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Ranking the Best and Worst Volkswagen Models for 2020

Reviewing the 2020 Volkswagen Lineup

Volkswagen Arteon front 3/4 view

With Dieselgate now but a memory, the largest German car maker is free to continue on its path for dominance across the globe’s markets. After a record-breaking year in 2017 when the brand marketed 6.23 million cars across the globe and the Volkswagen Group’s 11 subsidiary divisions marketed as many as 10.74 million vehicles, the Germans have to be pleased with another record-breaking year in 2018. The VW brand has marketed almost 6.25 million (6,244,900) models worldwide in 2018 despite the fact their most important market has actually deflated by 2.1 percent. Despite that setback, Chinese market sales amounted to nearly half the brand’s global production at 3.1 million units. South American markets have yet again come through with a 13.1 percent increase in total sales this time around. Considering the Germans have managed to put themselves in a strong position, this trend is expected to carry over into 2019 and 2020 as well. This time we’ll focus on the 2020 Volkswagen lineup.

Despite the positives, things haven’t exactly gone right for one of the most recognized German car brands in North American markets. Sales there fell from 591,600 units in 2017 to 573,800 vehicles in 2018 which is a downturn of exactly 3 percent. The U.S. market on its own has been kinder towards the Germans, however. Here, their sales actually grew by more than 4 percent from 339,676 vehicles in 2017 to 354,064 models in 2018, helping them to grab more than 2 percent market share for the first time since 2015.

Volkswagen’s lineup of passenger cars was utterly disappointing, with sales in a free fall across the board. Like it is the case with most automakers operating within U.S. borders nowadays, crossovers and SUVs came to the rescue. The new Volkswagen Atlas large SUV was one of the main reasons behind company’s success this year with sales figures of 59,677 units – a cracking 120 percent increase over 2017. It’s worth noting that 2018 was the SUV’s first full year though. The Atlas didn’t do it alone, however, as the compact Tiguan with a long wheelbase has managed to record a staggering 325 percent increase over the same period considering its sales went up from 21,023 units in 2017 to 89,476 units in 2018. Like its larger compatriot, the Tiguan L also first appeared during the Summer of 2017.

Let’s now take a closer look at what to possibly buy and what to stay away from when it comes to the Volkswagen lineup in 2020.

What’s Hot in the New 2020 Volkswagen Lineup

05. 2020 Golf Mark 8

The most popular hatchback in the world hasn’t exactly had a good year sales-wise. Its sales took a nosedive by plunging close to 40 percent in the U.S. Moreover, the Mark 7 hasn’t been performing well in overseas markets either. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering the recent trend among car buyers shows a preference for crossovers and SUVs over passenger cars and the fact the current-generation models haven’t been properly overhauled since 2012 doesn’t go in their favor either.

The 2020 Volkswagen Golf aims to rectify this issue. The all-new eighth-generation models were scheduled to debut in Europe during the Fall of 2019 at first, with the U.S. market version following a few months later. However, their debut has been pushed back and finally happened on October 24, 2019. Sadly, the Germans might restrict the U.S. lineup to the performance Golf GTI and R variants exclusively which are to arrive later on.

The upcoming Golf Mark 8 retains the outgoing model’s MQB platform and overall proportions but also sports a throwback to design cues of generations past. It also boasts the most comfortable and advanced interior yet while retaining its hallmark upscale feel, quirky handling, and high ride quality. Prices should start from north of $28,000 for the GTI, while the range-topping performance-oriented Golf R models won’t be available for less than $41,000.

The next-generation of Volkswagen’s global best-seller will sport an overhauled engine lineup consisting of at least two 4-cylinder options and possibly a V6 as well. The entry-level models – if they ever arrive – will most likely make do with a 1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine while the more powerful GTI and R units are calling dibs on a 2.0L turbo four. The latter might even switch to a V6 but let’s wait for the official info on that.

Needless to say, all Mk. 8 Golfs will generate more power than their Mk. 7 counterparts which, at this moment, make 147 hp, 228 hp, and 288 hp respectively. One of the reasons behind that is a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system which is expected to raise power outputs and efficiencies alike. Speaking of efficiency, the e-Golf has been axed, but a new dedicated Golf EV is being developed as we speak. It won’t make it in time for MY 2020, however, so we’ll have to leave it for another time.


04. 2020 Atlas

The mid-size three-row Atlas SUV is, thus far, the German automaker’s best attempt at fielding a crossover in the U.S. The Atlas is a powerful, spacious, and comfy vehicle well-worthy of the universal acclaim it’s received upon release.

