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The Atlas Cross Sport is the five-seat, sportback version of the larger Volkswagen Atlas crossover sport utility. Introduced last year, the Atlas Cross Sport aims for an audience that wants a large, spacious crossover-SUV, but don’t really need the third row of seating. The Cross Sport is a bit nimbler in handling than its slightly larger sibling and for the 2021 model year, it gains VW’s new infotainment system and some driver’s aids.

The 2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport focuses on interior space and comfort, both of which it excels in. Compared to most rivals, the Atlas Cross Sport has more interior usefulness and roominess. It’s not off-road-centric like some rivals, but it does offer excellent on-road comfort and driving appeal.

There are no fewer than eight trim levels for the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport, which may be a bit much for some buyers to dig through to find a match. The top-end SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line packages are not quite as luxurious as their prices would suggest, so we think most buyers will be happier in the mid-level SE with Technology and SEL packages instead. The Atlas Cross Sport comes pretty well-accoutered from the get-go, with the base model featuring LED headlamps, heated side mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and VW’s Car-Net remote services. The 6.5-inch touchscreen and six-speaker audio are a little disappointing, though. Forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitoring are also standard in the Atlas Cross Sport.

Going to the SE with Technology gets simulated leather upholstery, wireless connectivity for App-Connect (which includes CarPlay/Auto), more USB ports, a wireless charging pad, voice-activated infotainment controls, dual-zone climate, heated front seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, remote start, adaptive cruise control, a household power outlet, a power liftgate, and an option for the V6 engine upgrade and towing. The SEL has all of that plus adaptive front lighting, a panoramic sunroof, ambient interior lighting, a digital instrument cluster, integrated navigation, and several advanced safety features like lane-keeping assistance and road sign display.

The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that outputs 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This is just about adequate for the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. But only just. The upgrade engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that outputs 276 HP and 266 lb-ft. The longer, smoother power curve of the V6 is much more well-suited to the Atlas Cross Sport’s size than is the turbo four. Both engines mate with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional.

The interior of the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport is spartan, as is true of most Volkswagen vehicles, but has a bit of flair in its plainness. Technology is generally the “bling point” for any VW interior and it’s definitely what makes the Atlas Cross Sport most appealing. Seating comfort is very good, even in the middle of the second row, and everyday driving is pleasant in the Atlas Cross Sport.

Maneuverability is surprisingly good for such a bulky SUV and comes mostly thanks to the responsive steering and squared edges of the Atlas Cross Sport that allow intuitive movement. Visibility for the driver is good in this VW.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of the big 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. It’s stylish, much sportier in look and feel than most square-bodied SUVs, and practical in both comfort and design. Pricing for the 2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport starts at $30,855 with our recommended SE with Technology starting at $36,245 or $47,645 with the V6 upgrade. The SEL begins at $41,725.

This review originally appeared on CarNewsCafe.com.

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The Mazda CX-5 entered its second generation in 2017 and for 2021, that generation gets some updates to include better infotainment and an option for a smartphone app for remote monitoring. The 2021 CX-5 still retains the excellent interior and fun drive quality of its predecessors, though, and is one of the more upscale-feeling SUVs in the small crossover market.

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is also one of the best-looking rides in its class. This is the sport sedan ride in crossover-SUV format its competitors wish they could be.

There are seven trim levels for the CX-5, each of which builds on the last to add more and more convenience and comfort. There are also two engines, either of which is a good match for the CX-5, but we’d go with the turbocharged option if  fun factor is also something you want. Every 2021 CX-5 comes with forward collision mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control. The CX-5 gets excellent crash test ratings from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Powering the CX-5 is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. A turbocharged version of that engine is available on some models (usually named Turbo at the end), boosting power to 227/250 horsepower and 310/320 lb-ft of torque, depending on your gasoline’s octane grade.

For our money, we’d recommend either the Carbon Edition Turbo or the Grand Touring Reserve models for the price vs accoutrements value. Both have the turbocharged four as well. The Carbon Edition Turbo includes a 10-speaker Bose audio system, leather upholstery, a power liftgate, and 19-inch black-painted aluminum wheels. The Grand Touring Reserve comes with the 19-inch wheels and other stuff from the Carbon Edition, but also adds adaptive headlamps, heated mirrors, paddle shifters, a larger driver information display, power-folding mirrors, a head-up display for the driver, heated steering, heated rear seating (outboard), and ventilated front seats.

