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Someone tell the 2021 Mazda CX-9 to watch out. There might be a new sporty family hauler in town, known as the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas. We’ve had the Volkswagen Atlas for one day so far and couldn’t stop driving it. 

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas vs. the 2021 Mazda CX-9 

While test driving the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas with a few vehicle enthusiasts, someone said, “Wow, this is the family vehicle for drivers.” I shook my head to agree and thought, wait, what about the 2021 Mazda CX-9? It’s supposed to be the sportiest three-row option for families. 

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas parked near trees
2021 Volkswagen Atlas | Allison Barfield

So, now it’s time to see how they compare. The 2021 VW Atlas may dethrone the Mazda CX-9. You can get started in the Volkswagen Atlas for about $31,545, and the Mazda CX-9 starts at around $34,160. These are the MSRPs, so the prices are listed before the dealership fees, and destination fees have been added in. 

With the Mazda CX-9, you can get an EPA estimated 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The Atlas achieves an EPA estimated 21 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. So, the Atlas starts off cheaper, but the CX-9 is better on gas. 

How do the 2021 VW Atlas and Mazda CX-9 perform? 

The base engine in the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder option with 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. You can upgrade to the 3.6-liter V6 for 276 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. The model I’m currently testing is equipped with the V6. Also, the VW Atlas can tow up to 5,000 lb. 

According to Edmunds, the Atlas can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, which is slower than rivals in the class. But it didn’t feel slow on I-74 in North Carolina. It felt like it had plenty of passing power to me. 

It’s very smooth and composed with responsive handling and smooth braking. It feels agile and easy to park, making it a convenient and comfortable daily driver. It can feel like a larger SUV at times but shouldn’t cause trouble in tight city areas. 

With the 2021 Mazda CX-9, you get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 277 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Edmunds got it to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. It also delivers a smooth and sporty performance with responsive handling and confident braking. Both SUVs provide a quiet cabin, and the CX-9 can tow up to 5,000 lb. 

Mazda CX-9 and Volkswagen Atlas features 

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas has an upscale and luxurious interior with spacious seats in each row. Taller adults can even fit in the third row pretty comfortably, and the second row slides forward for easy access. 

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 also has a luxurious interior with spacious seats in the front and second row. However, space in the third row is cramped. It’s reserved for kids back there. Optioning for captain chairs in the second row improves access. 

2021 Mazda CX-9 in great parked outside
2021 Mazda CX-9 | Mazda

Respected Critics Don’t Agree on the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas

You get a 10.3-inch infotainment display in the CX-9. The Atlas comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and can be upgraded to 8.0-inches. They both come with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both SUVs offer plenty of USB ports for the family to use. 

Also, both SUVs come with standard safety features such as forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and more. The CX-9 comes with adaptive cruise control, and it’s optional on the Atlas. But the Atlas offers stop-and-go technology. The Atlas makes one heck of a competitor for the CX-9.