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2021 Mazda 6 vs. 2021 Volkswagen Passat: Which Is Better?

The 2021 Mazda6 and the 2021 Volkswagen Passat are two competing mid-size sedans. Let’s see which is better.

Quick Facts

  • The Mazda6 offers a choice of 4-cylinder or 4-cylinder turbo engines.
  • The VW Passat offers two years of free scheduled maintenance.

2021 Mazda6

2021 Mazda6

Base Price: $24,455 / Read our 2021 Mazda6 Review

What we like: Gorgeous interior; stylish exterior; included active-safety features; sporty driving character.

What we would change: Smallish trunk; add a hybrid variant; offer AWD; upgrade to an 8-speed transmission.

Overview: The 2021 Mazda6 transcends its class with elegant exterior styling, a richly finished interior, and an engaging driving experience. At the same time, it delivers traditional mid-size sedan virtues. A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that powers the two base trims makes a competitive 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque while delivering 29 mpg. Upper trims get a turbocharged 2.5-liter good for 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque (250 hp and 320 lb-ft on premium fuel) and 26 mpg. Both engines are paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, which is preferable to a CVT, and drive the front wheels. The base engine is adequate but the turbo better complements the Mazda’s sharp-handling chassis. Interior space is good if not class-leading, but the design and materials of the top Signature trim rival near-luxury brands.

What’s new for 2021: The base version adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the Grand Touring and higher trims graduate to wireless CarPlay. A new Carbon Edition slots in between the Grand Touring and Grand Touring Reserve and brings 19-inch black wheels, red leather seats, and black accents inside and out. The Signature gets a new driver-attention monitor and rear automatic braking.

Features and technology: The Mazda6 is offered as the Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature. All come standard with an extensive list of driver assists: forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control with stop/go. Other standard features include an 8-inch touchscreen, automatic high-beams, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights and taillights, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Stepping up to the Touring nets a sunroof, 19-inch wheels, a power driver’s seat, heated seats, keyless entry, and leatherette upholstery. Besides the turbo engine, the Grand Touring adds a Bose 11-speaker sound system with satellite radio, shift paddles, and wirelsss CarPlay. The Grand Touring Reserve includes adaptive front lighting, a power passenger’s seat, a head-up display, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and leather. The Carbon Edition brings the aforementioned black elements and red leather seats. The Signature’s exclusive items include enhanced interior finishes and lighting, Nappa leather, navigation, a 360-degree-view monitor, and parking sensors.

What does the future hold: Mazda already has added all-wheel drive as an option to the smaller Mazda3, and we could see the company doing the same for the Mazda6. See 2021 Mazda6 models for sale near you

2021 Volkswagen Passat

2021 Volkswagen Passat

Base Price: $23,995 / Read our 2021 Volkswagen Passat Review

What we like: Roomy interior; spacious trunk; longer-than-average warranty.

What we would change: Make AWD available; add a hybrid variant; upgrade to an 8-speed transmission.

Overview: Big brother to the Jetta, the 2021 Volkswagen Passat features a conservative exterior design. (Volkswagen offers the more expensive Arteon for those looking for more style.) The Passat’s upright profile houses a roomy interior and spacious trunk that’s among the biggest in this class. Seat comfort is good, and controls are well-placed and clear. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo paired with a 6-speed automatic driving the front wheels. With 174 horsepower and 206 lb-ft of torque, acceleration is hardly sports-car quick, and no higher-performance option is offered. EPA estimates are 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 28 mpg overall. The Passat’s resale value hasn’t been great, but its basic warranty is now 4 years/50,000 miles and 2 years of free maintenance are included.

What’s new for 2021: The top SEL trim has been dropped, but the remaining variants add some standard equipment. The Passat S gets a leather-covered steering wheel, shift knob, and emergency brake handle; the SE edition gains 18-inch wheels and a sunroof; the R-Line adds navigation, Fender premium audio, adaptive headlights, and Light Assist.

Features and technology: With the departure of the SEL, the Passat is sold as the S, SE, and R-Line. All models come with forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, a blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert. Lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control arrive with the SE trim level. The SE also includes a sunroof, a power driver’s seat, and keyless entry. The R-Line gets navigation, active headlights, and sporty styling cues. All Passats have an infotainment system with a smallish 6.3-inch touchscreen, but at least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included.

What does the future hold: The Passat will stick around through the 2023 model year, but we’re unlikely to see major changes. See 2021 Volkswagen Passat models for sale near you

Mazda6 vs. Passat: Strengths comparison

Mazda6 Benefits: Standard active-safety features; lively driving persona; high-style exterior; luxurious Signature trim.

Passat Benefits: Lower starting price; bigger trunk; longer standard warranty; 2 years free scheduled maintenance.

2021 Mazda6 vs. 2021 Volkswagen Passat: Which is better?

The Passat is roomy and comfortable, but its powertrains and trim levels are limited. The Mazda6 costs more but includes more standard features. It’s more engaging to drive and looks upscale inside and out. The Mazda6 is our choice. Find a Mazda6 for sale or find a Volkswagen Passat for sale.

2021 Mazda6 2021 Volkswagen Passat
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.5-liter I4 2.0-liter turbo I4
Horsepower 187 hp @ 6,000 rpm 174 hp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque 186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 206 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm
Transmission 6-spd automatic 6-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 29 mpg (26 city/35 hwy) 27 mpg (23 city/34 hwy)
Also Available 2.5-liter turbo I4
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars n/a
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 111.4 inches 110.4 inches
Overall Length 191.5 inches 193.6 inches
Width 72.4 inches 72.2 inches
Height 57.1 inches 58.7 inches
Turning Diameter 36.8 feet 36.4 feet
Headroom, Front 38.4 inches 38.3 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.1 inches 37.8 inches
Legroom, Front 42.2 inches 42.4 inches
Legroom, Rear 38.7 inches 39.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 55.9 inches 56.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 55.1 inches 57.0 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 99.8 cubic feet 102.0 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 14.7 cubic feet 15.9 cubic feet


Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio is an author specializing in automobiles. He says, “I have been into cars ever since I started with Matchboxes, and have been sharing my opinions about them for almost as long. Granted, I was pretty young at the time, but my parents really should have listened to me when I told them not to buy an Austin Marina.”

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