The affordable Audi

Family sedans might not be the hottest thing on the market, having given that spot to crossovers and SUVs, but the humble four-door is certainly not down and out. Volkswagen set out to capture more of this market with the revised 2016 Passat. It wears an updated face, has a new rear end, and even sees some updated bits on the dashboard. Volkswagen even says it redesigned the 2016 Passat to appeal towards American buyers who want muscular lines and upscale interiors.

In reality, you’d have to be a Volkswagen enthusiast to spot the differences without a side-by-side comparison photo (which we have in the Exterior section below.) Nevertheless, the changes are apparent and the Passat feels more mature and less bulbous for it.

The changes inside are equally minimal but no less important. A slight change in the dashboard’s shape and trim piece are all that’s new for 2016. However, the modest update gives the dash a more angular appearance, which mirrors the Passat’s fresh face.

To see how these changes impacted the Passat, I spent a week driving a 2016 model like I would if I owned it. Trips to the grocery store, the Lacrosse field, preschool, and even date night at the movie theater were all taken. My four-year-old’s car seat was buckled in the back seat and the trunk was filled with everyday items. This is a departure from [my last experience with the 2016 Passat. Volkswagen had flown me to Vermont in 2015 to experience the car when it first launched, so I knew what to expect. This time the car was on my home turf in Central Florida. So how’d it do? Keep reading to find out.

Continue reading for the full driven review.

  • 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T – Driven
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    Six-speed Automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    170 @ 6200
  • MPG(Cty):
    25
  • MPG(Hwy):
    38
  • Torque @ RPM:
    184 @ 1500
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection, Turbo
  • Displacement:
    1.8 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.8 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    116 mph
  • Layout:
    Front Engine, FWD
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    8.3/10

Video Review


Exterior

2016 Volkswagen Passat - Driven
- image 652558

The changes Volkswagen made to the 2016 Passat were very minimal. Still, the new model is more sculpted and muscular looking thanks to a new lower fascia with updated fog lights, more angular headlights, and a hood that features a “power bulge.” Yes, Volkswagen said during the 2016 Passat launch event that this new hood was designed to evoke a more powerful appearance – something uniquely catered to American buyers. While I don’t think anyone will mistake the Passat for something with 707 horsepower, the new look fits the car rather well.

Still, the new model is more sculpted and muscular looking thanks to a new lower fascia with updated fog lights, more angular headlights, and a hood that features a “power bulge.”

The changes to the rear are equally minimal. The taillights are new and feature angular lighting elements behind the red lens. The rear bumper now has red reflectors on either side of the trunk and a newly shaped lower trim piece that surrounds the single exhaust pipe. Lastly, the Passat and trim level badges are moved from the upper trunk lid to down near the bumper. Volkswagen says this gives the car a more premium appearance.

My tester came fitted with the SE w/Technology trim package. This is the mid-range option and includes exterior features like the 15-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-season tires, fog lights that double as cornering lights, a power-operated moonroof, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and the Hands-Free Easy Open Trunk. The Reef Blue Metallic paint is one of six color options.

Overall, the updates for 2016 bring a new air of class and sophistication to the Passat. It now looks more upscale and far defied its affordable price range. The car seems like it should cost $10- $15,000 more than it does. That’s a great thing for Passat owners. They get the high-class look of an Audi without the price tag associated with Volkswagen’s premium division. The Passat might not have the four rings on a hexagonal grille, but the clean-cut lines and crisp corners definitely display the family resemblance.

The Competition

2016 Honda Accord High Resolution Interior Exterior
- image 637835
2015 Toyota Camry
- image 697413

The Passat resides in a very competitive segment with big-time players like the Honda Accord (left) and Toyota Camry (right.) These two stalwarts have ruled the segment for decades thanks to innovative features, reasonable prices, and the customer-driven notion of long-term reliability.

The Honda Accord sees a welcome refresh for the 2016 model year, as well. With it comes a new, more Acura-like styling design that gives the car a more aggressive stance. Style abounds here – at least far more than the subtle nature of the Passat. The front end sees the majority of the updates, with a large chrome horizontal bar and LED headlights commanding the attention of on-lookers. The rear of the sedan has horizontal lines in the LED tail lights, along with chrome trim pieces that make the car seem wider than it is. Large wheels with thin spokes and other small touches of chrome make the car upscale.

