Volkswagen Arteon — A stylish hatchback

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(June 6, 2021) Perhaps the biggest problem Volkswagen faces with its flagship near-luxury mid-sized hatchback Arteon, which has undergone a freshening for 2021, is that few people even know what it is. Over our time behind the wheel of a top trim SEL Premium R-Line we asked a half dozen people what they thought of the Arteon, and not one was familiar with the car.

With sales of only 6,000 combined for 2019 and 2020 and limited advertising we understand why it's invisible. And that's really too bad because we think if the Arteon had more visibility and more test drives,

So exactly what is the Volkswagen Arteon? The Arteon is the successor to the CC, a very stylish four-door mid-sized sedan with coupe-like styling manufactured from 2009 through 2017. The CC was criticized for its tight interior space. Unlike the CC, the Arteon is a four-door hatchback with scads of passenger room and crossover-like cargo hauling ability because of the hatchback design. There are 27.2 cubic feet of storage under the hatch, and with the rear setbacks folded cargo space increases to 56.2 cubic feet.

It falls in the VW sedan hierarchy ahead of the mainstream Passat and competes against such nameplates as the Kia Stinger (also a hatchback), and Toyota Avalon. It also compares to the Kia K5 GT and the top trim levels of the Honda Accord.

This is the third production year for the Arteon in North America and it gets some fresh exterior details including new front bumpers, new wheel designs (a highlight of the exterior look in our estimation), the adoption of the new VW logo, and more differentiation for the sporty R-Line.

Inside, the Arteon gets upgraded materials, a thicker steering wheel, redesigned air vents, touch-sensitive climate controls, and adjustable ambient lighting. A digital gauge cluster is now standard throughout the lineup as well as a new 8-inch touchscreen and the addition of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Arteon comes in three trim levels — SE, SEL R-Line and SEL Premium R-Line — and all are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 268 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque @ 1,950 rpm. The engine is relatively fuel efficient rated at 22 city, 32 highway and 25 combined for front-drive and 20/31/24 for all-wheel drive. Premium fuel is required.

The driving experience proved acceptable with the engine taking us from a standstill to 60 mph in the mid 6-second range, certainly adequate, but lacking a bit of urgency when compared to the Stinger and Kia K5 GT. The shifts were smooth and there was no hesitation in downshifting. And the steering was precise like we've come to expect in most Volkswagens. The ride is on the luxury side, a couple of ticks below sporty, but one that should please the owners of this car. Adaptive suspension dampers are standard and can be manually set to Comfort, Normal or Sport.

The car proved reasonably quiet at highway speeds and we found the driver's seating position spot on.  The spacious rear seats are pleasant and comfortable, excellent for passengers on a long drive.
Our only real concern on the road was with the adaptive cruise control, which didn't maintain a consistent distance behind a slower-moving car. It proved so aggravating a couple of times we just turned it off. We think the problem might have been just with our test car and not prevalent throughout the lineup. This particular cruise control definitely needed some recalibration.

The Arteon comes standard with several driver-assistance features including forward collision warning with automated emergency breaking, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. Adaptive cruise control is standard on the top two trim levels and the SEL Premium has automatic high-beam control, a surround-view camera system and a parking-assistance feature with front and rear parking sensors.

The Arteon starts at $38,190 for a well-equipped front-drive SE. We think that trim level has everything many people desire including simulated leather upholstery, three-zone climate control and an eight-speaker audio system. Move up to the SEL R-Line starting at $42,790 you get sporty styling enhancements as well as such things as a panoramic sunroof, adaptive headlights and leather seating surfaces. The SEL Premium R-Line such as our test car starts at $48,190 and adds such things as 20-inch wheels, rear-seat climate control, a power cargo hatch and a Harman Kardon premium sound system.

The only option on our all-wheel drive test car was the stunning King's Red Metallic paint for $395 bringing the bottom line to $48,585.

If you want a luxury-infused sedan with the cargo space of a crossover and want to make a statement, but don't want to end up driving the same car as your neighbor, the Arteon might be just the ticket. It will be worth the time of a test drive.
2021 VW Arteon


Base price: $38,190; as driven, $48,585
Engine: turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 268 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 258 pound-feet @ 1,950 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 111.9 inches
Length: 191.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,686 pounds
Turning circle: 39.0 feet
Luggage capacity: 27.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 56.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.2 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 20 city, 31 highway, 24 combined
0-60: 6.1 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Kia Stinger, Audi A5, Honda Accord

The Good
• Pleasing ride
• Sleek exterior design
• Large number of available features

The Bad
• Adaptive cruise not working properly

The Ugly
• Not as engaging to drive as rivals