All-new versions of both cars came out in 2015 and improved on the looks, practicality and efficiency of the old models. To help you see which is right for you we’ve put them back-to-back in all the important areas.
German executive cars have always been classy and sophisticated cars to look at, but some critics feel they’re a bit too conservative in the styling department. The new Passat and A4 do little to break this trend, but their looks clearly work for the hundreds of thousands of Passat and A4 buyers.
The Audi’s distinctive LED daytime running lights give it a more upmarket look than the Passat, but it’s still easy to confuse the latest A4 for the previous-generation version. Both cars are available in estate form too – the Audi A4 estate is called an ‘Avant’.
This is where the benefits of owning a premium executive saloon are felt the most and the Passat and A4 certainly do not disappoint. The Passat has a very similar interior to that found in the Golf, meaning you get an interior so beautifully built that it wouldn’t feel out of place in the class above. High quality materials are used all-round, giving occupants a real feel-good factor – although the design is a little drab.
Good as the Passat’s interior is, the A4’s is in a different league: the materials used are even more impressive and the technology on-board is a step above that in the Passat. The new A4 now comes with the same impressive TFT ‘Audi virtual cockpit’ design as that found in the TT and Q7. The dashboard has also been redesigned to create a more crisp and minimalist look. It certainly feels like the more expensive place to sit out of the two.
They both offer great levels of interior space for occupants to get comfortable too but they both suffer from having large transmission tunnels which eat into the legroom available for anyone sitting in the middle rear seat.
While the Audi may lead the way in terms of outright quality, it’s the VW which adges ahead when it comes to practicality. Both are very capacious on the inside but it’s the boot space on the Passat which impresses most. The Passat holds a maximum of 586 litres in saloon form with the seats up, and that’s a whole 81 litres more than the A4 in Avant (estate) body style which holds 505 litres and 1,510 litres with the seats folded. The Passat estate holds a maximum of 650 litres, or 1,780 litres with the seats down.
Out of the two, the Audi boasts the more impressive set of engines. The Passat doesn’t even come with a petrol option. That said, the Passat does boast the highest mpg figure of 76.3 from its 1.6-litre diesel unit. The Audi isn’t far behind with a maximum mpg figure of 74.3 from its 2.0-litre diesel.
What’s really impressive about the Audi is its petrol engines. The headline grabbing 187hp 2.0-litre TFSI petrol achieves figures of 58.9mpg and emits just 109g/km of CO2 yet it can sprint from rest to 62mph in 7.3 seconds. The most powerful petrol unit (excluding the super-powerful S4) is the 249hp 2.0 litre TFSI, which achieves a 0-62mph time of 5.8 seconds yet returns nearly 50mpg on the combined cycle and only costs £110 to tax for the year.
In terms of driving, the Passat has been roundly praised by critics for gliding over bumps and rough surfaces, making it a pleasant experience to cover big distances in. It’s also very refined with hardly any wind noise and tyre roar is kept to a minimum at motorway speeds.
The most fun car out of the pair is the Audi. With its 120kg weight saving over the old model combined with its engine and gearbox choices (seven-speed DSG, eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual) critics are saying it could be as much fun to drive as the class-leading BMW 3-Series. Like the Passat, critics are saying the A4 glides over rough surfaces nicely and is a great companion on long journeys being both comfortable and refined. The S-line model with lower stiffer suspension and bigger alloys will impede on comfort though.
Both models are available with four-wheel-drive systems too, which we’d recommend if you drive down slippery roads or live in hilly areas and need to get about in the depths of winter.
Which should I buy?
If you want lots of luggage space and a smart-looking car, but not necessarily the price-tag to go with it, the Passat would be the most obvious choice. The Audi A4 is certainly the most impressive vehicle in terms of feel-good factor, but you have to pay for the privilege.
In essence, if you want a quality vehicle that’s comfortable, practical and economical, the Passat is the one to have but if you want all the bells and whistles to go with your upmarket badge, the A4 would be your ideal choice.