2016 Volkswagen Passat

Starting MSRP: $22,440 - $36,835

Estimated MPG: 25 city / 38 hwy

2016 Volkswagen Passat Review

Without much visual distinction over the outgoing model, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat remains a competent, if somewhat dull midsize sedan. A fun and efficient base engine and a raft of new technologies help it stay competitive in a cutthroat class.

By Zac Estrada
Last Updated 05/03/2016

The Volkswagen Passat gets subtle styling tweaks front and rear for 2016, which are largely focused on a new grille, lights and trim. The new R-Line model gets a more aggressive front treatment than other versions. Numerous driver assistance features, such as automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist and even self-parking are now offered. And a new infotainment system inside adds available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic (the five-speed manual is gone for 2016) powers most Passat models. Six trims are offered, with a 3.6-liter V6 available in the top SEL Premium model.

Exterior

Exterior
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It’s a Passat, and that’s all there is to it. Apart from a classier front and rear appearance, most 2016 Passats are pretty hard to distinguish over the 2015 model. And even among midsize sedans, it’s a fairly conservative, possibly bland, design.

Buyers might be swayed toward the new R-Line model. Based off of the Passat S trim, it gets 19-inch wheels and a more aggressive front-end look that’s definitely more visually exciting, even if it doesn’t offer any performance benefits.

Opting for the reasonably priced lighting package adds new LED headlamps that give the Passat more of an aesthetic punch up front, while aiding night-time vision.

Interior

Interior
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The Passat’s biggest trump card is space. Front and rear, there is plenty of room for adults to stretch out. Upright styling pays dividends in here, where headroom is generous even with a sunroof. The seats are comfortable, too, and rear passengers are also treated to available heated rear seats. For the most part, the Passat is quiet inside.

Controls are mostly straightforward, but a number of functions are operated through somewhat cryptic steering wheel-mounted buttons or in the touch-screen radio.

It’s a shame more wasn’t done to bring the Passat’s interior in line with recent VW models such as the Golf and Golf GTI. Its interior pieces fit together well, but plastics are noticeably down-market from some other models in the lineup and rivals are beating the Passat in this regard. The cloth on S and R-Line models is nicer than the somewhat cheap-looking leatherette on the Passat SE. SEL models get leather upholstery and front seats with better support.

Performance

Performance
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Pretty much all 2016 Passats are going to be equipped with the turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder, which is now exclusively mated to a six-speed automatic. This engine produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

There’s little turbo lag, and the Passat has power when you want it, without the same hesitation that plagues many economy-minded rivals. Better still is that it’s fairly hushed under pressure. This is what goes the farthest to make the Passat fun to drive.

Fuel economy is estimated at 25/38 mpg city/highway. That’s among the best ratings in the class and impressive given how much stronger this engine feels in comparison with the four-cylinder engines found in rival midsize cars.

The available 3.6-liter V6 has 280 horsepower and almost-absurd levels of power for this class. The turbodiesel 2.0-liter option from previous Passats was embroiled in the diesel emissions scandal and not available at launch.

Technology

Technology
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Another big part of the Passat’s news for 2016 is the adoption of a new infotainment system, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink on SE and higher trims. Once connected, performing functions usually done on a smartphone become intuitive on the 6.3-inch touch screen. S and R-Line cars get a 5-inch touch screen to control the radio, and those models get a USB port for the first time. Models with the bigger screen add a USB port for rear passengers and the ability to pair two phones to Bluetooth.

The Passat is up-to-date in the smartphone integration category, but remnants of old VW tech remain. 

All but the most expensive SEL Premium get a dated dot-matrix display between the gauges as competing models get clear, full-color displays now. Opt for built-in navigation and the map resolution looks dated and voice recognition isn’t great.

Safety

Safety
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VW upped the Passat’s safety resume for 2016. Blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist and other crash prevention systems have been added to the options list. Those systems work about as well as they do on rivals, though without the sophistication of some of the best. Newly standard on every model is a backup camera.

Automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning is now standard on SE and higher trims. Including that technology as standard on some Passats is a bold move for VW among mainstream sedans.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The base Passat 1.8T S starts at a shade over $23,000 and includes the basics such as aluminum wheels, automatic climate control, a USB input and Bluetooth. You have to spend upwards of $29,000, however, on an SE with Technology to get a model with blind-spot monitoring.

Still, at about $35,000, a top SEL Premium 1.8T costs roughly what you will pay for loaded versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Add about $2,000 more for the V6, which only comes on this top model.

Overall

Overall
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A 2016 Passat is a sensible midsize sedan that pretty much does everything right. Putting it a little ahead of the curve is a base engine that’s both strong and efficient, as well as the massive space inside and the wide availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But knocking it back a bit it is the dated nature of some of its technology, hit-or-miss interior materials and dowdy looks.

While ultimately unremarkable and missing some of the sparkle of VW’s newer products, you wouldn’t regret picking a Passat over any of the best-sellers in the midsize car segment.