It was one of the biggest bombings, and the highest single death toll, in Latakia since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011.
TV footage from the scene showed thick black smoke rising from a car, damage to nearby vehicles and a puddle of blood. Syrian state TV said the explosion went off in Hamam Square on the edge of Latakia.
Latakia is a stronghold of Assad, whose forces are locked in a civil war with an array of rebel groups, including Islamic militants. Last month, rebels shelled Latakia, killing six people and wounding 19. Still, Latakia has largely remained on the sidelines of the conflict, and explosions in the city have been rare.
Also Wednesday, rocket fire struck an engineering college in the capital, Damascus, killing two students and wounding 15 people, SANA reported. A day earlier, mortar rounds killed one student and wounded six at the same college.