Certified Benz & Beemer Compares 2012 Volkswagen Passat VS 2012 BMW 3 Near Phoenix, AZ

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2012 Volkswagen Passat

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2012 BMW 3

Safety Comparison

For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Volkswagen Passat are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

Both the Passat and the 3 Series Sedan have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, plastic fuel tanks, four wheel antilock brakes, traction control and electronic stability systems to prevent skidding.

For its top level performance in frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Passat as a “Top Pick” for 2012, a rating only granted to 126 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The 3 Series Sedan has not been tested, yet.

Warranty Comparison

Volkswagen’s powertrain warranty covers the Passat 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than BMW covers the 3 Series Sedan. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Coverage on the 3 Series Sedan ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

There are over 73 percent more Volkswagen dealers than there are BMW dealers, which makes it much easier to get service under the Passat’s warranty.

Reliability Comparison

The Volkswagen Passat’s engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the 3 Series Sedan’s engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

Engine Comparison

The Passat VR6’s standard 3.6 DOHC V6 produces 40 more horsepower (280 vs. 240) than the 328i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

On the EPA test cycle the Passat TDI gets better fuel mileage than the 328i Sedan RWD:


3 Series Sedan


31 city/43 hwy

23 city/34 hwy


30 city/40 hwy

24 city/36 hwy

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Volkswagen Passat uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended on Passat VR6 for maximum performance). The 3 Series Sedan requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The Passat has 2.7 gallons more fuel capacity than the 3 Series Sedan (18.5 vs. 15.8 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Brakes and Stopping Comparison

The Passat stops much shorter than the 3 Series Sedan:


3 Series Sedan

70 to 0 MPH

169 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels Comparison

For better traction, the Passat’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 3 Series Sedan (235/45R18 vs. 225/40R19).

Suspension and Handling Comparison

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Passat is 1.8 inches wider in the front than on the 3 Series Sedan.

For better maneuverability, the Passat’s turning circle is .7 feet tighter than the 3 Series Sedan’s (36.4 feet vs. 37.1 feet).

Chassis Comparison

The Volkswagen Passat may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 150 to 250 pounds less than the BMW 3 Series Sedan.

As tested by Car and Driver while at idle, the interior of the Passat SE is quieter than the 335i (39 vs. 42 dB).

Passenger Space Comparison

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the Passat is rated a Mid-size car by the EPA, while the 3 Series Sedan is rated a Compact.

The Passat has 6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the 3 Series Sedan (102 vs. 96).

The Passat has .4 inches more front legroom, 1.8 inches more front shoulder room, .1 inches more rear headroom, 4 inches more rear legroom and 1.9 inches more rear shoulder room than the 3 Series Sedan.

Cargo Capacity Comparison

The Passat has a much larger trunk than the 3 Series Sedan (15.9 vs. 13 cubic feet).

Ergonomics Comparison

The Passat offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The driver can also remotely turn on the heater or air conditioner. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Passat offers optional extendable sun visors. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer extendable visors.

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