Now that I've retired, I don't need a commute car any more. And my Passat, while still enjoyable, eats more gasoline when I'm tooling around town than it did when I was commuting 17 miles each way on the freeway. Still, I wouldn't have chosen to replace it; and in fact, we didn't replace it. We replaced my husband's 2002 Mercedes C-230.
In 2002 my husband needed to replace his commute car, even though he hates shopping for cars. (I'm actually the car buff.) He test drove several cars, including a Passat, and didn't really like any of them; and then he drove the Mercedes. It was love at first sight; it was small, nimble, tight handling, and he could get it with a 6-CD changer in the glove compartment, so he could listen to Haydn symphonies on the way to work. The trunk was smallish; but he forgave that.
About 6 months ago, the Mercedes started breaking down; commuting to Livermore (90 miles a day) has put 140,000 miles on it. Mercedes repairs are really expensive, and over the last 6 months we actually paid out more than half the bluebook value in repairs. A couple of weeks ago the water pump went out, for another four-figure bill; and he said, that's it. We're getting a new car.
Our long term car plan was that, in retirement, instead of having "his car" and "her car", we'd have "the town car" (small, nimble, high mileage) and "the road car" (lots of storage space for backpacking equipment, and able to take rough back roads). His backpacking car has been the Passat because of its huge trunk, but he can't take it on the really bad roads; it's just a sedan. Once we decided to buy, we agreed it was time to get "the town car," and he would take the Passat for his commute car; it only has 65,000 miles on it, and should last several more years. I went to Consumer Reports and got a list of the top-mileage cars. This boiled down to two major choices: some kind of hybrid, or a MINI Cooper.
MINI Cooper, I thought. That's a cool little car, and it gets amazing mileage. I decided I had to test drive a MINI; and I fell in love. That car is just fun to drive, even more than the Passat. I dutifully test drove a Prius, and a Camry hybrid; but I'm sorry to say that Toyota has changed since they made the 1981 Tercel that I drove happily until 1992. The seat position in the Prius had my back aching before the test drive was over; I have to be able to sit straighter than that when I drive. And the Camry - well, the seat was comfortable, but it was like driving a big marshmallow. You can wiggle the steering wheel almost a quarter of the way around, and the car's nose barely budges. I'm used to German cars; I can't stand loose steering. So I dragged Jim out to the MINI dealer, and he liked it too; and we bought one. I think I'm twenty years past having a "mid-life crisis" - but I sure enjoy driving that car!