As for the Toyota Camry, it received a major update for the 2015 model year and soldiers on unchanged for 2016 and on into 2017. Aesthetically, the Camry falls between the Accord and Passat in terms of aggressive styling; it’s not nearly as aggressive as the Honda, but it has a bubblier attitude than the well-mannered Volkswagen. The Camry offers different grilles and wheels across its trim lines, spanning from boring to the more exciting XSE trim.

All three sedans offer something different in terms of styling. And like with any form of art, styling is subjective.

Toyota Camry Honda Accord Volkswagen Passat
Height 57.9 57.7 58.5
Length 190.9 192.5 191.9
Width 71.7 72.8 72.2
Wheelbase 109.3 109.3 110.4
Ground Clearance 6.1 TBA 5.4

Note: All figures are in inches

Interior

The Passat’s interior maintains the same level of composure and upper class styling as the exterior. The minimalistic styling is a Volkswagen trademark these days. As for the changes, the dash gets a angular crease just above the air vents that intersects the gauge cluster hood. The metallic trim piece that separates the black dash from the wood-like piece is also new. Everything else, however, is a near carry-over from the 2015 model. Nevertheless, the updated Passat interior looks sharp and attractive.

The minimalistic styling is a Volkswagen trademark these days. As for the changes, the dash gets a angular crease just above the air vents that intersects the gauge cluster hood.

The SE w/ Technology package fitted to my tester includes some notable features. It receives keyless access with push-button starting, the Hands-Free Easy Open Trunk, and the Discover Media touchscreen navigation system. That’s in addition to the standard list of features, which includes the Climatronic dual-zone automatic climate control system; the leather-wrapped steering wheel, parking brake lever, and shift knob; heated front and rear seats; the split-folding rear bench with center armrest; leatherette seating surfaces; and the center console with moveable armrest and second-row air vents.

On the technology front, my tester came packed with a wide array of features. These include a rearview camera, Adaptive Cruise Control, blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, the 6.3-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/CD/HD Radio/SiriusXM/USB/Bluetooth, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and the HomeLink integrated garage door opener.

Within the infotainment system comes Volkswagen’s Car-Net system. This includes App-Connect with smartphone integration, Guide & Inform with navigation, and Security & Service, which includes emergency assistance, remote access, and vehicle health. The system also hosts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I found myself using CarPlay quite a bit during the week. As with all CarPlay systems, it’s simple to use and the menu buttons are all Apple designed.

Of course, there’s more to the Passat than just what’s in the first row. The back seats offer heated cushions in the outboard positions, four cup holders, A/C vents, a USB port, and tons of room. In fact, the Passat leads the segment in rear set legroom. Head and shoulder room is cavernous too, making the second row a very comfortable place to ride, regardless of the hours spent.

The Passat’s trunk is also huge, offering 15.9 cubic feet of space. Sadly, the trunk hinges aren’t tucked away, leaving them to swing down into the cargo space, potentially leading to crushed luggage or groceries.

Overall, the Passat’s interior is a comfortable, attractive place to spend time. I appreciated the simplistic layout and straightforward controls. I did find myself wishing the steering wheel telescoped a bit further out, shortening my reach. Volkswagen also only gives the front seats one USB port, leaving the front passenger to use the second row’s USB port for charging. Hopefully no one back there needs to charge their phone at the same time.

The Competition

2016 Honda Accord Coupe High Resolution Interior Drivetrain
- image 639877
2015 Toyota Camry
- image 697414

When it comes to the competition’s interior, the Accord is certainly the most stylized. The Accord has a doubled-stacked dashboard design with two screens. The top screen is non-touch and shows most car-related functions while the bottom touch-sensitive screen is geared towards the entertainment and interactive side of things. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The dual-zone climate control is operated by buttons rather than knobs, and the steering wheel features a ton of driving-related controls. A smallish driver information screen resides within the large speedometer, showing things like fuel mileage, tripometer, and gear selection. Rear seat room is generous and Honda provides passengers with HVAC vents and a folding center armrest.

