Volkswagen Passat vs Audi A4

May 10, 2022 by

Traditional saloons like the Volkswagen Passat and Audi A4 may have lost some of their limelight as today’s buyers favour hatchbacks and SUVs, but there’s still a lot to be said for saloon them both – but which should you pick?

With a boot that is entirely separate from the cabin, refinement is often a key selling point of saloons. A relatively low centre of gravity, meanwhile, tends to bring handling advantages, while there remains a core cohort of buyers who appreciate the timeless shape a saloon offers.

The Volkswagen Passat and Audi A4 are stalwarts of the saloon class, and if you like what they do but want a touch more practicality, both are available in estate guise as well. In fact, VW no longer sells the Passat as a saloon (although there’s plenty of choice on the used market if you want one), while Audi continues to offer the A4 as a saloon or ‘Avant’ estate.

While both the Passat and A4 are built under the umbrella of the Volkswagen Group, they each offer a different take on a similar formula. Here, we take a look at the two side by side to help you work out which is the right car for you.

Do note that we’ve written this guide with a view to ordering a new version of each car; trim levels and engine/gearbox choices have varied significantly over time, and with both these cars now entering their autumn years, Audi and VW offer less choice than they once did.

Audi offers both a saloon and estate version of the A4

It’s also worth drawing your attention to the Volkswagen Arteon, which is a comparable size to the Passat, but comes with sleeker styling and is offered in hatchback or estate guises.


It’s fair to describe the styling of the VW Passat and Audi A4 as ‘conservative’. The Audi has a deeper front grille and the Passat a more rounded rear end, but in essence there are few key differences in their overall styling.


While there’s not a great deal between the Passat and A4 on the outside, the cabins of both cars are markedly different.

The Passat’s cabin is well built, but hardly exciting

It’s fair to say the Audi A4 has a definite edge here, with a sense of quality both to its overall design, and to the materials chosen throughout.

There’s nothing wrong with the Passat’s interior – it’s perfectly pleasant, well built and functional – but it’s hard to describe as interesting or particularly premium, and the A4 is the better car inside.

Audi’s cabins have long been a model of tasteful quality, and the A4 is no exception


Headroom and legroom are slightly more generous in the rear of the Passat – you get an extra centimetre of headroom in the VW, for example – so the Passat has a slight edge here.

Rear-seat space is slightly more generous in the Passat

The VW has a definite edge where boot space is concerned though: in the A4 you get 480 litres in saloon and 505 litres in the Avant, while in the Passat these figures stand at 586 (saloon) and 650 litres (estate).

Drop the rear seats of the estates and your maximum capacity stands at 1,780 litres for the VW, and 1,510 litres for the Audi. Put simply, the Volkswagen is the more practical car.

Little beats the practicality offered by an estate boot

Equipment and technology

Both the Passat Estate and A4 saloon/Avant come with full LED headlights, alloy wheels, all-round parking sensors and an infotainment system complete with sat-nav.

But while the Passat comes with analogue dashboard dials unless you upgrade to the ’digital cockpit’, new A4s have a digital instrument cluster as standard; this both feels modern, and is helpful for displaying route guidance and other information. The A4 also has a reversing camera as standard, unlike the Passat.

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is a slick bit of kit

In the Passat’s favour is that adaptive cruise control (which matches your speed to the car in front) is standard, whereas in the A4 only passive cruise control (which maintains a fixed speed) is standard.


One often overlooked fact is that while the Audi A4 and VW Passat are both from the Volkswagen Group and compete in the same ‘class’ of vehicle, they don’t sit on the same mechanical ‘platform’ – the core structure of a car.

In fact, while the Passat shares its platform with cars such as the Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Kodaiq, the A4 has slightly posher relatives, being based on the same mechanical underpinnings as the Porsche Cayenne, Lamborghini Urus and Audi A8.

The current versions of both cars have been around since 2015, though, so neither is a spring chicken in terms of model development cycles.


Audi and Volkswagen offer reasonable choices where engines are concerned. What powertrain is available can depend on what trim level you get, but in broad terms the following units are available:

Volkswagen Passat Estate

  • A 1.5-litre petrol engine with 150hp
  • A 2.0-litre diesel engine with 122, 150 or 200hp
  • A 218bhp plug-in hybrid GTE model with a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor

The GTE and 200hp diesel come only with automatic gearboxes, while all other engines offer a choice of manual or automatic.

