Styling can be as important as capability and utility; these two SUVs are uniquely designed.
The Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport can do utility with a 5,000-lb towing capacity.
The Toyota Venza plays its efficiency card to the max as a hybrid-only vehicle.
Even though buying a new vehicle should be a completely rational transaction, it remains an emotional one as well. With very few exceptions, we are filled with a level of pride when we arrive home with our new vehicle and show it off to neighbours and family. The first point that always comes up is styling. The 2021 Toyota Venza and 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport are very stylish.
The midsize two-row SUV segment is loaded with options and most could be qualified as attractive. Even so, the Ford Edge, Chevrolet Blazer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda Passport and Nissan Murano, despite some presenting unique styling cues, are overall conventionally styled.
Volkswagen might be new-ish to the SUV game as the Touareg arrived in 2002, but their SUVs are immediately identifiable as belonging to the German car company. The latest Tiguan and Atlas have proven to be extremely popular and profitable which, in part, explains why VW has wedged the Atlas Cross Sport between the two. The 2020 Atlas Cross Sport wears its name quite well. It certainly looks like an SUV as its profile projects an image of sporty outdoor adventures while its front end is powerful and robust, as a utility vehicle should be.
The 2021 Toyota Venza is more the urban SUV type with its more upscale profile and less adventurous outlook. Even so, it will undoubtedly tackle the average cottage trail with ease but its main reason for being is that of being the super-efficient family vehicle.
Let’s see how the specifications match up with these two SUVs.
What is the pricing and when will they be available?
The 2021 Toyota Venza was only just revealed a few weeks ago. Even so, it is scheduled to launch this August. Pricing will only be announced at a later date however we speculate that the numbers will resemble the following. The base LE trim should be priced around the low $40,000 mark, or up to $42k. The mid-range XLE should be priced in the vicinity of $47,000, give or take a grand. The top-line Limited with all the bells and whistles may reach near $55,000.
The 2020 Atlas Cross Sport can be built online and is available for purchase now. The base Trendline starts at $38,995. The well-sorted Comfortline starts at $45,195 and the tip-of-the pyramid Execline is priced at $54,495.
Which Has The More efficient Powertrain?
For the next little while, no other SUV in the segment will be able to match the 2021 Toyota Venza for its outright fuel efficiency. Offered only as a hybrid, it is powered by a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine combined with three electric motors for a total system output of 219-horsepower. Toyota’s Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive, which consists in a separate non-mechanically connected rear-mounted electric motor that powers the rear wheels when required, adds weight but it’s not an issue. Toyota Canada expects the Venza will average only 5.9L/100km, or roughly 40 mpg, in the LE trim.
The 2020 Atlas Cross Sport is available as standard with a turbocharged 235-horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and Volkswagen’s 4MOTION AWD system. Optional on the Comfortline ($2,200) and included with the Execline is a 276-horsepower 3.6-litre V6, also with the same transmission and AWD.
Although the 4-cylinder engine should generate better fuel mileage, the fact of the matter is that it does not. Compared to the V6’s combined average of 12.4L/100km, the 2.0T’s average of 11.8L/100km is scarcely better. Now, if you enjoy towing on occasion, the 2.0T will handle up to 2,000 lbs. while the V6 will tow up to 5,000 lbs. The Venza is limited to only 1,750 lbs.
What About Style And Space?
We touched on styling earlier for these two SUVs. For both, it stands as a defining element and unlike some of their competitors such as the Chevy Blazer, all versions of the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport and Toyota Venza are noteworthy.
The Atlas Cross Sport blends, better than most, the sport and utility in one package. The VW’s front fascia is imposing, tall and powerful. The boxy flared fender flares project attitude and a sporty stance while its overall size does not hide the fact that this is a spacious SUV. Behind the large second row is a trunk that can easily hold up to 1,141 litres of gear. Front occupants are treated to plenty of room and well-laid-out dashboard.
By contrast, the 2021 Toyota Venza is a slender person in a nice suit. Its lines are elegant, perfectly at home in the urban jungle. Quite purposefully we’re sure, the Venza emanates Lexus in the way its smooth and flowing lines are styled. Here too, the boot is rather large, capable of swallowing 1,027 litres of stuff. Rear legroom is at a premium however upfront, driver and passenger are very much at ease and served by a far busier dashboard.
Which is better equipped?
The base 2021 Toyota Venza LE will evidently be well endowed. Standard features will include a 4.2-inch colour instrument display, an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM, an 8-way power driver seat, Toyota’s Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) which features technologies such as Pre-Collision System Vehicle and Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and more.
The base Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Trendline lacks a number of these elements however it should be less expensive than the Venza LE. Even so, it includes a 6.5-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, manual front heated seats and many safety elements such as Autonomous Emergency Braking. The Comfortline, slightly closer in price albeit more expensive, includes an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM, an 8-way power driver seat, remote start, an adaptive cruise control, and more.
Neither will win the title of value leader in the segment however as AWD and sophisticated powertrains are standard, which serve to explain the base pricing.
How important are these vehicles for their respective brands?
The Toyota Venza will serve as a technology and styling display in showrooms. In other words, it will not provide volume sales as it is very much a niche 2-row SUV given its powertrain, styling and expected $40k+ starting price. We estimate that the Venza will entice current sedan owners looking for an efficient SUV to visit Toyota dealerships. Ultimately, the majority of these buyers will leave with a less expensive RAV4.
As for the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, the situation will be more or less the same. Pricing for the revised 3-row Volkswagen Atlas has not yet surfaced however we think the difference between the two will be less than $2,000, perhaps as little as $1,000. In this scenario, and while petrol remains relatively affordable and considering that fuel consumption will be very similar, most will opt for the larger Atlas. Here too, it may serve as a draw for potential customers and not generate significant volume.
Our Thoughts On The 2021 Toyota Venza and 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport
Two thoughts spring to mind in favour of the Venza: Reliability and efficiency. Even though the Venza has yet to hit the road, we are firmly convinced it will deliver an overall smoother ownership experience.
We do however like the Atlas Cross Sport. Its cooler, if you’ll pardon the expression, speaks to the 30- and 40-year old humans that we are and we are attracted to the idea of a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine will plenty of low-end torque.
The wiser choice would be the Venza. No one said we were wise…