo passat. It is very good, apart from the water leak (which most suffer from and many couldnt fix, but I did). The fuel economy is good; around 30-33 mpg, and motorway 36, which is good.

11th Apr 2009, 03:04

Volkswagen thinks it's BMW or Mercedes. It's not, the cars are overrated and no better than Ford/Vauxhall etc. Expensive to repair costs only make things worse, thank god most cars are more reliable than a Volkswagen!