2003 Volkswagen Passat V5 2.3 (170bhp) from UK and Ireland




Ignition coil.

Throttle body.

ABS sensor.

Water leak into passenger foot well, causing ECU fault.

CD changer fault.

Dash lights went out.

Headlight internals dropped out, causing the light to aim at the floor.

Driver's heated seat packed up.

General Comments:

By far the most unreliable, under powered, dull handling car I have ever owned. It was never purchased to be a sports car, but it should have been a fairly quickish, reliable family bus.

The V5 engine is well under powered for such a heavy vehicle. This is made worse by the fact you cannot carry any speed through the corners. Over taking is a long drawn out affair, normally requiring dropping down two cogs to make this barge of car start to move.

If Volkswagen had managed to install a well sorted reliable lump into this car, as well as sorting out the suspension, it would be a lovely place to be; the seats are comfortable, and on the top models like the V5, there are plenty of creature comforts.

However Volkswagen didn't, and after many reliability issues, costly repairs and the nagging thought that for the performance I should have bought the diesel version, the car has gone.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 20th April, 2011

20th Apr 2011, 13:54

Another resounding example of that infamous German engineering! Par for the course.

30th Apr 2013, 17:50

I agree, it's the most crap car ever. I have put 3 coils in, and that's just in a week. Now 1 has blown up. What the hell? Also, I reckon 4th gear is going.

2003 Volkswagen Passat GLX 2.8 V6 from North America


Exhaust flex pipe connected to converter needed to be replaced at 92,000 miles. Mesh around flex pipe rotted due to high amount of salt used in upstate NY roads. $120 fix at independent mechanic.

General Comments:

Absolutely wonderful car that replaced my 2008 Cobalt SS that was a nightmare. Bought with approximately 87,000 miles on it.

The GLX has every feature you can imagine. Leather seats are a dream in terms of comfort. Being tall (6'5"), finding a vehicle with ample legroom is difficult. The B5.5 Passat has plenty of legroom, and plenty of legroom in backseat with front seat all the way back. An adult can easily sit behind me.

Black interior with wood-grained accents looks great, and the blue & red lighting looks awesome at night.

Exterior appearance is classy with smooth lines. I do have a small spot of rust starting on rear hatch, near license plate lights. Will address after this winter.

Rear hatch gets very stubborn and hard to open. Applying graphite to shocks seems to loosen them up to make them manageable. I need to apply a small amount of graphite and work them up and down about every three months.

I have had to replace one rear brake light. Wasn't hard, but also wasn't convenient to replace. Cannot detach outer light assembly for easy replacement. You need to open a small access panel in trunk to get access to the circuit board to replace.

Drain holes under battery and from sunroof can become plugged. If so, water can come into glove box and/or right side floor of car. I noticed a small amount of water in glove box, so I cleaned the drain holes under battery box and problem solved.

I have an upcoming appointment to replace timing belt and water pump. It's a few miles over for this preventative job, but I'd rather replace now than after a break. I'd recommend replacing the water pump when installing a new timing belt, as the pump has plastic fins which can break down. Replacement pumps have metal fins. As the Passat has an interference engine (like most vehicles now), you want to replace at the recommended interval to avoid additional damage if the belt goes (avoiding valve job).

Living in a very snowy area (about 150" per year), there are high amounts of salt used on our roads. There is no rust underneath on the tub or frame, which surprised me. The only rust I have noticed is mentioned above, which should be an easy fix.

I have noticed that service prices at the dealer are high, but I don't understand why many don't use independent shops for repairs. The parts cost are not any higher than other domestic or Japanese vehicles I have owned. Dealers are typically was overpriced.

The car is simply fun to drive. From the smooth exterior, the toys and comfort of the interior, to the great handling, it is by far the most fun vehicle I have owned. That shocks me to a degree, as this is the first used vehicle I have purchased in 15 years. I was typically buying new every three years prior. The short story on the reason I purchased my Passat is I was coming off a lease on a Trailblazer, and in addition had a lemon in my Cobalt, so I decided to get something new. I couldn't decide on what new vehicle I wanted, when I came across this VW and decided to purchase it as a bridge until I decided on what new vehicle I wanted. Now a year and a half later, I've been so happy with this VW that I decided not to get anything.

I would definitely recommend this VW. This is my first VW (have owned mostly Chevrolet in the past, and one Mercedes, Kia, Ford, Dodge and Nissan) and would definitely consider another in five years when I get the new car fever again.

I did quite a bit of research regarding the Passat before I decided to purchase. One main recommendation I have is avoid the 1.8T GL and GLS models. The 1.8T is prone to oil sludge. That carries over to the 1.8T Audi's, as well. Same engine. A smaller note is that you can only run premium fuel in the Passat. I believe the minimum octane is 91, which is hard to find around here, it's either 87, 89 or 93. It runs great with 93.

Other than that, and this applies to any used vehicle you're considering, make sure to have a trusted mechanic give it a thorough inspection before you purchase.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 12th February, 2011

13th Feb 2011, 17:00

Replacement parts for a VW are definitely more expensive than for domestic brands, no matter where the parts are sourced. There is no comparison, and yes sourcing parts from the dealer is definitely the worst place.

29th Mar 2011, 01:36

Yes, you are right with VW not being cheap... I just traded my Passat 2001 with only 132K for the Mitsubishi Lancer.

Too many problems with my Passat:

At 115.000 Km, replaced tie end rod + wheel alignment $1500.

At 117.000 Km, trans axle $450.

Heat broke, VW said replace heater core $1200 + tax, 9 hour job, they need to take all the cabin out, then put it back; heater core cost only $110.

At 130.000 Km, replace thermostat $450.

At 132.00 Km, engine oil leak somewhere, cannot find the leak, add half a litre of oil to the engine every month, smell oil when turn on the fan in the cabin, it is like you are in the engine room of the boat. I cannot drive the car with NO HEAT and smelling of oil, + feeling like I am in the boat's engine room.

So decided to go back with Mitsubishi, I got a Galant for 5 years, just oil change and maintenance as needed, and drive. I DID NOT SPEND ANY PENNY TO REPAIR MY GALANT DURING THE 5 YEARS UP TO 140.000 KM... From 2004 until now Mitsubishi give you a 10 year warranty/ 160.000 Km compared to VW 4 years / 80.000 Km.. So that means VW knows about how bad their car is, huh!!!

If I get a chance, I want to invite the CEO of VW come to Vancouver Canada (I can buy a ticket + hotel) to drive my Passat, which is his product sale in Canada, and I'll buy a Galant to give to him as a gift, so he can bring the Galant back to Germany, and learn how the Japanese they make their cars... even the Audis are also junk... How they said "German Engineer" Kakaka... that's funny...

No more VWs in this life... Next life... No MORE.

Even they give me one... I won't take it...

18th Jul 2013, 06:04

Why would you pay 450 for a thermostat?? It's easy to replace yourself. Just did my Jeep, think it was 8 dollars for the new one.