2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport Review | Big style and space, not-so-big price


There aren’t many midsize two-row SUVs on the market, which works in the 2022 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport‘s favor. Of the few competitors it has, most are old and aren’t the best values. The Cross Sport capitalizes on that by offering a lot (literally) of SUV for not a whole lot of money. It’s one of the more affordable ones in the segment, while also being quite large and quite attractive.

The Atlas Cross Sport is based on the boxy, three-row Atlas, but drops that third-row and lowers its roof-line for additional style. Combined with the pronounced fenders and chiseled shape, it’s arguably the best-looking SUV in the segment. Also, because it’s fairly close in size to its conventional counterpart, it still has loads of interior space, even with the low roof. With a solid array of standard features and a relatively low price tag, it’s a high-value proposition.

It’s not perfect, though. With a focus on keeping the price low (and profits up), this big, American-made VW doesn’t feel quite as high-quality as we would hope, with somewhat cheap interior materials. It’s also only fine when driving. It’s comfortable, but that’s about it, with lackluster handling and an awkward transmission. It’s not enough to write-off the Cross Sport, since it’s still great value and very stylish, but there are better driving options in this class with nicer interiors such as the Honda Passport and Nissan Murano.

Interior & Technology | Passenger & Cargo Space | Performance & Fuel Economy

What it’s like to drive | Pricing & Features | Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What’s new for 2022?

The Atlas Cross Sport is barely changed for 2022. The biggest update is the inclusion of the 8-inch Digital Cockpit instrument panel screen as standard equipment on all trims. The line-up has been narrowed to six trim levels, and there are a couple of minor standard feature changes to some of the trims. The VR6-equipped SE with Technology trim now has a standard tow hitch, the SEL trim now has all-wheel drive and 20-inch wheels as standard, and the SEL Premium gains 21-inch wheels.

2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport

What are the Atlas Cross Sport’s interior and in-car technology like?

The Cross Sport interior is virtually identical to its bigger sibling, though with a lower roof and no third row. The dash design is therefore equally upright, squared-off and simple. Tight gaps and crisp edges make it look good on first inspection, but look closer and the plastics are disappointing for this price point with coarse graining and quite a few hard surfaces. It’s also pretty drab when it comes to color and trim, but opting for some contrasting upholstery on higher trims really cheers it up.

The front seats don’t have much shape, but padding is thick enough and they’re wide enough that they’re pretty comfortable for a variety of body shapes. The rear seats are pretty flat as well, but that’s not so unusual for a midsize SUV. Thankfully, they recline and the vast amount of space should make fitting a rear-facing child seat easy.

On the controls and technology front, the Atlas Cross Sport fares extremely well. The infotainment system is easy-to-read and responsive. It has plenty of short cut buttons and physical knobs for volume and tuning, plus convenient knobs and buttons for all the climate functions. Included in every Cross Sport is the VW Digital Cockpit instrument screen. It too is crisp and clear, and provides lots of information that make it feel a bit more premium than others in the segment.

2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport

How big is the Atlas Cross Sport?

The Atlas Cross Sport is the largest of the two-row midsize SUV segment, which includes the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda Passport, Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevy Blazer, Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. Like the similarly large Passport, the Atlas Cross Sport is a shortened version of a larger three-row (the Pilot for the Passport and the Atlas for the Cross Sport). As such, there’s enormous amounts of leg and shoulder room in both rows of the Cross Sport. Head room is good for the front occupants, but it’s a bit tight for rear passengers.

Cargo space is impressive thanks to the Cross Sport’s size. Behind the rear seats is 40.3 cubic feet, which is vastly more than the norm for two-row midsize SUVs, and not far off what you’d expect to find in a three-row SUV with the third row folded. Fold the rear seats down, and it has a similarly voluminous 77.8 cubic feet. Admittedly, the Honda Passport has slightly greater figures and doesn’t suffer from the Cross Sport’s low roof, which can present an issue for some bulky items. Nevertheless, the Cross Sport can carry quite a bit. 

What are the Atlas Cross Sport fuel economy and performance specs?

Two engines are available in the Cross Sport. Both come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and can have either front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Standard is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. With front-wheel drive, it gets 21 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. All-wheel drive drops those numbers 20/24/22. This is average fuel economy for the segment, but most competitors have more power.

