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2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport vs. 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe: Which Is Better?

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport meets the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe in this battle of mid-size, five-seat SUVs. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • The Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is derived from the 3-row Atlas.
  • The Hyundai Santa Fe was updated for 2021.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Front Right Side in Black
Above: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport in Deep Black Pearl

Base Price: $30,855 / Read our 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Review

What we like: Roomy interior; lots of luggage space; high-tech cabin; robust towing capacity.

What we would change: Fuel economy is not so great; firm ride; expensive top trims.

Overview: The Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is carved from the larger three-row Atlas, but VW only snipped five inches of rear overhang and fitted a lower roofline with a more sloped backlight. Thus, the Atlas Cross Sport is among the biggest in its field of two-row mid-sizer SUVs. As a result, passenger space is especially generous with over 40 inches of rear-seat legroom, and luggage space is, too, both behind the rear seats and with the seatbacks folded. Cabin materials are somewhat wanting, however. Like its bigger brother, the Cross Sport offers a 253-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 or a 276-hp 3.6-liter V6, both paired with a well-mannered 8-speed automatic and a choice of FWD or AWD. Both engines prove fairly thirsty, with the 2.0-liter averaging 22 mpg and the 3.6-liter managing just 20 mpg with FWD or 19 with AWD. Both deliver adequate acceleration, but the V6 shows a notable towing advantage, with a 5,000-pound rating. The Atlas rides firmly, but overly light steering makes it not so sporty to drive.

What’s new for 2021: Not a whole lot. The available adaptive cruise control now features lane-centering and is called Travel Assist. The infotainment system has been updated.

Features and technology: The 2021 Atlas Cross Sport is available in S, SE, SE with Technology, SE with Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line trim levels. The R-Line variants get sporty-looking visual accents. All Cross Sports come standard with forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Lane-keep assist is standard on the SEL and higher trims, which also get Travel Assist. While the base S uses a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, the rest of the lineup has an 8-inch unit with a newly upgraded operating system. More impressive is the 10-inch Digital Cockpit instrument cluster that’s sharp-looking and highly customizable. It’s standard on SEL and higher variants. Wireless smartphone charging is standard on all but the base car.

What does the future hold: The Atlas Cross Sport may be due for a mid-cycle update next year. See 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport models for sale near you

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Front in Twilight Black
Above: 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe in Twilight Black

Base Price: $28,035 / Read our 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

What we like: Loads of tech features; attractive pricing; choice of three powertrains, including a fuel-efficient hybrid.

What we would change: An off-road-themed variant would expand the Santa Fe’s appeal, as would a sport-themed version; ditch the pushbutton gear selector.

Overview: Already a strong contender, the freshened 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe boasts more features, better fuel economy, two new standard engines, plus a gas-electric hybrid.

Powering the base SE and the SEL is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 191 hp and an 8-speed automatic. EPA estimates are 26 mpg with FWD and 24 mpg with AWD. Limited and Caligraphy models get a 2.5-liter turbo that makes 277 hp and pairs with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT).

With FWD, the turbo’s combined fuel economy is just 1 mpg lower than the base engine, while the AWD turbo’s mileage is the same as the AWD base engine. The turbo’s max towing capacity is 3,500 pounds versus 2,000 for the base engine. The hybrid (offered in SE and SEL form) combines a 1.6-liter turbo, an electric motor, a 6-speed automatic transmission, and standard AWD. It puts out 225 hp while delivering 39 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

The Santa Fe is strictly a 5-seater, but there’s lots of room for people and cargo, and the interior has been upgraded — particularly in the luxurious new Caligraphy versions.

What’s new for 2021: The Santa Fe has been treated to an extensive makeover for 2021, with new engines, additional tech features, an enhanced interior, revised exterior styling, and a new top trim.

Features and technology: The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is offered in SE, SEL, Limited, and Caligraphy trims. Forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability are standard even on the base model.

Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert arrive with the SEL trim level. An 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is standard on the SE and SEL, with a 10.25-inch unit optional on the SEL and included on higher grades (although the larger system has only wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).

A digital instrument cluster, smartphone-as-key, leather upholstery, and Hyundai’s impressive Highway Driving Assist automated lane-centering feature are optional on the SEL and standard on the Limited and higher, which also get Hyundai’s neat Blind-Spot View Monitor and remote parking assist.

The top-drawer Caligraphy comes standard with AWD as well as Nappa leather stitched in a quilted pattern.

What does the future hold: The Santa Fe was just freshened for 2021, so Hyundai is likely to stand pat for a while. See 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe models for sale near you

 Atlas Cross Sport vs. Santa Fe: Strengths Comparison

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport vs 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Profile
Above: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Platinum Gray Metallic Below: 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe in Twilight Black

Atlas Cross Sport Benefits: Greater towing capacity; available V6; more interior space.

Hyundai Santa Fe Benefits: Lower pricing’ tech features, available hybrid; great warranty; 3-years free scheduled maintenance.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport vs. 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe: Which Is Better?

Although the Volkswagen is slightly roomy, in truth, both of these SUVs have plenty of space for five and their luggage. Unless you need the VW’s 5,000-pound towing capacity, the Hyundai takes this one with its greater feature content, nicer interior, and an available hybrid powertrain.

See 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport models for sale or See 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe models for sale

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter I4 turbo 2.5-liter I4
Horsepower 235 hp  @ 4,500 rpm 191 hp  @ 6,100 rpm
Torque 258 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm 182 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 8-spd automatic 8-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 22 mpg (21 city/24 hwy) 25 mpg (22 city/29 hwy)
Also Available 3.6L V6; AWD 2.5-liter turbo I4; hybrid; AWD
Specs
Basic Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles 10 years/100,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars n/a
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 117.3 inches 108.9 inches
Overall Length 195.5 inches 188.4 inches
Width 78.4 inches 74.8 inches
Height 67.8 inches 66.3 inches
Turning Diameter 40.5 feet 37.5 feet
Headroom, Front 39.4 inches 41.2 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.8 inches 39.0 inches
Legroom, Front 41.6 inches 44.1 inches
Legroom, Rear 40.4 inches 41.7 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 61.5 inches 59.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 60.6 inches 58.3 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 112 cubic feet n/a
EPA Cargo Volume 40.3/77.8 cubic feet 36.4/72.1 cubic feet
Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio is an author specializing in automobiles. He says, “I have been into cars ever since I started with Matchboxes, and have been sharing my opinions about them for almost as long. Granted, I was pretty young at the time, but my parents really should have listened to me when I told them not to buy an Austin Marina.”

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