Skip to main content

2016 Passat 1.8T SEL vs. Toyota Camry XLE – Which To Buy

We compare the leader in the midsize class, the 2016 Toyota Camry to a tempting Passat choice from VW America.

The Toyota Camry has come to define the midsize segment. Despite its success, and that of the Honda Accord, every automaker puts their best foot forward to try to top the leaders and garner as many sales as possible in this, the largest sedan segment.

We tested the VW Passat this week, and it impressed us. Here is a breakdown of the 2016 Passat SEL costing $31,315 with the closest possible match, the 2016 Toyota Camry XLE that rings in at $32,470 with the popular options package called by Toyota, the “Entune Premium JBL Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite with options.”

Drivetrains and Fuel Economy – Passat 1.8T vs. Camry 2.5
The 2016 W Passat brings a small, turbocharged four-cylinder engine to this comparison. With just 170 hp the Passat is at the low end of average for the segment. However, the Passat is designed to feel like a diesel (though it uses gasoline). With VW having faked emissions controls for years on diesels and polluting way in excess of any gasoline car, the VW diesels are likely gone for good. Still, this gas engine feels like one. Tuned for low-end torque, the Passat shifts frequently when one is starting out to get to its highest, most fuel efficient gear. Each shift is felt, and if you hurry this car, shifts are abrupt. Like the Camry, only a six-speed automatic is offered. With a combined fuel economy of 29 MPG, the Passat is average for the class. (More on Page 2)

The Camry uses its tried and true (and ultra-reliable) normally aspirated (non-turbo) four cylinder engine with 178 hp. This engine is smooth, quiet, and shifts almost imperceptibly. Toyota has refined this engine to the point that it is invisible to a driver. The Camry returns 28 MPG making a close match for the Passat. The EPA says these two cars are with $50 of each other’s fuel costs per year. Both use regular unleaded.

Safety Camry vs, Passat
Both the 2016 VW Passat SEL and Toyota Camry XLE are Tp Safety Pick Plus-rated vehicles. Each, as we have priced them, come with forward collision prevention and automatic emergency braking. There are no mid-sized cars with better safety scores than these two vehicles.

Infotainment Passat vs. Camry
Both the Passat SEL and Camry XLE in our comparison have premium audio. JBL in the case of the Camry and Fender in the case of the Passat. Both also have simple to use touch-screens and both have a volume knob (which is a good thing). The Camry’s controls are slightly larger, which may be helpful to older customers.

Interior – Camry vs. Passat
The Camry and Passat both offer leather seating surfaces with heat for the front seats. Both offer power adjustment and the Passat adds lumbar to the front passenger seat. Each of these cars has its own style and vibe. We will not comment on which seats are more comfy, or which interior is more stylish. It is a matter of taste. However, we will emphasize they are not alike. A buyer would be wise to try both.

We reached out to our Volkswagen expert, William Maley, who added this comment about the Passat: "Sitting in the back seat, you can’t help but be astounded on how much head and legroom is on offer. You’ll think that you’re riding in a limousine and not your average family sedan."

The 2016 Passat SEL and Camry XLE are very similar in their content at this price point. Although the Camry is about $1,100 more, resale values and Toyota’s excellent reputation for both quality and customer satisfaction do count for something. This one is too close to call, and any buyer will find both cars have a lot to offer.

Image note: Trims shown may not be the same as those in the comparison.


Robin Sam (not verified)    March 14, 2017 - 12:51AM

I really liked your review. Is it possible for you to come with article related to Passat vs competitor regarding how silent is the cabin and how much decibel of sounds could be heard? Exterior build quality like rubber less beading on the top due to laser wielding etc ? Total maintenance cost yearly. Parts cost.