 Optionally available is a 3.6-liter narrow-angle V6 engine (aka VR6) making 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Both front- and all-wheel drive return the same fuel economy with the VR6: 18 mpg city, 24 highway and 20 combined. This is below average for the segment.

Both engine configurations are rated for towing, but the VR6 is probably the one you want if you’ll be towing often. The four-cylinder is rated for 2,000 pounds, whereas the VR6 can handle 5,000 pounds.

2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport

What’s the Atlas Cross Sport like to drive?

The Atlas Cross Sport is a competent if not particularly inspiring vehicle to drive. The base four-cylinder is adequate for this type of vehicle, providing solid torque and power in the low- and mid-range. Though not particularly loud, it is a bit coarse. The optional VR6 engine offers more power, but testing done by other publications has suggested that advantage does not equate to stronger acceleration. Quite the opposite, in fact. We’ve also noticed that the turbo just feels quicker even if the VR6 is smoother, better sounding and lets you tow more.

Both engines get the same eight-speed automatic transmission, which, again, works fine, but isn’t the best in class. Gear changes are sometimes awkward and slow. The default shift mode isn’t very willing to change down, either. But the “Sport” mode is pretty good, being much more responsive to your right foot and holding gears longer. It also doesn’t lock out top gear for efficient highway cruising as other sport modes do – basically, it knows when you want to drive with some enthusiasm and when it’s OK to relax.

Ride quality is good in the Atlas Cross Sport. You do feel most of the bumps, but they’re significantly softened, and it doesn’t heave or bounce over large holes and undulations. This big SUV doesn’t lean much in corners, either, but is far from a corner carver despite the “Sport” in its name. It’s not especially quick to react to inputs, and the steering is numb, light and slow. It can be hustled, but it’s happiest cruising.

What other VW Atlas Cross Sport reviews can I read?

2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport First Drive | More and less of a good thing

We try out VW’s smaller, sleeker version of the Atlas for the first time.

How much is the 2022 Atlas Cross Sport price and what features are available?

The base Atlas Cross Sport is the SE, and it starts at $34,395 including the $1,195 destination charge. It’s equipped with the four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is available for an additional $1,900. On the outside, it has 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, heated mirrors, roof rails, proximity entry and push-button start. Inside, the Cross Sport gets a 10-way power driver seat, heated front seats, single-zone manual climate control and leatherette on the seats and steering wheel. All Cross Sports also get a fully digital instrument display, which measures 8 inches on the SE trims, and 10.25-inch screens on the SEL and above. The SE also gets a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment screen, whereas SE with Technology and above get an 8-inch unit. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard, along with two USB_C ports up front.

There are a plethora of other features available as options or on higher trims. Exterior upgrades include heated washer nozzles, hands-free power hatchback, larger wheels, a panoramic sunroof and the R-Line exterior package. There’s an R-Line option with black trim as well. Upgrades for the interior include heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery. An upgraded stereo and surround-view camera are available as technology upgrades in addition to the larger information screens.

Full pricing for the Atlas Cross Sport is below:

  • SE: $34,395
  • SE w/ Technology: $38,565
  • SEL: $44,165
  • SEL R-Line: $44,370
  • SEL R-Line Black: N/A (available later this year)
  • SEL Premium R-Line: $51,565

2022 VW Atlas Cross Sport

What are the Atlas Cross Sport safety ratings and driver assistance features?

The Atlas Cross Sport has performed reasonably well in crash testing. NHTSA gives it a five-star overall rating. More specifically, it received a four-star rating for frontal impact and rollover testing. In side-impact testing, it got five stars. In IIHS testing, the Cross Sport did well in crash tests, but its headlights could be improved. All of the crash tests resulted in the best “Good” rating, and the standard collision prevention system received the top “Superior” rating for vehicle-to-vehicle (vehicle-to-pedestrian hasn’t been tested). The standard headlights were only rated “Marginal” the second-lowest rating, but the optional lights were rated “Good.” Child seat LATCH anchor access was rated “Marginal.” The Atlas Cross Sport does not get the IIHS Top Safety Pick rating because of the headlight rating.

There are some welcome standard safety features on the Cross Sport. It features automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, automatic headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Available as options or as standard equipment on higher trim levels are many other safety features. They include lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with lane-centering steering assist, corner-adaptive headlights with automatic high-beams, parking sensors, surround-view cameras, and automatic parking capabilities.

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