It’s one of the most practical vehicles in its class with an abundance of cargo space and a spacious third row. In order to be able to offer as much space as it does, VW had to be frugal when it came to interior styling. The Atlas still offers good value despite that, especially considering its advanced safety features like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts and automatic emergency braking are standard from the get-go.

It might not be the best performer out there, but the mid-sizer offsets this potential shortcoming by offering great ride quality and above-average handling. The largest Volkswagen SUV starts from just under $32,000 whereas the range-topping models cost just north of $40,000.

Although most Atlases will be fitted with a V6, the entry-level models still offer a 2.0L turbo four developing 235 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque. The V6 option in question displaces 3.6L, and cranks up 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of rotational force. Both powertrains divert their power to the ground via a modern 8-speed gearbox, but while the latter offers a choice between front and all-wheel drive, the four-banger can only be configured as a front-wheel driver.

If equipped properly, the 4,500-pounder can tow slightly more than it weighs at 5,000 pounds. As mentioned above, the VW Atlas is far from being the most powerful vehicle in its class, especially in its base form. The 4-cylinder sometimes struggles at highway passing, but otherwise performs admirably around town. All things considered, the Atlas is a welcome addition to the SUV segment and a much-needed refreshment for the German brand.


03. 2020 Atlas Cross Sport

The conventional Atlas SUV won’t be the only model bearing that name for long since the Germans have already developed a more compact version called the Atlas Cross Sport.

The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport curbs the regular Atlas’ third row in favor of a more sporty design. The new model is also a whole 7.5 inches shorter and 2.3 inches lower than the three-row SUV despite having the same 117.3-inch wheelbase. This will obviously have a detrimental effect on its cargo-hauling capacity but rear passengers still shouldn’t have an issue finding enough room at the back.

The Atlas Cross Sport is Volkswagen’s take on the coupe crossover segment which has been gaining popularity in recent years but, in terms of practicality, offers more than that. It actually competes with mid-size two-row family crossovers like the Ford Edge, Chevy Blazer, and Nissan Murano and its prices have been set accordingly. The base models start from the same $32,000 as its three-row sibling but the range-topping models will warrant around $50,000.

The compact version of the Atlas retains the three-row model’s 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which generates 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The larger 276-horsepower 3.6L V6 is also a part of the VW Atlas Cross Sport’s powertrain lineup. Actually, the entire powertrain lineup is shared between the two, down to the 8-speed automatic transmission and a choice between front and all-wheel drive.

Another possibility is a mild or even full hybrid system which probably won’t make it in time for MY 2020, but possibly later on. For now, however, the VW Atlass lineup is complete.


02. 2020 Jetta

The all-new seventh-generation VW Jetta brings about renewed confidence in a dying segment. Although it lacks the Golf hatchback’s universal appeal, Jetta still stands out as one of company’s best-selling models. However, the compact sedan’s U.S. sales have been in constant decline for years now, and in 2018 they’ve hit a record low of 90,805 units – the first time the Jetta’s recorded less than 100,000 sales since 2008 and only the fourth time it’s done so since 1998.

The next-gen Jetta shares the modular MQB underpinnings with the remainder of the most advanced Volkswagen cars out there. It’s well-equipped, fuel-efficient, and above all affordable. The new Jetta also rides like a charm but fails to break a lot of new ground when all is said and done.

The entry-level model starts from under $19,000 which is a better deal than you might get at a Honda or Toyota dealership. What’s more, even the base Jetta S gets standard Apple and Android integration, while automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts cost $450 extra.

The new Volkswagen Jetta leaves very little to the imagination when it comes to its powertrain. Every single model, apart from the new-for-2000 Jetta GLI is fitted with a 1.4L turbocharged inline-four mill that’s good enough for 147 horses and 184 lb-ft of rotational force. While most units come away with smooth-shifting 8-speed autos, the entry-level model makes do with a mandatory 6-speed manual transmission. Of course, being an affordable compact sedan, the Jetta only qualifies for front-wheel drive across the board.

The mentioned 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI presented at the 2019 Chicago auto show packs a more powerful 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque on tap. It starts from around $26,000 before destination charges and rectifies all of conventional model’s issues – performance-wise.

Although conventional models fail to provide adequate highway passing punch, they do manage to provide something else. Jetta sedans fitted with a naturally aspirated engine are good enough for up to 40 miles to the gallon on the highway and 30 mpg in the city where they find themselves in a natural habitat.


