I've got a 1998 version of this car, that I bought in 2004, and being the second Passat that I have ever owned, I must say that I can't really fault the Passat range.
The one I have is the estate, complete with electric windows, air con, central locking, sports seats, sports suspension, CD etc etc. But what I really like is the space in the interior. I'm quite a tall chap and what I tend to find in most cars is that when I put the seat fully back in order to allow me to get in and drive the car, anyone sitting behind me is really crushed in the leg room area for the back seat. With the Passat body, it is like VW have cut the car in half right behind the drivers seat, and then added a further 6 inches into the body. Thus with the front seat fully back, there is still plenty of leg room for anyone in the back seat.
In terms of performance, with 110 bhp, it's not a blazing sports car, but it is a work horse, and a relatively quick one at that. Load up the cavernous boot area of the estate and it will pull and shift loads all day long, and it is surprising how much room there is when you fold the back seats down. It really does just swallow everything up - no hanging things out of the back door or trying to tie the rear door down.
Maintenance wise, well, being a diesel, it will plod on for many miles to come - providing you look after it. With my previous one (a 1.6 TDI) I learnt the hard lesson of not to use cheap oil when doing oil changes. It just didn't do the engine any favours and it quickly ruined itself. Now, I make a point of spending a little more on VW approved oil and (touch wood!!), the car is still going strong with now faults - after 170,000 miles.
In summary, everything still works fine. No problems with the electrics, a few mechanical component changes over the years (but nothing major). But it still drives well, the turbo still works and I have no plans to quickly get rid of it just yet.