When it came to making a more athletic-looking crossover, Volkswagen seemingly followed the proven formula with the Atlas Cross Sport. Chopping the roof off and transforming the blocky Atlas into a sportier offering by honing it into a coupe-like shape proved to be a popular move, especially with SUV buyers. We wanted to see how it fared as an adventure-minded vehicle and embarked on a series of adventure-themed challenges, including some tailored towards cyclists. How did it manage in the end?
Exterior Styling Has Adventure Baked Into Its DNA
While the exterior styling of our bright red tester will never be mistaken for being the most exciting styling effort in the broader SUV segment, it’s still an athletic take on the typically block-shaped Atlas. The Cross Sport also benefits from some changes that are taking place for 2022, with the base S model being replaced by the SE version as the gateway Cross Sport model. SEL grade Cross Sports like our tester now come standard with 20-inch wheels and all-wheel drive.
The minor updates help simplify the Cross Sport’s trim ladder. We’ll give Volkswagen designers credit for making a look that does grow on you after repeated exposure to it, especially in the front and side profile. The rear still takes some getting used to, but we’re confident that buyers will warm up to it quickly. The Cross Sport competes with a suite of similarly styled rivals, including the Ford Edge. The Edge has the same basic styling theme, but it comes across as the more athletic-looking one of the bunch. However, rumors are floating around that the Edge could be retired by Ford due to slumping sales, and if that’s the case, it might allow VW to lure in former Edge owners with the Cross Sport.
Functional Interior Excels At Hauling, Lacks Character
The interior of the 2022 Cross Sport will be familiar to those that have climbed behind the wheel of the standard-issue Atlas, and that means owners will benefit from some minor updates aimed at freshening things up. Our tester arrived with an updated steering wheel and some trim improvements, but while the sporty steering wheel helped give our example some character, we couldn’t say the same for the rest of the interior. The overall look is clean and modern, but it achieves this by sacrificing charm and personality with the bulk of the angles and curves feeling like they were phoned in and slapped on by a committee.
That’s a shame since the front seats are very comfortable and do an excellent job of delivering long-haul comfort. The second-row bench can be a bit tight for tall adults but look for children and smaller passengers to enjoy the amount of leg and arm room offered by the space. However, the Cross Sport truly excels at hauling stuff, and folding down the second row transforms the SUV into a very commendable hauler. The 40.3 cubic feet of cargo space can expand to 77.8 cubic feet with the bench folded down, and that allows the Cross Sport to haul a wide range of cargo.
We chose to push things to the limit for our tests and tasked the VW with transport duties for a local bicycle auction. We wanted to see how it would do in a pinch in this regard, especially if you are a cyclist that might not be able to afford a traditional rear-mounted bike carrier. The grey and cold auction grounds housed all kinds of bikes up for bid, but thankfully, we managed to win the final bike of the event. Loading it inside did require some careful maneuvering to get the handlebars and the front tire inside, but we could load it and bring it back to the office safely, along with a small bag of hand tools. While not the most ideal method to haul a bicycle, this test does show that it can be done, especially if you’re in a bind.
Cross Sport Four-Cylinder Spirited, But V6 Is Where It’s At
Performance for the 2022 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport still comes from a pair of engines with models like our example coming standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The four-banger makes 235 hp, and that was enough to help our tester make the sprint to 60 mph in the low seven-second range. However, the four-cylinder is overwhelmed by the Cross Sport’s weight, and at times, it felt like the engine lacked low-end punch.
That’s why we recommend going for the V6. While its 276 hp is a marginal improvement over the four-cylinder, the 266 lb-ft of torque on hand helps give the engine more punch, reducing the burden that the curb weight has on the Atlas’s acceleration. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic that features VW’s Tiptronic manul-shift capability. Handling in our tester is on the firm side, resulting in ride quality that felt very brittle with the tires loudly thumping over imperfections, including those that we encountered on the way to a trail to test out our newly acquired bicycle. The steering also felt too light for its own good, and shifting things into sport mode added heft but did little to hide the fact that the platform wasn’t communicating what the tires were doing very well.
Fuel economy is roughly in contention with some of its rivals, with our tester being rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city and 23 mpg freeway. The beefier V6 gets dinged slightly in city mileage with 18 mpg, but it manages to slightly outshine the four-cylinder on the highway with 24 mpg possible in long-haul excursions. The main threat to the Atlas Cross Sport is a growing pool of hybrid offerings, with the Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid proving to be a very formidable opponent for Volkswagen. The Hyundai’s interior has a better design, and it also benefits from some of the new technology that Hyundai has introduced into its models over the past few years. The hybrid model also trounces the Atlas in fuel economy, and that fact of life is becoming ever more critical in the minds of SUV buyers.
Pricing for the 2022 Volkswagen Cross Sport will still be in the higher reaches of the segment, with a base model starting at $32,775. The Cross Sport can go as high as $50,000 for the range-topping SEL Premium R-Line model. Our SEL tester was slightly lower than that, with a base model starting at $42,545. Our lightly optioned tester arrived with one package, but the $1,195 destination fee helped push the final price up to $48,115. That’s perilously close to the $50,000 barrier, and it’s a tough financial pill to swallow considering that while the SEL is an excellent mainstream offering, it does not have enough luxury to justify the high price.
If we were to buy one for ourselves, we would stick with one of the SE models. Both are in the $30,000 range, and customers looking for more technology can go up the ladder and choose the SE Technology Package. The extra money you’ll save can also go towards a rear-mounted bike rack perfect for hauling heavier bikes like our RadWagon 4 long-term bicycle tester, which is currently hibernating for the winter in our garage.
The 2022 Volkswagen Cross Sport has many of the core ingredients needed to be an excellent adventure vehicle. It can haul impressive amounts of cargo, coddle passengers with loads of everyday commuting comfort, and even impress with technology. However, it also lacks some of the personality and charm that commonly define other SUVs in its segment. Add in pricing that can be over-ambitious in certain trim levels, and the Cross Sport ends up being a charming but flawed offering. On that note, here’s hoping the snow melts for warmer weather and plenty of cycling.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.