Well, slightly smaller.
New for 2020 is the Atlas Cross Sport, a midsize crossover that rides the same platform and shares the same 117.3-inch wheelbase as its larger Atlas source material, but jettisons the big guy’s third row while shaving nearly 3 inches off its overall length. VW then covers it all with sportier styling – a more aggressive grille flanked by techy LED headlights, a more sharply sloping roof, and a sassy, lean-forward rear glass – and, voila!, you have a sporty five-seat crossover that’s a tad smaller while boasting copious interior room for five.
In fact, that cabin room, compared to the big Atlas, actually grows in one respect. With no need to accommodate a third row, Cross Sport’s rear leg room grows 3 inches compared to the mid-row leg room in Atlas.
The other big change: Atlas Cross Sport, which shares its greasy stuff with Atlas, is more generous with all-wheel-drive availability. While four-corner-traction in Atlas (for now) is available only with the platform’s 276-horsepower V-6, AWD in Atlas Cross Sport can be had with both that six-pack and the base, 235-hp inline 4-cylinder.
Regardless of cylinder count or the number of tractive wheels, every Cross Sport is managed by an eight-speed automatic.
Cross Sport is available in a dizzying array of iterations, including S, SE and SEL trims. Those three can be modified further with subset trims, depending on the trim in question, that include “With Technology,” “R-Line,” “With Technology R-Line,” “Premium” and “Premium R-Line.”
We drove a Cross Sport V-6 SEL Premium with all-wheel drive (“4Motion” in VW-speak), so we’ll stick with that.
As expected, room in the well-bolstered front buckets is generous while, as noted, rear-seat room is impressive. Regarding cargo duty, the 40.3 cubic feet behind the second row can expand to more than 77 cubes with that 60/40-split rear seat folded.
On the road, Atlas Cross Sport feels wide as a runway, but its cabin is quiet, its ride civilized and its handling surprisingly athletic. Our SEL AWD boasted drive modes of Snow, Eco, Normal, Sport, Off-road and Off-Road Custom.
No hot rod, acceleration to 60 mph with the V-6 was in the high 7’s, but fuel-economy was notable. We got 21 mpg in 130 miles of mixed city/hwy motoring – a couple mpg’s better than the EPA expected.
Throw in all the expected 21st-century safety stuff – blind spot monitoring, pre-collision braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and more – along with such infotainment features as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto talent, plus the availability of the optional Fender Premium Audio we had, and Cross Sport makes its case as a fine family companion.
In this age of GPS navigation, digital maps and turn-by-turn smartphone guidance, the good ol’ paper-map book may be antiquated. But VW figures you can still use a road Atlas – now in a handy take-along size.