Saloons may have started losing out to the trendier SUVs, but they remain unrivalled when it comes to sophistication and practicality. Able to perform both as intelligent business vehicles and fun family run-arounds, they offer the perfect solution for many motorists.
Here, we pit two executive saloons against one another as we compare the Mazda 6 vs VW Passat. Both providing a premium feel at a more affordable price, they are a sound choice for everyday driving – but which is best for you? It’s time to find out…
Both the Volkswagen Passat and Mazda 6 sport exterior styling that is up to date with the latest trends. Slender headlamps and wide grilles make for an aggressive look at the nose, while crisp lines lend a sense of dynamism to each. The Passat differs in its simple silhouette, boasting clean contours and a more classic roofline. The Mazda 6, meanwhile, has a more tapered roof, which gives it a contemporary, coupé-style look, and sports more rounded shoulders.
Inside, the VW Passat is smartly styled, featuring textured materials, chrome touches and an analogue clock as a little nod to tradition. The overall feel is classy yet functional, making it comfortable while still being intuitive.
The Mazda 6’s cabin is a little more modern looking, with a range of high-quality materials and well-damped switches giving it a premium feel. The infotainment screen is set at a more practical height making it simpler to use, and the instrument cluster is clearer.
Both cars offer similar levels of seat and steering wheel adjustment, enabling drivers of all shapes and sizes to get comfy. Visibility is good on both too, with each model boasting a wide windscreen and slim pillars providing a good forward view.
Space is a strength of both the VW Passat and Mazda 6. Front and rear passengers have ample head and legroom, although the coupé roofline on the Mazda 6 restricts headroom for rear passengers slightly – those over six foot may find it a touch on the tight side. A protruding central tunnel limits legroom for middle passengers travelling in the Passat, although there’s plenty of knee space for those in the outer seats.
Of course, saloons are designed for practicality, so both vehicles have plenty of storage space too. The Mazda 6 has a large glovebox and a cubby in the centre console, while the Passat’s central cubby doubles as an armrest. The glovebox can be cooled too, so storing lunch or drinks is simple. The Passat’s boot is large but shallow, so awkwardly shaped items can be tricky to fit in, while the Mazda 6 offers 483 litres of space meaning two large suitcases can be stowed without trouble.
In independent tests, Mazda 6 reliability tops that of the VW Passat. After a few electrical issues that appeared shortly after launch, it has fared well and proved to be solidly built. The VW Passat reliability is generally very good too, but second to other saloons from rival brands. That said, it benefits from a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, so any issues that occur within that period can be ironed out at minimal cost.
The VW Passat is a great all-rounder, providing flexible engine options, a smooth ride and respectable fuel economy. The 1.6-litre Bluemotion provides the utmost in efficiency, while the 2.0-litre diesel gets up to speed quickly and is punchy at low revs. Drivers who prefer petrol will enjoy the muscle of the 1.8-litre variant, with its keen power delivery and pacey drive. It’s less economical than other units, however, so if you’re covering more miles, a diesel may be better.
A choice of manual and automatic gearboxes is available with each of the Passat’s engine options except the Bluemotion, which is manual only.
The Mazda 6 has a slightly smaller engine range, but each variant provides a strong drive. The 2.2-litre diesel is relaxed and capable, accelerating with little effort and delivering a smooth ride. There are also two 2.0-litre petrol units that are composed and confident around town, although they produce higher emissions.
All versions of the Mazda 6 come with manual transmission as standard, and all but one petrol variant have the option of automatic transmission.
Executive saloon drivers expect a decent level of kit in their cars, and the Mazda 6 specs are more than satisfactory in every model. The entry-level SE trim comes with air conditioning as standard and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that provides access to the DAB radio and Bluetooth functionality. Cruise control is also standard, making longer distance drives more relaxing. Higher trim levels include satellite navigation, parking sensors and privacy glass.
The VW Passat specs are fairly similar, with entry-level models boasting a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, air conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity. There’s also an eight-speaker sound system compared to the Mazda’s four-speaker offering. As with the Mazda 6, it’s necessary to step up a trim on the Passat to benefit from satellite navigation and parking sensors. Cruise control is also only available as standard on higher spec models.
It’s a reasonably close call between the two, but in terms of style and reliability, the Mazda 6 holds the trump card. It’s more modern exterior and plush, well-built cabin provide a premium feel, while the level of technology is very good. If it’s versatility you want, however, the VW Passat is the vehicle to opt for. With a more extensive engine range and better overall interior space, it has the edge when it comes to practicality.
Explore the Mazda 6 and Volkswagen Passat in more detail at your local Carwise dealership. Our locations in Harlow and Maidstone have a range of used executive saloons on offer and we’ll be happy to take you out for a test drive.