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Photo: Volkswagen

This week I'm driving the 2020 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SEL, which sadly feels like a neglected child.

The big picture: In China and Europe, the Passat is built on VW's new MQB architecture, the automaker's modular new engineering platform. But the 2020 Passat sold in the U.S. still rides on a platform introduced in 2012.

  • The reason: sedan sales are faltering in the U.S., so why invest a ton of money in dolling it up?

The exterior styling is adequate, if conservative, but where you really feel the Passat's age is in the driver's seat. Despite updates, the dashboard and center console feel austere, even by German standards.

  • The 6.3-inch touchscreen is tiny compared to the competition, but at least it features a Fender premium audio system.

The Passat features ample driver-assistance technology across most of the lineup, including forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assistance.

  • There's also a parking assist feature on the $32,015 SEL trim I tested that can automatically steer the car into a parallel parking space or back into a perpendicular space.

1 fun thing: The Passat costs less than the class-leading Honda Accord, starting at $23,915. But most people won't find that reason enough to buy a Passat.

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