01. 2020 Arteon

Although conventional passenger cars are losing popularity and Volkswagen’s sedans were never among the most desirable in their respective segments, Germans have still decided on fielding another such offering. The all-new Arteon is a borderline luxury fastback sedan that’s been present worldwide since late 2017. Although it was supposed to appear on U.S. shores much sooner, it only arrived here in 2019. Germans have had to delay its debut due to Arteon’s failure to meet new global emissions testing imposed by the European Union.

The entry-level luxury sedan is arguably the best-looking model within the Volkswagen range with extra practicality due to its almost hatchback-like design. The most luxurious Volkswagen model is also better-appointed in terms of interior refinement and available features. It’s available from just under $37,000 while the range-topping models cost around $46,000 prior to extras.

The 2020 Volkswagen Arteon draws power from a single source. Its 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is rated at 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of twist, and it routes all of the available power to either the front two or all four wheels ($1,800 upgrade) via an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Depending on the chosen drivetrain configuration, the luxury car will return either 25 or 24 miles to the gallon combined which could have been better. Especially considering the fact the Arteon is powered by a 4-cylinder mill.

However, its turbo four is more than capable of competing with numerous V6’s powering the remainder of the segment. It’ll be interesting to see what such an oddball car (especially for the pragmatic German automaker) can do in today’s market.


What’s Not in the New 2020 Volkswagen Lineup

02. 2020 Passat

The fully redesigned next-gen Volkswagen Passat for the U.S. market states the company’s intention to stick with the once-favored body style through a period of arguably its biggest adversity. But are their intentions honest?

The all-new Passat doesn’t stray too far away from its predecessor in terms of overall design, however. It even retains its predecessor’s platform which means its driving dynamics and handling practically remain unchanged. In other words, while the new Passat borrows a number of recently redesigned Jetta’s cues, it didn’t make a switch to the flexible MQB platform like its smaller cousin did.

This comes as a disappointment considering the old Passat dates back to now-distant 2011 and can’t keep up with its more contemporary competitors. Heck, even the Euro-spec VW Passat has switched to a modular platform. It’s easy to see the Passat doesn’t really have a future on the U.S. market. At least not an overly bright one.

The 2020 Volkswagen Passat retains a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine capable of putting up 174 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque (up from 184 lb-ft) but loses its predecessor’s capable 280-horsepower V6. The engine is all fine and well, but a six-speed automatic gearbox should have been kept in the past where it belongs. Although not particularly bad, it’ll deprive the mid-size sedan of any advantages it could have possibly gotten by sporting a more contemporary gearbox.

The absence of optional all-wheel drive is just the final straw, but considering the new Passat didn’t undergo any structural changes, it was never really on the cards either. Every available model is exclusively front-wheel driven. The new Passat also retains the same pricing levels as charging more for what’s basically the same vehicle would simply be an aberration.

01. 2020 Tiguan

Don’t get us wrong – the Tiguan’s a perfectly fine crossover but it still falls behind in the highly competitive segment it competes in. Redesigned in 2018, the new Tiguan is larger than its predecessor and offers enough room for a third row. However, it’s one of the smallest third rows on the market, so why bother?

Like all Volkswagens built upon a modular MQB platform, the Tiguan rides smoothly, although without the power punch packed by its competitors. Due to its apparent lack of power, the Tiguan is drab, to say the least, and isn’t nearly as fun to drive as most of its opponents.

Starting from around $25,000 the compact crossover presents a decent value depending on your needs and now even offers some advanced safety features in entry levels. Forward-collision alert, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot monitoring are now standard but more advanced gear like an adaptive cruise control are still optional.

The reason behind Tiguan’s lethargic acceleration and drab driving dynamics has basically already been described. Despite growing in size and putting on extra weight, the Tiguan’s failed to produce the necessary horsepower in order to counter the previous effect. To make matters even worse, Germans have actually reduced its power output by down-tuning its 2.0L turbo four engine. Instead of 200 horsepower, the compact now makes 184 ponies. It’s also good for 221 pound-feet of twist which is an improvement of 14 lb-ft over the outgoing model.

The old units have been marketed alongside the new Tiguan for a while, actually, but were rebranded as the Tiguan Limited. Compared to them, the second-gen Tiguan for the U.S. market also gets two more forward gears, pushing the total to eight now. Both front and all-wheel drive, which costs $2,000 extra, are still offered.


About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!