Passat TDIs were available in 96 and 97 with MT and again in 04 with AT. From what I understand, Diesel cars won't be sold in California from 04 - ? 99-01 Passats didn't have a Diesel option.
FWIW, the 99-01 Passat unseated the Accord and Camry as the Consumer Reports best all around sedan.
83 300SD ... $950, see cars forum