Pricing for the 2021 Mazda CX-5 starts at $25,370 for the base model, $30,760 for the Carbon Edition Turbo, and $35,385 for the Grand Touring Reserve.

The 2021 CX-5 is very nice to look at and its interior is next level comfortable. We love the front seating and the outboard rear seats are very well done. The middle position is still only for occasional use, but all three back seat positions have overhead tethers for child safety seat installation and the outboard positions have LATCH anchors that will require a little pushing to get the seat to connect. Cargo space is a little cramped in the CX-5 compared to some of its rivals at only 30.9 cubic feet, but it will accommodate most needs. With the rear seats folded (mostly) flat, the CX-5’s cargo space expands to 59.6 cubic feet.

Infotainment in the CX-5 gets a big upgrade this year, with a bigger 10.25-inch touchscreen and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay now standard. This display has a faster response time and is easier to use than its predcessor, making it a big step up for technology in this Mazda.

In every way, the 2021 Mazda CX-5 hits the mark for just about everything in the small crossover-SUV segment. This is a top choice for shoppers who want an engaging, comfortable drive on the everyday.

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A few changes in the 2021 model year for the Volkswagen Tiguan keep it updated for today’s market. The Tiguan saw a full remodel in 2018, improving its interior space, cargo room, and overall demeanor. This year, it gets a larger infotainment screen option and some content updates at lower trim levels. All while keeping its third row and turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

The 2021 Tiguan is nice to look at, with simple, non-aggressive lines and bodywork. This no-nonsense exterior design carries to the interior, VW style, with an austerity that, while often praised in luxury vehicles, is a bit plain for the commoners in the Tiguan’s market. It’s a love or hate thing and my household is split on whether they fall to one side or the other of that fence. But at least there are colors other than red or blue on that ballot.

What is most liked about the VW Tiguan, though, is its road appeal. It’s neither sporty nor a “driver’s car” by any means, but it’s engaging to drive nonetheless. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine displaces 2.0 liters and produces a relatively modest 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. That latter number is a good one, though, coming early in the RPM range to give the Tiguan a punchier feel than might be expected. Nothing too pushy, but definitely tingly at least. An eight-speed automatic transmission translates all of that power to the wheels. The Tiguan is front-wheel drive by default and all-wheel drive as an option.

The aforementioned third row of seating is also an interesting touch. Most of the smaller crossover-SUVs on the market have dropped the third row as it is usually cramped and largely useless in a vehicle this size. Volkswagen has figured out how to make it usable, however, even if just for kids. The third row is standard in FWD models and optional in AWD ones. We’d opt for it, even if it’s only rarely used, as it does little to impede on overall cargo capacity and a lot to add versatility to the Tiguan.

There are five trim levels for the 2021 VW Tiguan, starting with the baseline S and its rather impressive list of standard features. LED running and tail lamps, heated side mirrors, a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wired) and a six-speaker sound system, plus 17-inch alloy wheels and a towing kit. All standard. Not to mention forward collision warning and mitigation (braking) and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts. And it only goes up from there.

The SE trim is our favorite in terms of value, with a price tag just slightly above the base model and with a lot of added stuff like the new 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment, wireless Auto and CarPlay, a wireless smart phone charger, more USB ports, simulated leather upholstery, dual-zone climate, heated front seating, and adaptive cruise control. All happy, real-world-useful, daily use items. Those looking for a little more bling can take the SE and add the R-Line Black edition option with 20-inch wheels, blacked out exterior decals, and more.

From there, it’s the SEL and SEL Premium R-Line trims, which add even more stuff and more price to the tag. Still, if near luxury with a fairly austere VW interior is your thing, those packages are there for the taking.

Overall, the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan is a well-sized, nice-driving, smart SUV. There’s a lot to like about it and it remains competitive with rivals in the fierce small crossover market.

This review originally appeared on CarNewsCafe.com.

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In this video, we look at the all-new Nissan Rogue. It’s been greatly improved to add more space, a smaller footprint, and better ergonomics overall. We have a couple of “not so great” points, but overall, this is a very well-executed crossover from Nissan.

See Aaron’s interview-style review with Kristin about the new Rogue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxrU8NxsZhI

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