The Toyota Camry again falls between the Accord and Passat in terms of overt stylistic design, offering a subdued experience than the Accord, yet busier than the Passat. Toyota uses a single-screen design for its infotainment system, which is loaded with the brand’s Entune software. Dual-zone climate controls are present, as is the optional Qi wireless phone charging system. Rear seat legroom is large enough to be comfortable on long trips and HVAC vents and a folding center console keep passengers happy.

Toyota Camry Honda Accord Volkswagen Passat
Front Headroom 38.8 39.1 38.3
Front Leg Room 41.6 42.5 42.4
Front Shoulder Room 58.0 58.6 56.9
Rear Headroom 37.8 37.5 37.8
Rear Shoulder Room 56.6 56.5 57.0
Rear Leg Room 38.9 38.5 39.1
Cargo Room 15.4 cu-ft 15.8 cu-ft 15.9 cu-ft
Passenger Volume 102.7 cu-ft 103.2 cu-ft 117.9 cu-ft

Note: all figures in inches unless otherwise stated

Drivetrain

The Volkswagen Passat is available with two engine choices – the standard 1.8-liter TSI four-cylinder turbo and the 3.6-liter VR6. My tester skipped the narrow-angle V-6 option, sticking with the standard 1.8-liter. And of course, any hint of a TDI option is long gone.

The 1.8-liter is constructed from an iron block and an aluminum cylinder head. It has 16 valves – four per cylinder – operated by dual overhead camshafts. It has direct fuel injection but surprisingly no variable valve timing. Still, the engine generates 170 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 184 pound-feet of torque at only 1,500 rpm.

2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T – Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 697365
The Volkswagen Passat is available with two engine choices – the standard 1.8-liter TSI four-cylinder turbo and the 3.6-liter VR6.

Despite its old-school iron-block design, the EA888 engine features a thin-wall crankcase with fewer counterweights for less overall mass. Smaller main bearings and reduced oil pressure are said to minimize friction. The exhaust manifold is formed directly onto the aluminum cylinder head, allowing the engine to heat to operating temperature more quickly while sending boost to the small-diameter turbo sooner. Anecdotally, the engine does feel fairly lag-free.

The only transmission available is a six-speed automatic with both sport mode and manual shifting. It snaps off shifts quickly, but isn’t a fast as Volkswagen’s dual-clutch automatic.

The 1.8T-equipped Passat is great on gas, too. It achieves an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. That, plus the large 18.5-gallon fuel tank, meant I still had more than a quarter-tank of regular unleaded left after 290 miles of driving.

For those looking for extra features like AWD or a hybrid drivetrain, the Passat is a no-go. It only comes with gasoline engines that power the front wheels. Both the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry offer hybrid models, but none of the three can be had with AWD.

The Competition

Like the Passat, both the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry come standard with four-cylinder engine and have optional V-6 powerplants. The Honda comes standard with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. It can be mated to either a six-speed manual (the only one of the trio) or the optional CVT. The optional 3.5-liter V-6 generates 278 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. It only comes with the six-speed automatic.

The Toyota Camry comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 178 horses and 170 pound-feet of torque. Thankfully Toyota gives its customers a true six-speed automatic transmission rather than a CVT (save for hybrid model). The optional V-6 displaces 3.5-liters and makes 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.

Honda Accord

Honda Accord Four-Cylinder Honda Accord V-6
Engine Size 2.4-liter 3.5-liter
Horsepower 185 horsepower 278 horsepower
Torque 181 pound-feet 252 pound-feet
Transmission 6MT or CVT 6AT
Weight 6MT: 3170lbs CVT: 3239lbs 3543lbs
Fuel Economy CTY/HWY 6MT:23/32 CVT: 27/36 21/33

Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry Four-Cylinder Toyota Camry V-6
Engine Size 2.5-liter 3.5-liter
Horsepower 178 horsepower 268 horsepower
Torque 170 lb-ft 248 lb-ft
Transmission 6AT 6AT
Weight 3240lbs 3480lbs
Fuel Economy CTY/HWY 24/33 21/30

