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Family Saloons: Volkswagen Passat vs Toyota Avensis

Many motorists still prefer the conventional ride height, practicality and timeless image of the saloon body-style, which has long been associated with discerning taste, while many models are renowned for their ability to effortlessly swallow a family’s luggage. The Avensis and Passat have carved out highly respected reputations, but how do they differ side by side?

External designs compared

Now in its eighth generation, the latest VW Passat sums up sophistication, its relatively linear silhouette radiating both premium class and a certain sportiness thanks to its significantly chiselled styling. The grille with a quartet of horizontal chrome lines flanked by ultra-modern headlights bestows the Passat with impressive road presence. At the rear, the shallow and wide LED taillight clusters increase the perceived width of the car, while the entire 360-degree design is exquisitely finished off with various creases and details. From entry-level S trim and particularly in range-topping R-Line guise, the Volkswagen Passat saloon is the mark of a family with great taste.

The built-in-Britain Toyota Avensis saloon, meanwhile, has a rather more sweeping, curvaceous and softer front end. Although it has less road presence, it looks more dynamic and sporty in many regards, and is finished off in a modern way with LED headlamps and V-shaped light guides that give it a distinctive appeal. The upward-raked contour lines of the car’s side profile also convey a ready-for-action stance. The rear of the Avensis saloon is also more rounded and some may say less clinical, with an upmarket if not quite Germanic premium dose of style to it.
Conclusion: The Volkswagen Passat saloon ultimately has the classiest and more coveted exterior appeal

On the inside

On board the Volkswagen Passat saloon, horizontal lines echo its exterior design, enhancing the perceived width of the cabin to create an aura of spaciousness. A smart-looking analogue clock sits atop the infotainment screen, which is itself minimalist in design. Even the circular climate controls have been simplified, giving the cabin a refreshingly clean vibe. The Passat’s architectural feel aligns with its closeness in quality to the Audi brand. Upgrading the instruments to Active Info Display is well worth it, working in tandem with the 12.3-inch touchscreen to optimise the displayed data. The latest in modern equipment such as a head-up display can be specified, while Volkswagen’s pioneering spirit when it comes to safety is evident, optional packs including Predictive Pedestrian Protection and Traffic Jam Assist to name but a few. Despite slightly more compact dimensions compared to the previous generation Passat saloon, the new model cleverly offers more space for families and luggage. Shoulder, head and legroom are plentiful and the saloon’s boot offers an impressive 586 litres with the rear seats raised, which expands to 1,152 litres when they’re split-folded.

The Avensis saloon’s dashboard is perhaps friendlier and more welcoming in appearance, with curved inserts in satin chrome, a winged appearance to the buttons either side of the infotainment touchscreen, and plenty of soft-touch materials. Overall perceived build quality may not seem quite as premium as in the Passat, but the Avensis nevertheless reinforces Toyota’s age-old focus of robustness and comfort. Options including electric lumbar adjustment, Skyview panoramic roof and a rear seat entertainment package naturally enhance the Avensis’ proposition, but safety is a significant feature no matter which trim is chosen, even entry-level Active guise receiving Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking as standard. This makes the Avensis a great saloon for parents, assured that their family will be safe, while its 509-litre boot is good even if more compact than the VW’s.

Conclusion: Unless you need the space of the Passat, the Avensis has more design flair inside

Engines rated

In recent years, technological strides have enabled car manufacturers to produce small yet powerful and efficient engines. 
  • The Volkswagen Group’s renowned 1.4 TSI petrol engine is one of the primary examples and can be chosen for the Passat saloon in 125PS or 150PS tunes, while a 1.8 TSI and 2.0 TSI are offered for family drivers seeking extra power, the latter packing a punch with 220PS. Fuel economy at the pump ranges from 35.8 to an excellent 47.1mpg for the petrol line-up.  
  • Meanwhile, VW offers a wide range of choice when it comes to diesel, too. The incredibly efficient 1.6 TDI produces 120PS and is cited at a peak of 65.7mpg, with CO2 emissions plateauing at just 95g/km in BlueMotion trim with a manual gearbox.
  • The brand’s revered 2.0 TDI diesel unit ranges from 150PS to 240PS in the BiTDI DSG 4MOTION at the top of the range, with a 0-62mph time of just 6.7 seconds. 
  • For ultimate efficiency combined with instantaneous power delivery, a hybrid Passat GTE is available with figures of 156.9mpg, 40g/km CO2, 62mph in 7.4 second, a 31-mile electric driving range and a combined hybrid range of 606 miles.
  • Although Toyota is discontinuing petrol for some models going forward, the Avensis saloon still currently enjoys the Japanese marque’s highly respected 1.8-litre Valvematic unit that produces 147bhp and can reach 62mph in a respectable 9.4 seconds in manual guise, while emitting from 138g/km CO2 and offering up to 47.9mpg with an automatic transmission. 
  • A brace of diesel engines is offered, the choice coming down to a 112bhp/67.3mpg 1.6-litre for economy conscious families or a 2.0-litre that produces 144bhp and still keeps CO2 emissions just below 120g/km with 17” alloy wheels. 
  • While Toyota is synonymous with hybrid technology, this is not currently offered for the Avensis.
Conclusion: The Passat saloon 2.0 TDI 150PS will prove more than enough for most families

In numbers…


Toyota Avensis

Volkswagen Passat





Power (HP)





Fuel (comb MPG)




65.7 1.6 TDI / 156.9 GTE

Emissions (CO2, g/km)



40 GTE / 95 1.6 TDI


Top Speed (mph)





0 – 60mph in…. (seconds)










Germany and Japan’s answers in the family saloon sector are compelling in different ways, the slightly more serious Volkswagen focussed on precision while the Toyota has a more welcoming and lovable aura to it. The Passat offers more space and greater engine choice while the proven engines of the Avensis are smooth and enduring. To see which one is right for your family, why not contact Inchcape Toyota and Inchcape Volkswagen to arrange test-drives today?