2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line, King's Red Metallic,
2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line in King’s Red Metallic (a $395 option)

Quick Spin, Consumer Guide Automotive

2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line

Class: Premium Midsize Car

Miles driven: 375

Fuel used: 17.1 gallons

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB+
Power and PerformanceB
Fit and FinishA-
Fuel EconomyB
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyA
Tall GuyB
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Engine Specs268-hp 2.0-liter
Engine TypeTurbo 4-cylinder
Transmission 8-speed auto
Drive AWD

Real-world fuel economy: 21.9 mpg

Driving mix: 80% city, 20% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 20/31/24 (mpg city, highway, combined)

Fuel type: Premium gas recommended

Base price: $43,395 (not including $1195 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: King’s Red Metallic paint ($395)

Price as tested: $44,985


Quick Hits

The great: Sleek, striking styling; ample cargo space and versatility of hatchback body style

The good: Classy, nicely equipped cabin; respectable acceleration from turbo 4-cylinder engine

The not so good: Only one powertrain is available; some finicky controls

More Arteon price and availability information


CG Says:

The Volkswagen Arteon is a nice car in search of an audience. Introduced for 2019 as a hatchback-sedan replacement for the erstwhile midsize CC “4-door coupe,” it boasted better passenger space and improved cargo versatility while maintaining the tradition of the CC’s classy surroundings. (The Arteon is the only current VW that Consumer Guide classifies as a “premium” version of its vehicle type.) None of that seems to have done the car much good with the buying public, though. According to industry journal Automotive News, calendar-year sales of the Arteon grew by a whopping 47 percent from 2019 to 2020—to all of 3602 units. It’s far and away the brand’s least popular product line sold in the U.S.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line
Launched as a 2019 model, the Arteon undergoes a mild refresh for 2021 that includes revised exterior styling.

Twenty twenty-one Arteons hope to move the needle further with revised styling throughout and a new infotainment system. The lineup has contracted and undergone revision as well. For this test, Consumer Guide drove an SEL R-Line with 4MOTION all-wheel drive. It is now the only trim level with the choice of front- or all-wheel motivation, with a front-drive SE below it and an AWD SEL Premium R-Line above it. All SEL and Premium models come with standard sporty R-Line appearance features.

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2021 Arteon
The Arteon’s dashboard design is as sleek and stylish as its exterior. Control-layout updates include touch-sensitive climate controls in place of the previous dial setup–a change that’s not necessarily for the better, in our book.

In terms of outward appearance, the test car had a new lower front fascia with a black surface that visually linked the cooling ducts at the far ends, and a new LED light bar integrated in the grille. (Both details kick in at the SEL level.) Inside, there was better integration of the infotainment stack into the instrument panel, and lower-profile heating/cooling vents spread across the dash. The new arrangement does away with an analog clock formerly found in the top center of the dash above the 8-inch info screen, and the handy control dials for the 3-zone climate system. All climate settings are now made through touch-sensitive controls. At least external power and tuning knobs remain to help make it easy to make audio-preset selections.

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Arteon Passenger Space, Seats
Despite its fairly rakish roofline, the Arteon offers good space for six-footers in both the front and rear seats.

For some reason known only to the folks in Wolfsburg, selection of drive modes has gotten more complicated. There is a “Mode” button on the console that, when tapped, activates a display on the infotainment screen with touch points for available drive modes. At this point the driver has to look away from road to screen to identify the “button” for the desired mode and tap it—but don’t hit a bump at that moment or you might mis-hit! A console dial with closely grouped icons would be quicker, easier, and perhaps safer.

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Cargo Area, Hatchback
The Arteon’s slick “hidden” hatchback layout makes for much better cargo space and versatility than the typical midsize sedan. There’s 27.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, and that number grows to 56.2 cu. ft. when the rear seat backs are folded down. A removable hard cover keeps cargo-area contents out of sight.

In other respects, the ’21 Arteon is like those that preceded it with a lively 268-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, effective 8-speed automatic transmission, adjustable damping for the fully independent suspension, comfortable amounts of front and rear passenger room, and a healthy 27.2 cubic feet of cargo space under the rear hatch. CG editors collectively wrung 21.9 mpg from the car in a test heavy with city miles (one even neared 23 mpg), which is similar to their experience with a 2019 SEL Premium with 4MOTION, and about in line with EPA fuel-economy estimates for this powerteam. Note that premium fuel is recommended for the Arteon.

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2021 Arteon Wheels
The Arteon’s only engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that puts out 268 horsepower and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. SEL R-Lines come standard with 19-inch alloy wheels.

The SEL R-Line with 4MOTION starts at $44,590 with delivery, which is $1800 more than its front-drive sibling. Only King’s Red Metallic paint, one of three extra-cost colors available, added to the bottom line of the test car. Aside from previously mentioned items, the SEL R-Line comes with the XDS Cross Differential (it uses the brakes to help maintain power to the outside wheel to improve cornering), 19-inch alloy wheels, black trunklid spoiler, adaptive LED headlights, power panoramic sunroof, leather-wrapped R-Line steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated power-adjustable front seats, 60/40-split rear seat, illuminated and carpeted cargo area, multicolor ambient lighting, “Digital Cockpit” instrument display, keyless entry and starting, satellite radio, navigation, wireless charging, App-Connect smartphone integration, and VW Car-Net remote services. Adaptive cruise control with stop=and-go capability and a raft of the latest driving aids and safety monitors are included as well.

Maybe it’s because people don’t associate Volkswagen with cars that cost like an Audi, BMW, or Lexus. Maybe it’s because of the rise of SUVs at the expense of sedans. For whatever reason, the VW Arteon remains overlooked.

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2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line
American consumers have apparently decided that the Volkswagen Arteon doesn’t offer enough performance and/or luxury to be a viable rival to higher-priced premium-brand cars such as the Audi A5 Sportback, or lower-priced mainstream-brand alternatives such as the sportier versions of the Honda Accord, Kia K5, or Toyota Camry. Still, we think this unique, category-straddling hatchback sedan has enough virtues that it should sell better than it does.

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2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line Gallery

(Click below for enlarged images)

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