Volkswagen Passat

VW Passat Four-Cylinder VW Passat V-6
Engine Size 1.8-liter 3.6-liter
Horsepower 170 horsepower 280 horsepwer
Torque 184 lb-ft 258 lb-ft
Transmission 6AT 6AT
Weight 3263 lbs 3571 lbs
Fuel Economy CTY/HWY 25/38 20/28

Behind the Wheel

2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T – Driven High Resolution Interior
- image 697381

The 2016 Volkswagen Passat offers a very smooth and refined driving experience. Its four-wheel independent suspension does a good job of damping harsh road conditions while still providing good stability during cornering. The electro-mechanical steering rack isn’t the most communicative, but it still works smoothly and has good on-center feel. Both the throttle and brakes have a linear throw to their actions; no throttle tip-in or unpredictable brake grab is present. Outward visibility is good thanks to the large windows and side mirrors. Blind spot monitoring is handy to have, as is the rearview camera and rear cross traffic alert.

The 1.8-liter provides a respectable amount of punch when accelerating and Volkswagen’s work on eliminating turbo lag is evident. The six-speed automatic does a great job of finding the right gear. Sport mode keeps engine revs high and in the meat of the power band, allowing for quick acceleration. Pushing the gear shifter over to manual mode allows the driver to pick his own gear. The non-R-Line Passat doesn’t come with paddle shifters, however.

Road and wind noise is kept to a minimum. The tires do begin to hum on rougher pavement though.

Safety

2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T – Driven High Resolution Interior
- image 697372

The 2016 Volkswagen Passat comes with a slew of standard and available safety features. Active safety features include Post-Collision Braking, a rear-view camera, blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, and Adaptive Cruise Control that comes standard on SE models and up. Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking use the adaptive cruise control’s front-facing radar to warn the driver of obstacles and to actively brake if the driver fails to stop. Higher trim models come with Park Pilot, an automated parking system that works in both parallel and perpendicular parking spots.

Other, more common, safety features include Anti-lock brakes at all four corners, electronic stability control, electronic traction control, the Lower Anchors & Tethers For Children (LATCH) system, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

On the passive side, the Passat comes with front and side airbags, side curtain airbags, three-point seatbelts for all five seats, built-in crumple zones and side-impact protection in the doors and B-pillar.

The 2016 Passat’s highest safety award comes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Passat earned the 2016 Top Safety Pick+ award for models equipped with the crash prevention systems.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Rating
Overall 5/5 stars
Frontal Crash 4/5 stars
Side Crash 5/5 stars
Rollover 4/5 stars
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Rating
Small overlap front Good
Moderate Overlap front Good
Side Good
Roof strength Good
Head restraints & seats Good
Front crash prevention Advanced (with optional equipment)
Headlights Poor
LATCH ease of use Good

The Competition

Both the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry scored the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ award for the 2016 model year and earned a Five Star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Honda takes home the best grades, getting rated “Good” across the board from the IIHS, a “Superior” in front crash prevention, and the rank of “A” for both headlights and ease of use for the LATCH system. The Camry did excellent as well, though it only scored an “Advanced” in front crash prevention and a “Marginal” in headlights. Its LATCH system did receive and “A” rating.

Prices

2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T – Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 697353

The 2016 Volkswagen Passat comes in five trim levels. They are the base S, the SE w/ Technology, SEL, R-Line, and R-Line w/ Comfort Package. Prices start at $22,440 for the base S trim and grow to $30,495 for the luxury-minded SEL. My SE w/ Technology test car carried a base price of $28,410 and had no other options. Volkswagen charged $820 for destination and delivery, making the final price $29,230. That’s not terrible for when considering everything this car brings to the table.

Model Price
Passat 1.8t S $22,440
Passat 1.8t SE $25,495
Passat 1.8t SE w/Tech $27,995
Passat 1.8t SEL Prem $30,995
Passat 1.8t R-Line $23,975
Passat 3.5 V-6 SE w/Tech $29,295
Passat 3.5 V-6 SEL Premium $33,995

The Competition

The 2016 Accord comes in $235 less expensive than the 2016 Passat at $22,205 – a marginal amount when considering a new vehicle purchase. Decked out in the Touring trim with the V-6, the Accord has a starting price of $34,680.

