Car Comparison

2015 Volkswagen Jetta vs. 2015 Volkswagen Passat: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

If you're interested in a new Volkswagen, you may be wondering what exactly separates the Jetta and the Passat. The midsize Passat is bigger than the compact Jetta, but are there any other differences? Is the Jetta really that much smaller than its Passat stablemate? To figure out the answer, we've created a close comparison between the 2015 Volkswagen Passat and the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta to examine the similarities and differences between both models in several key areas.

Exterior

On the outside, it's almost impossible to distinguish between the Jetta and the Passat from a quick glance. These two cars share almost identical styling, with the Jetta and Passat seeming like medium and large shoe sizes of one another. However, there are a few differences. The Passat is around 9 inches longer than the Jetta, a difference you can mainly see in the Passat's longer rear door and elongated trunk area, but in general, we suspect most drivers will struggle to tell the difference between the Passat and the Jetta on the road.

Interior

The Passat and Jetta are nearly as similar on the inside as they are on the outside. The two sedans share an overall interior design, so the vast majority of components, from the gauges and switches to the infotainment system and the steering wheel, are carried over from one model to the other. We suspect drivers familiar with the Passat will have no trouble finding their way around a Jetta and vice versa, though we admit the Passat offers a little more interior room in every measurable dimension, along with considerably more space for cargo in its larger trunk.

Mechanics

The Jetta offers five different powertrain options, while the Passat only touts three.

The Jetta's base-level engine is a 115-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which feels lethargic in just about any situation. It returns a middling 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.

Standard in the Passat and optional in the Jetta is a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder rated at 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The engine returns up to 25 mpg city/37 mpg hwy in the Jetta or 24 mpg city/36 mpg hwy in the Passat.

Drivers looking to improve their fuel economy can opt for a 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder, which is also available in both the Jetta and the Passat. Offered with 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, the engine helps return 31 mpg city/46 mpg hwy in the Jetta or 30 mpg city/44 mpg hwy in the Passat.

Those who prioritize fuel economy can also choose a hybrid engine, but only in the Jetta. It's a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 170 hp, and it returns an impressive 42 mpg city/48 mpg hwy.

Finally, both the Jetta and the Passat offer an engine option for drivers who want more power. In the Jetta GLI, it's a 210-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which returns up to 23 mpg city/33 mpg hwy. In the Passat, it's a brawny 280-hp 3.6-liter V6, which makes 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

Although this is a lot of information, here's the gist: Although the Jetta and Passat share 1.8-liter 4-cylinder turbo and 2.0-liter turbodiesel engines, the Jetta is otherwise marked by smaller powertrains, while the Passat typically offers larger engines with more horsepower. This makes sense, given the relative size difference between the Jetta and the Passat.

Features & Technology

A quick glance at the list of standard and optional features for both the Jetta and the Passat reveals that neither vehicle is a technological marvel. They're missing a lot of features you'd expect from cars in their segments, like a large touchscreen, many of today's top safety gadgets and even fairly common items, like ventilated seats, automatic wipers and a heated steering wheel.

Although you won't find many differences in features and technology between the Jetta and Passat, drivers cross-shopping these models with cars from other brands may be disappointed to learn what items they can't get in a Volkswagen.

Driving Experience

The driving experience of both the Passat and the Jetta dramatically depends on the engine. If you opt for the Jetta's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder or the Passat's 1.8-liter turbo, don't expect much passing power. The same goes for the 2.0-liter turbodiesel in both cars, though for many drivers, that engine's impressive fuel economy gains will justify its mediocre acceleration. Go for the big engines (the Jetta GLI's 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and the Passat's V6), and you'll find excellent acceleration, though the Jetta also adds impressive handling, while the Passat V6 isn't quite as nimble.

Putting aside engine choices, we think the Passat and Jetta both feel very similar on the road. They both feel comfortable and simple, but hardly sharp or sporty around corners. This is fairly common in midsize and compact sedans, though some shoppers may expect more from Volkswagen. Braking is strong and visibility is generally good, though both cars feature a high trunk lid (and neither offers a standard backup camera), which makes reversing a chore.

Safety

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, both the Passat and the Jetta earned a perfect 5-star overall score. Both models also earned Top Safety Pick scores from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though they're prevented from earning that firm's highest honor of Top Safety Pick+, because they don't offer automatic forward-collision braking.

Speaking of automatic forward-collision braking, that isn't the only safety feature the Jetta and Passat don't offer. While the two sedans come standard with just about everything you'll want (like side airbags and anti-lock brakes), the models don't offer many of today's top safety options, like lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. You also won't have a backup camera standard in the Jetta or the Passat, as the feature is relegated to the options list in both models.

Conclusions

If you think of the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta and the 2015 Volkswagen Passat as essentially small and large versions of one another, you wouldn't be far off. Neither car offers any substantial benefit in terms of performance, technology, equipment or safety features, and both models look roughly the same, inside and out. The Jetta's main benefit is its lower base price and slightly better fuel economy numbers, while the Passat's primary selling point is a bigger cabin, more available power and a larger trunk. If you're dead-set on choosing a Volkswagen sedan, we recommend picking whichever one fits your lifestyle better.

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Certified 2015 Volkswagen Jetta S Sedan
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Volkswagen Jetta vs. 2015 Volkswagen Passat: What's the Difference? - Autotrader