If you’re interested in buying a midsize sedan, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat and the 2016 Ford Fusion deserve a place on your shopping list. Both are roomy, comfortable and appealing, and both tout impressive technology — especially after updates to the Passat for the latest model year. But which one is better? And which one should you get? We’ve created a close comparison of both models to help you figure it out. But first, let’s see what’s new with the Passat and the Fusion for the 2016 model year.
2016 Volkswagen Passat
The Passat is refreshed for 2016 with slightly updated exterior styling, updated center stack controls and several new safety features, such as a lane-departure warning system, a blind spot monitor and a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking. The sedan also gains a sporty new R-Line trim level. See all 2016 Volkswagen Passat models available near you
2016 Ford Fusion
The Fusion is largely unchanged for the 2016 model year. See all 2016 Ford Fusion modesl available near you
Although the slightly updated 2016 Passat has not yet been rated by reliability experts at J.D. Power, last year’s version earned a Worse Than Average score from the firm. The Fusion, meanwhile, earned the same score. As for warranty coverage, the models are identical: each one touts 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection, along with 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage. As a result, this category is a draw — and these two models probably shouldn’t be at the very top of your list if your main priority is reliability.
The Passat is offered with two engines. Base models use a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which is paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission to return 25 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Drivers looking more power can upgrade to a 280-hp 3.6-liter V6, which is mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic to return 20 mpg city and 28 mpg hwy.
The Fusion offers a wide range of engines. Base models use a 175-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, which boasts up to 22 mpg city and 34 mpg hwy. For better gas mileage, shoppers can choose a 181-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which boasts 25 mpg city and 37 mpg hwy. For more power, there’s a 240-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which returns 22 mpg city and 33 mpg hwy. Finally, drivers who are especially interested in fuel economy can opt for the Fusion Hybrid (188 hp; 44 mpg city/41 mpg hwy) or the plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi, which can travel up to 21 miles on electric power alone.
The result: While the Passat puts up respectable numbers, the Fusion is undoubtedly the winner here, offering similar fuel economy with its turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, better fuel economy with its more powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder and two available hybrid models for shoppers who have a particularly keen eye on improving their gas mileage numbers.
In government crash-test ratings carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Ford Fusion and Volkswagen Passat each earned a perfect 5-star overall score. The Passat outscored the Fusion in crash-testing carried out by the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, however, as the Volkswagen earned the firm’s Top Safety Pick+ rating. The Fusion fell short due to a merely Acceptable rating in J.D. Power’s small front-overlap crash test.
As for safety features, both models offer just about everything you might want, including lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, a blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. We think the Fusion falls short by not offering an available automatic forward-collision braking system, which is available in the Passat — while the Passat doesn’t offer a lane-keep assist feature, which you can get in the Fusion. Since we value the automatic forward-collision braking system over the lane-keep assist feature, we think this category goes slightly to the Volkswagen, especially given the Passat’s advantage in crash-testing.
Although the Passat may have a slight advantage when it comes to safety features, it’s the Fusion with the leg up in terms of overall technology. That’s because the Ford offers more cutting-edge equipment than the Volkswagen, including a dramatically better infotainment system, and a few other features such as ventilated seats, a 12-speaker sound system (the Passat maxes out at 8 speakers), a heated steering wheel and more. The Fusion also trumps the Passat by offering optional all-wheel drive, along with hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. As a result, the Fusion is the easy winner when it comes to technology and features.
When it comes to pricing, the Passat and the Fusion are essentially identical: both start at around $23,000 with shipping, and both progress relatively closely in price as you move through the trim levels. That would make this category seem like a draw.
But to us, the Fusion is a better value because it offers shoppers more possibilities. You can choose between three different gasoline engines, compared to the Passat’s two choices. You can opt for all-wheel drive, which is unavailable in the Passat. And you can go for a fuel-efficient hybrid or an ultra-efficient plug-in hybrid, neither of which are offered by the Passat. The additional options and choices gives the Fusion a huge advantage in terms of value.
Although we like the 2016 Ford Fusion and the 2016 Volkswagen Passat, we think the Ford is the leader here. It offers more variants, more engine choices, more technology and available all-wheel drive — and we think its styling is a lot bolder and more modern than the Passat’s aging look. Upcoming updates for the 2017 model year will only serve to further improve the Fusion’s position. While there’s no doubt that both the Passat and the Fusion are desirable midsize sedans, we’d go with the Ford.