The Arteon is a lesser-known VW, a midsize hatchback sedan that has style for miles. Problem is, this successor to the Passat CC hasn’t sold very well. And although the market for midsize sedans is shrinking at the expense of crossover SUVs, VW
has shown faith in the segment by substantially updating its Arteon for 2021 with an improved interior, minorly revised styling and a simplified model lineup with three levels of trim: SE, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-Line.
Although all 2021 VW Arteons have a slightly revised nose with revised air intakes and three chrome bars instead of four in the grille, the most noticeable styling change for 2021 involves the two SEL R-Line models: They have an LED light strip spanning the whole width of the grille, just below the headlights. It will be interesting to see what one of the Arteons looks like at night.
What’s new for 2021?
Besides the minor exterior tweaks and an interior with upgraded materials, a redesigned steering wheel and a new Climatronic touch interface, the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon is available in three new colors: Oryx White, Kings Red, and Lapiz Blue.
What we like
- Subtle but handsome restyle
- Improved interior with new dashboard surfaces
- All models have digital gauges
- Hatchback design is practical
- Standard adaptive suspension
- Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- You won’t see yourself coming and going in the Arteon
What we don’t
- Unimpressive fuel economy
- Only one available engine
- VW’s reliability record
- Active cruise not standard on the base model
- Touch-sensitive steering wheel controls
$36,995 to $46,995
All VW Arteons are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine putting out 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the engine feels adequately powered in the roughly 3,500-pound Arteon, but fuel economy isn’t especially good.
According to the EPA, the front-wheel-drive Arteon has fuel economy ratings of 22 miles per gallon city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined. With VW’s optional all-wheel drive (AWD) system, that drops to 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined. For comparison, an all-wheel-drive Audi A5 Sportback, also powered by a turbo 2.0-liter, is rated at 27 mpg combined.
The Arteon’s safety suite has improved for 2021. A blind-spot monitor and automatic emergency braking are standard, while Travel Assist with adaptive cruise control is standard on the SEL models.
Don’t know Drive Assist? This technology allows semi-autonomous driving at speeds of up to 130 mph, and it makes driving in stop-and-go traffic much safer. Because it links adaptive cruise with the navigation system, Drive Assist automatically adjusts the Arteon’s speed based on speed limit signs, bends in the road, and even upcoming intersections.
Other available safety equipment on the 2021 Arteon includes lane-keeping assist, a 360-degree camera, and front and rear parking sensors. The Arteon has not been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Standard features and options
The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon is available as a SE, an SEL R-Line and an SEL Premium R-Line. The SE is available only with front-wheel drive, while the SEL R-Line has optional 4Motion and the SEL Prime R-Line has standard 4Motion.
The front-wheel-drive Arteon SE has active suspension damping, 12.3-inch digital gauges, an 8-inch infotainment display, leatherette seats, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
In addition to revised styling with special badging, the Arteon SEL R-Line and Arteon SEL Prime R-Line both get a Nappa leather interior and a panoramic sunroof along with adaptive LED headlights and adaptive cruise control. A hand’s free power hatchback also is standard on the SEL Premium R Line.
The 2021 Arteon SE, with 18-inch wheels, LED lights, keyless access, heated front seats, and navigation, starts at $36,995. The 2021 Arteon SEL R-Line, with 19-inch wheels, leather seating, a panoramic sunroof, and wireless smartphone charging begins at $41,595, while the 2021 Arteon SEL Premium R-Line, with 20-inch wheels, standard all-wheel drive, a premium sound system, and heated rear seats, starts at $46,595.
The destination fee for the 2021 VW Arteon is $1,195.
Behind the wheel
The Volkswagen Arteon is more of a premium vehicle than a Jetta or a Passat, and it shows from the driver’s seat. The quality of materials inside this 5-seater is high, and the design and sophistication of the cabin are very reminiscent of Audi. And speaking of Audis, the stylish Arteon slots right between the Audi A5 and Audi A7 in overall size.