Model Price
Accord LX $22,205
Accord LX w/ Honda Sensing $24,005
Accord LX Sport $24,265
Accord EX $25,580
Accord EX Sport $26,065
Accord EX w/ Honda Sensing $27,380
Accord EX-L $28,670
Accord EX-L Navi w/HS $30,670
Accord EX-L V-6 $30,745
Accord EX-L V-6 Navi w/HS $32,745
Accord Touring $34,680

The 2016 Toyota Camry can be had in four trim levels, not counting the two hybrid trim levels. The trims are the LE, SE, XSE, and XLE. The base LE starts at $23,070, which is more than the Passat by $630. For those wanting a Lexus-like Camry, the XLE can be had for $26,310 when equipped with the standard four-cylinder.

Model Price
Camry LE $23,070
Camry SE $23,840
Camry XSE $26,310
Camry XLE $26,310
Camry Hybrid LE $26,790
Camry Hybrid XLE $30,140

The Competition

2016 Honda Accord Sedan

2016 Honda Accord High Resolution Interior Exterior
- image 637835

The Honda Accord is one of the best-selling four-door sedans in the U.S. Its highly stylized exterior is matched by a high-tech interior with all the modern conveniences like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A long list of trim levels and available features gives shoppers a wide range to choose from. Regardless of trim, the Accord ranks well in crash tests, though only certain models earn the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ award.

The Accord comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. It can be had with either a six-speed manual or the optional Continuously Variable Transmission. An optional 3.5-liter V-6 generates 278 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2017 model year also brings a hybrid model, as well.

Prices for the 2016 Accord sedan start at $22,205 for the base LX trim. Opt for the range-topping Touring trim, and the price jumps to $35,515, though that does include the V-6 powertrain.

Read more about the 2016 Honda Accord Sedan here.

2016 Toyota Camry

2015 Toyota Camry
- image 697414

Like the Accord, the Camry is one of the best-selling sedans in the country. It offers a comfortable ride, modest styling that isn’t as wild as the Accord’s, and a pair of fuel efficient gasoline engines to go with an optional hybrid model. The Camry’s interior is more reserved than the Accord’s as well, though is more expressive than the Passat’s.

Power comes from a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 178 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. An optional 3.5-liter V-6 can be had for customers wanting more power. It packs 268 horses and 248 pound-feet of torque. Both engines mate to a six-speed automatic transmission. As with many Toyota products, a hybrid model is offered.

Prices start at $23,070 for the base LE trim level. That is more expensive than the base Passat by more than $600. The range-topping Camry XLE offers loads of luxury and a long list of standard features. It starts at $26,310 for the four-cylinder model. Opting for the V-6 engine and $2,475 Technology Package results in a sticker price of roughly $33,800.

Find out more about the 2016 Toyota Camry here.

Conclusion

2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T – Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 697355

The slightly revised 2016 Volkswagen Passat might not look like it’s changed much, but its new face, updated tail lights, and reworked dashboard all come together in making a sharp, modern design that plays well with the popular minimalistic themes found in 2016 society. I’ve often compared Volkswagen products to those of Apple. Both are beautiful in their simplistic and succinct designs while imparting an air of sophistication not found in their respective competitors.

Aesthetics aside, the Passat offers a refined driving experience with impressive efficiency and quick acceleration. Its limo-like back seat and comfortable front seats are great for long road trips. Its in-dash technology is straightforward and provides an impressive amount of information like movie times, traffic conditions, and gas station locations. Its dual-zone climate controls keep front occupants happy while rear air vents keep backseat passengers from feeling stuffy.

Volkswagen might not sell nearly the number of Passats that Honda and Toyota sell the Accord and Camry, but that doesn’t detract from the Passat’s great characteristics. Now if Volkswagen can get Dieselgate resolved and earn back the public’s trust.

  • Leave it
    • * Changes for 2016 are minimal
    • * Dark cloud of Dieselgate looms overhead
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