Inside the VW Atlas Cross Sport: A Closer Look

VW's five-seat Atlas derivative fills an SUV void but does it still have space on its side?

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Since its launch in 2017, the Volkwagen Atlas has struck a chord with buyers in North America and helped to rebuild consumer confidence in the brand after the damaging Dieselgate scandal. Its winning mix of spot-on market positioning and VW’s traditional semi-premium aura has rapidly elevated it to third place in the Volkswagen sales rankings behind the Tiguan and Jetta.

The seven-seat Atlas – which will also be refreshed for the 2021 model year – is now joined by a five-seat derivative. Think Passport to the Honda Pilot. Early figures show that a majority of Cross Sport customers are new to VW, which is good news for the brand. We published a first drive of the newcomer recently but here we’ll focus on the interior of a 2020 Atlas Cross Sport Execline with which we spent a week.

First, here’s how much the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport costs

US buyers can choose from four grades with MRSPs of US$30,545 (S, 2-litre turbo FWD) to US$48,095 (SEL Premium, V6 AWD). The SEL Premium is the closest US equivalent to the Execline tested here.

2020 vw atlas cross sport interior review
2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport. Photo: Volkswagen

In Canada, the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport lineup runs from C$38,995 (MSRP without charges) for the entry-model Trendline to C$53,395 for our 3.6-litre V6-powered Execline. The test vehicle had no cost options or accessories fitted but all Canadian Cross Sports are AWD as standard.

As on the regular Atlas, engine options are a 2-litre TSI gasoline turbo (235 HP, 258 lb-ft) or the aforementioned FSI V6 (276 HP, 266 lb-ft).

Atlas Cross Sport passenger space and interior trim

The Cross Sport is a big vehicle for a five-seater, sharing its wheelbase with the longer Atlas, which translates to generous accommodation for passengers and their cargo. Headroom remains good despite the coupe-style roofline, but the narrow glasshouse does limit the view out for shorter children from the sliding rear seat. At least the panoramic power sunroof (standard on Comfortline/SEL and above) helps with the interior light levels.

Interior changes from the Atlas to include a redesigned steering wheel and available (as here on the Execline) two-tone inserts with stitching accents on the door panels. Our car came with cinnamon/black perforated-leather seats and we were happy with the comfort they offered. The front seats have eight-way power adjustment and at this trim level are both heated and cooled. The rear bench is also heated.

Dashboard and infotainment

The Cross Sport Execline’s driver gets the latest, customizable ‘Volkswagen Digital Cockpit’ – a full digital dashboard in the instrument binnacle.

Further over, the central touchscreen is 8in in size (6.5in on the S) and comes not only with the now-obligatory Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, but also a player for your old CDs. The Execline also gets a Fender-branded, 12-speaker audio system. We liked the system’s intuitive interface but the VW logo on startup needs upgrading to the marque’s newly adopted, thinner-lettered badge – as seen everywhere else on the car.

There’s wireless phone charging, two 12V power outlets, one 115V outlet and four USB ports, but no USB-C. Meanwhile there are still plenty of buttons for essential controls, including satisfyingly chunky HVAC control knobs.

Cargo capacity: how much can the Cross Sport lug around?

Trunk space is a decent 1141L with the seats in place, which should be more than adequate for everyday use. For comparison, the Passport has a little more at 1166L, thanks to its less steeply raked rear window. The VW’s chopped roofline – 58mm/2.3in lower than the regular Atlas – might also stop you loading taller items.

A simple lever folds the rear seat flat (all of it, or in a 60/40 split) and the resulting, 2203L load space is exceptionally long and mostly flat – a six-footer could even sleep there in relative comfort.

The interior other stuff

Our week with the Atlas Cross Sport did highlight that on the road, it shares many characteristics with the seven-seat Atlas – for good and bad.

The well proven MQB chassis architecture means that the Cross Sport does handle decently for a vehicle of this size, even if the steering effort is a little light for our taste and short on feedback. It’s also quiet in the cabin on the move, but ride comfort remains a problem. The Execline’s 20in ‘Capricorn’ alloy wheels unfortunately give the SUV a leaden-footed quality over sharper bumps in the road. We’d definitely avoid the R-Line package’s 21s.

The other point to note is that although the V6 still delivers adequate power and torque, it isn’t getting any younger. Already behind rivals in the fuel efficiency stakes when it first appeared in the Atlas, its combined consumption figure of 12.7L/100km (22mpg) now looks out of step even with V6-powered competition, let alone with the emerging trend towards hybrid SUVs. There’s no sign that a hybrid will be offered in this generation.

Takeaway: Our final thoughts on the Atlas Cross Sport interior

Pros:

Generous passenger space

Decent build quality

Long cargo space with seat down

Cons:

No USB-C ports

High beltline reduces visibility from rear seat

Atlas shortcomings remain: ride comfort, fuel consumption

The interior is perhaps the Atlas Cross Sport’s strongest suit. Spacious, comfortable and with up-to-date infotainment options, it should meet the family’s needs, give or take a USB-C port or two.

If you don’t need the extra passenger capacity of a regular Atlas, we’d certainly consider the Cross Sport alongside rivals like the Honda Passport, Chevy Blazer, Ford Edge or Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Learn more here

2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport Canada | 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport USA

Graham Heeps
Based in Calgary, AB, Graham’s outlets include Autocar, Professional Motorsport World, Turnology.com and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology. A lifelong motorsports fan, he’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), the Guild of Motoring Writers and the Motor Press Guild, speaks German and collects Matchbox cars (at the same time).

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