The B5 generation Volkswagen Passat was launched in 1997 for the US market but was restyled midway through the 2001 model year and re-released as the B5.5. Regardless of generation, it seems that the Passat generates a love-it/hate-it reaction in former and current owners alike. Some despise it for seemingly endless eletro-mechanical gremlins while others enjoy the Audi-esque driving experience offered for Volkswagen prices. Find this 2004 Volkswagen Passat Wagon offered for $2,800 in El Paso, TX via craigslist. Tip from Johnny Bouncewell.
Before the comments fill with folks talking about engine sludge, upper control arms, coil packs, brake light failure, timing belt maintenance interval is ridiculous, etc...I'd like to point out that the asking price is about equal to a full 105k service cost (timing belt, water pump, plugs, oil change, trans service) at a dealer. The little 1.8T pushes out 180 horsepower stock and with 126k miles it is just getting broken in....or broken. Depends on who you ask.
See a better manual transmission long roof commuter for less than $3k? firstname.lastname@example.org