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2021 Toyota Venza vs. 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport: Which Is Better?

The completely reimagined 2021 Toyota Venza hybrid goes against the sporty 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. Each has its strengths, but in terms of satisfying the needs of a midsize crossover shopper, which is better?

Quick Facts

  • Toyota Venza returns for 2021 as a hybrid compact crossover.
  • VW Atlas Cross Sport offers a turbocharged four-cylinder or a V6.
  • Both include good standard safety features.

2021 Toyota Venza

2021 Toyota Venza

Base price: $33,645 / Read our 2021 Toyota Venza Review

What we like: Fuel economy; good standard safety features; standard all-wheel drive

What we would change: Single engine choice; no plug-in hybrid; limited cargo space; negligible off-road capability

Overview: The last time Toyota had a Venza as part of its lineup, it was a boxy wagonlike thing, but several years have passed since its demise, and it returns for 2021 as a hybrid-powered midsize crossover, sized roughly between the smaller RAV4 and the three-row Highlander. Its hybrid drivetrain comes from the RAV4 hybrid, and in this case powers all four wheels. It’s not a thrill ride, but the electric motors provide a good boost of acceleration when necessary. Steering is precise and the brakes are strong. The interior isn’t the most exciting thing, but the seats are comfortable, with 8-way power adjustment and decent space. Cargo space is smaller than average, however, with 28.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats expanding to 55.5 with them folded. Standard features are good, and include Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety features, including lane departure warning and a pre-collision system. Also included are an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility. Options include a glass roof that can switch from transparent to frosted at the touch of a button.

What’s new for 2021: Everything, as the 2021 Venza represents a brand-new model.

Features and technology: Keeping things simple, the 2021 Toyota Venza comes with a single engine/transmission choice and in three different trim levels. The base LE trim has an 8-way power driver seat, hands-free liftgate, and an AM/FM sound system with six speakers, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/Amazon Alexa compatibility. Also included are Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety features, all-wheel drive, and a back-up camera.

Next up is the XLE, which adds a 7.0-inch instrument cluster and a Smart Key system, and on top is the Limited, with heated and ventilated front seats and a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Options across the range include the above-mentioned panoramic glass roof, heated and ventilated front seats, a 12-speaker 1,200-watt JBL premium audio system, a surround-view camera, and a 10-inch color head-up display.

What does the future hold: As the Venza is brand-new this year, we don’t expect much to change too radically, with possibly some new paint colors and the addition of new safety tech features. Find a 2021 Toyota Venza for sale

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

Base price: $32,050 / Read our 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Review 

What we like: Great space for passengers and cargo; choice of engines; handsome looks; lots of options

What we would change: Poor fuel economy; no hybrid option; expensive at higher trim levels

Overview: Nearly the same size as its brother the Atlas, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport has only two rows of seats rather than three, which translates into massive cargo space and plenty of room for five passengers. It’s also slightly shorter, narrower, and lighter than the Atlas, which imbues it with sleeker looks and livelier driving manners. The base engine is a turbocharged four-cylinder, which sends its power to the front wheels or, alternatively, all four. The engine can seem a bit coarse under hard acceleration, but it gets the VW moving, and the Atlas Cross Sport is surprisingly nimble, even more so when Sport mode is selected. There’s also a V6 option, but it’s not really necessary unless you need to tow, and its fuel economy is even worse than the four-cylinder’s already poor 24 mpg combined. Standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and numerous safety features including forward collision warning, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. There are numerous options available either à la carte or at the higher trim levels, but they can cause the price to climb quickly. Resale values are respectable.

What’s new for 2021: A carryover, the 2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport is virtually unchanged from last year save for the addition of the MIB3 infotainment system in the SE trim and both Travel Assist and Emergency Assist in the SEL trim.

Features and technology: With two engine choices and either front-wheel or all-wheel drive as well as several trim levels, the 2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport gives a buyer plenty of options. The base S model includes a number of safety features including forward-collision warning, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic LED headlights. Also included are a 6.5-inch touchscreen with a 6-speaker audio system, two USB ports, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The next up SE includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen, five USB ports, heated front seats, and keyless entry and start.

The SE with Tech adds 20-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, a power liftgate, and park distance control. Next up is the SE with Tech R-Line, which includes the bigger V6 engine, all-wheel drive, and some sporty appearance bits, including special R-Line front and rear bumpers and R-Line badges. The SEL has the V6 engine but adds a heated steering wheel, power driver and passenger seats, and other features including high-beam control and traffic-jam assist. Moving up, the SEL R-Line combines the sporty appearance of and features of the R-Line with the upgrades of the SEL. The SEL Premium includes heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, leather seating, and an overhead camera, and the Premium R-Line adds to that the various R-Line features.

What does the future hold: Our biggest complaint about the Atlas Cross Sport concerns its fuel economy, so we would like to see a more efficient engine or possibly a hybrid option, which would provide the same power but with better fuel economy. Find a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport for sale

Venza vs. Atlas Cross Sport: Strengths comparison

Venza Benefits: Fuel economy; standard all-wheel drive; more standard features; Toyota’s reputation for quality.

Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Benefits: More power; fun to drive; cargo space.

2021 Toyota Venza vs. 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport: Which is better?

If fuel economy is your main concern, then the 2021 Toyota Venza wins this one by a country mile, with its 40 mpg city nearly doubling the 21 mpg city of the VW. But if you’re looking for a roomy, sporty midsize crossover that’s fun to drive and has loads of room for your passengers and your stuff, then choose the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport.

Find a 2021 Toyota Venza for sale  or  Find a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport for sale

2021 Toyota Venza 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.5-liter I4 + electric motor 2.0-liter turbocharged I4
Horsepower 219 hp @ 5,700 rpm 235 hp @ 4,500 rpm
Torque n/a 258 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission CVT 8-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 39 mpg (40 city/37 hwy) 22 mpg (21 city/24 hwy)
Also Available n/a 3.6-liter V6
Basic warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating Not rated 5 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 105.9 inches 117.3 inches
Overall Length 186.6 inches 195.5 inches
Width 73.0 inches 78.4 inches
Height 65.9 inches 68.3 inches
Turning Diameter 36.1 feet 40.5 feet
Headroom, Front 38.6 inches 39.4 inches
Headroom, Rear 39.0 inches 37.8 inches
Legroom, Front 40.9 inches 41.6 inches
Legroom, Rear 37.8 inches 40.4 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 57.4 inches 61.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 56.9 inches 60.6 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 98.3 cubic feet 112.0 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 28.8 cubic feet 40.3 cubic feet

Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd is an author specializing in comparison tests. A veteran of the automotive press world, Doug started at Sports Car International and Vintage Motorsport magazines and has worked at both Porsche Panorama magazine and Doug is also a jazz piano player and a composer for television.

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