Audi A4

  • A 2.0-litre petrol engine with 150hp or 204hp
  • A 2.0-litre petrol engine with 252hp and four-wheel drive
  • A 2.0 diesel engine with 163hp or 204hp

The 204hp diesel engine comes with four-wheel drive (known as quattro). While Audi used to offer a choice of automatic or manual gearboxes, new A4s can only be ordered with the S tronic automatic.

The VW offers a greater choice of engines as well as a plug-in hybrid option, while the A4 can be had with four-wheel drive, so in this area the two car are evenly split.


The Passat and the A4 are both refined cars capable of covering great distances while offering strong levels of occupant comfort. Neither car could be described as exciting to drive, but they both comport themselves with assurance.

Those after a softer ride, and a car more able to absorb some of the poorer road surfaces than can afflict the UK, would do well to avoid the stiffer sports suspension that comes with the Passat’s R-Line trim, and the A4’s S line trim.

The Audi has a slight edge on the Passat for handling

Dynamic Chassis Control is an option worth considering with the Passat, as this allows you to electronically adjust the stiffness of the suspension depending on whether you want a firm, engaging ride, or a softer, more comfortable one. The A4 gets adjustable suspension as standard, though this used not to be the case.

Pricing and running costs

The Audi A4 saloon starts at around £37,500, while the VW Passat Estate begins at £32,000 or so – although the A4 Avant Estate is available from just under £39,000.

Trim levels

VW offers five trims for the Passat Estate

  • SE Nav is the entry model, and brings 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, an infotainment screen with sat-nav, and all-round parking sensors.
  • SEL trim adds around £700 to the price of the car and brings leather seats, tinted rear windows, and power-fold, heated windows.
  • R-Line is a further £5,000 or so and includes sports suspension, keyless entry and go, soft Nappa leather, 18-inch alloys and a sporty body kit.
  • The plug-in hybrid model gets two separate trims: one known simply as ‘GTE’, and one called GTE Advance. The former includes all the kit SEL has plus lane-keep assist, while the latter adds LED Matrix headlights, an upgraded infotainment system, VW’s digital dashboard dials, plus 18-inch alloys.
R-Line trim adds some sporty touches to the Passat’s styling, but doesn’t make the car any faster…

The A4 is available in four trims.

  • Technik has 17-inch alloys, LED headlights, all-round parking sensors and a reversing camera, and an infotainment system with sat-nav.
  • Sport Edition adds roughly £2,500 to the price and brings 18-inch alloys, tinted windows, leather seats and interior ambient lighting.
  • S line is roughly the same price as Sport, and makes the alloys 19-inch items, adds sports suspension, sports seats and a sporty body kit.
  • The Black Edition includes a black styling pack, plus snazzier 19-inch alloys and a flat-bottomed steering wheel, adding £1,000 or so to the cost of S line.

The VW has the clear price advantage, though the Audi has more standard equipment. It’s also worth highlighting that if you’re using finance to purchase your car, residual values will play a role in how much you pay each month, so the gap between the A4 and Passat may narrow here.

Safety and reliability

Both the A4 and Passat were awarded five stars when crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2014 and 2015 respectively, although it’s worth noting NCAP’s criteria for crash tests have been toughened up since then, so these results are not directly comparable with the latest crash-test results.

The A4 did slightly better in a couple of areas, scoring 89% for adult occupant protection against the Passat’s 85% score, for example, but both cars are still fundamentally safe vehicles that offer a high degree of collision protection.

Both cars come with three-year warranties that offer unlimited mileage for faults that develop within the first two years, with a 60,000-mile cap introduced for the third year.

MPG, emissions and tax

Neither the A4 nor the Passat should cost the earth to run. The 150hp petrol A4 officially returns 44.8mpg, while the 163hp diesel manages 57.6mpg.

The picture is similar for the Passat: the 150hp 1.5-litre petrol model returns 44.8mpg, while the 150hp diesel manages 57.7mpg. The plug-in hybrid could slash your fuel bills though, as this officially returns 235mpg; getting anywhere close to this figure will require you regularly charging the battery and predominantly driving in EV mode, though company car drivers will benefit from reduced tax, and there’s a £10 annual discount on for road tax with the hybrid.

Saloons may have fallen out of favour of late, but the A4 still cuts a dash

All engines from new will be Euro 6 compliant, meaning you won’t be hit with charges if driving into emission zones such as London’s ULEZ.

Road tax will be a flat rate of £155 for all models save the Passat GTE, though note if either car costs £40,000 or more from new (including options), there’s an annual surcharge of £355 from years two to six of the car’s life, bringing your total annual bill to £510 over this period.