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2021 Volkswagen Passat vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata: Which Is Better?

The 2021 Volkswagen Passat and the 2021 Hyundai Sonata are two similarly priced midsize sedans. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • The Volkswagen Passat is one of two midsize 4-doors from VW.
  • The Hyundai Sonata was redesigned last year.

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 are among the biggest in this class. Seat comfort is good, and controls are clear and well-placed. 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 combined. The Passat’s resale value hasn’t been great, but its basic warranty is now 4 years/50,000 miles with 2 years of free maintenance 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. 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

2021 Hyundai Sonata

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Base Price: $23,600 / Read our 2021 Hyundai Sonata Review

What we like: Splashy tech; available Hybrid; sporty N Line variant; long warranty

What we would change: Make AWD available; switch to a traditional gearshift; add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert to the base trim

Overview: Redesigned last year, the latest Hyundai Sonata has a lot to offer. Swoopy new styling incorporates neat details such as a light band extending up onto the hood. Despite the sleek roofline, rear-seat space is good although not best-in-class, while a low dash enhances forward visibility. Multiple powertrains are offered. The SE and SEL have a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque, while the SEL Plus and the Limited use a 1.6-liter turbo with 180 hp and 195 lb-ft. Both engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic, which is preferable to a CVT as found in many competitors. Fuel economy is good but not class-leading at 32 mpg combined for the base car, 31 mpg for the SEL, and 30 mpg for upper trims. The fuel-economy champ is the 52-mpg Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue. Other Sonata Hybrid trims are estimated at 47 mpg, and all employ a 6-speed automatic. Unfortunately, Hyundai uses a series of pushbuttons rather than a more intuitive shift lever for gear selection. Sonata chassis tuning treads a middle ground between engaging and isolating. The Sonata N Line, however, ups the performance factor considerably, with 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque from its 2.5-liter turbo-four, and an upgraded chassis to match.

What’s new for 2021: The arrival of the sporty and powerful N Line is the headline news. Elsewhere, Hyundai’s Safe Exit Warning feature is new for the SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited. The SEL also upgrades from a 4-way to a 6-way power front passenger’s seat, while the SEL Plus offers new 19-inch wheels.

Features and technology: The standard 2021 Hyundai Sonata is offered in SE, SEL, SEL Plus, N Line, and Limited grades. The Sonata Hybrid is offered in SEL, Limited, and ultra-efficient Blue trim levels. All grades come with forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and automatic high-beams. The SEL and above add blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and Hyundai’s Safe Exit Warning (sounds an alert if an occupant attempts to open a door when traffic is oncoming). The Limited comes with Hyundai’s neat Blind-Spot View Monitor that shows a rearward camera feed down the side of the car when a turn signal is activated. An available Remote Smart Parking Assist allows the driver standing outside the car to guide the Sonata into or out of a tight parking spot using a smartphone app, while Hyundai Digital Key lets you use your smartphone as a key. Still more tech features include an available 360-degree-view monitor, Hyundai’s Highway Driving Assist steering-assisted cruise control, and a head-up display. Touchscreens of 8.0 or 10.25 inches come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and wireless smartphone charging is available.

What does the future hold: The Sonata lineup would appear to be completely filled out at this point, so we wouldn’t expect major changes in the near term. See 2021 Hyundai Sonata models for sale near you

Passat vs. Sonata: Strengths comparison 

Passat Benefits: More traditional styling for those who prefer that; loads of rear-seat legroom; good trunk space.

Sonata Benefits: Loads of tech features, great warranty and 3-years free scheduled maintenance; available fuel-sipping Hybrid; sporty N Line variant.

2021 Volkswagen Passat vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata: Which is better?

The Passat is roomy and comfortable, but it has only one powertrain, and its choice of trim levels is limited. The Sonata, by contrast, has two different standard engines plus a high-mpg Hybrid and a powerful performance variant with the N Line. It also has more tech features and a better warranty, all of which make it our choice.

See 2021 Volkswagen Passat models for sale or See 2021 Hyundai Sonata models for sale

2021 Volkswagen Passat 2021 Hyundai Sonata
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter turbo I4 2.5-liter I4
Horsepower 174 hp @ 5,200 rpm 191 hp  at 6,100 rpm
Torque 206 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm 181 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm
Transmission 6-spd automatic 8-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 28 mpg (24 city/36 hwy) 32 mpg (28 city/38 hwy)
Also Available 1.6-liter turbo I4; hybrid
Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles 10 years/100,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars 5 stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 110.4 inches 111.8 inches
Overall Length 193.6 inches 192.9 inches
Width 72.2 inches 73.2 inches
Height 58.7 inches 56.9 inches
Turning Diameter 36.4 feet 35.8 feet
Headroom, Front 38.3 inches 40.0 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.8 inches 37.8 inches
Legroom, Front 42.4 inches 46.1 inches
Legroom, Rear 39.1 inches 34.8 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 56.9 inches 57.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 57.0 inches 56.1 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 102.0 cubic feet 104.4 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 15.9 cubic feet 16.3 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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