Even with the large hatch, the unibody chassis is solid, and the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine – with 268 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at only 1,950 rpm – gets the job done. It makes the Arteon feel reasonably quick, but this 4-cylinder engine doesn’t feel like a powerhouse when you’re pulling away from a traffic light. On a positive note, the AWD Arteon SEL Premium R-Line sampled by Autotrader had no torque steer, which can afflict FWD cars and cause the steering wheel to be tugged left or right during hard acceleration.
We like the Arteon’s digital instruments, the wireless Apple
CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, and the traditional shifter. What’s more, the rear hatch allows for a massive rear cargo opening, making it easier to load and unload large items.
While the new steering wheel looks good, the touch-sensitive thumb controls require some time before they are mastered. Same is true of the new touch-sensitive controls for the climate control system’s fan speed and temperature.
The shift paddles of the SEL Premium R-Line are appreciated, especially when downshifting in preparation for a corner. When powering out of the turn, standard torque vectoring helps keep the Arteon from pushing wide. A driver-selectable Sport mode firms the suspension and makes the steering a little heavier. Moreover, the active LED headlights point a bit more quickly into corners.
Other cars to consider
2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI — Like the Arteon, the GLI was all-new for 2019. While it’s FWD only, the GLI comes in at a much lower price than the Arteon. Also, its superb driving dynamics are on a par with those of its hatchback counterpart, the GTI.
2020 Audi A5 Sportback — Like the Arteon, the A5 Sportback is a sleek sedan with a handy hatchback rear, and they use similar powertrains. The Audi is exclusively AWD, and it’s not as roomy inside as the Arteon.
2021 Honda Accord — Staying away from a German car might be a good idea, given the cost of any potential maintenance issues. The Honda
Accord offers industry-leading resale value, good driving dynamics and a sleek, modern design.
2021 Hyundai Sonata — All-new for 2021, the Sonata wears coupe-like styling. It also costs significantly less than the VW. What’s more, Hyundai’s
turbocharged powertrains are good, and so is the long powertrain warranty.
2020 Buick Regal Sportback — Most people don’t even know that Buick makes a hatchback version of its Regal sedan, or that it’s available with AWD and is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. An American Arteon? Of sorts.
Used Audi A7 — Looking for a graceful German car with hatchback utility but a bit more size than the Arteon? Consider used 2016 or 2017 Audi A7. Finding one under $30,000 should be no problem.
Questions you may ask
What does the word Arteon mean?
VW says the Arteon name alludes to “Artem,” the Latin word for art. The German company thought it an appropriate name for a vehicle with such a strong emphasis on style.
Is the VW Arteon based on the VW Passat?
The VW Arteon does not share a chassis with the VW Passat built in Tennessee. But it is related to the European Passat, a smaller car.
Does the VW Arteon have a trunk?
Although it may not look like it does have a trunk, the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon is a hatchback with a large cargo area that gets bigger when the backseat is folded. There’s 27 cubic feet of volume behind the rear seat, or a voluminous 55 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded. The load floor, with seat folded, stretches an impressive 82.4 inches from front to back.
Does Volkswagen make an Arteon station wagon?
Yes, Volkswagen makes an Arteon station wagon. Unfortunately, VW doesn’t sell this Arteon Shooting Brake, in the U.S. A pity because it’s a stunner.
Where do they make the Volkswagen Arteon?
VW makes the Arteon in Germany, at a plant in Emden.
Is there a PHEV (plug-in hybrid vehicle) version of the Arteon?
Volkswagen sells an Arteon PHEV in Europe. Don’t expect it in the U.S. anytime soon.
With its subtle restyle, improved interior, and a generally higher level of refinement, the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon is more than just pretty. This Volkswagen hatchback has the practicality of compact SUV, and its technology and premium amenities have made it a legitimate alternative to the Audi A5 Sportback.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.