2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R Line. Photo: Volkswagen

I just turned in the keys on a 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, a slightly smaller and sportier version of the seven-passenger VW Atlas.

The big picture: SUVs are the clear preference for consumers these days, so manufacturers are carving up the SUV market to make sure there's an offering for everyone.

What's new: The Atlas Cross Sport has only two rows of seating, not three like its big brother, providing seating for five and more cargo space behind the second row.

  • Without that third row for passengers, the Cross Sport has a lower roof line, which instantly gives it a sportier silhouette.
  • The front end is more stylish than the original too, but it's the rear that's so striking.

What hasn't changed: almost everything else. The Cross Sport is just a prettier, more athletic-looking Atlas.

  • The interior is clean and functional, as you'd expect in a VW, but has a little too much hard plastic for a vehicle in this price category.
  • Driver assistance technology is the same as in the larger Atlas: adaptive cruise control (including in stop-and-go traffic), automatic emergency brake assist, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring and automatic high beams.
  • Lane-keeping assist and lane-departure alerts are available on higher trim levels.

Pricing: The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport starts at starts at $31,565 — $1,000 less than the larger, three-row model — and tops out a little over $50,000.

The bottom line: Unless you're moving a crowd, the Atlas Cross Sport is more desirable than the original seven-seater.

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The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.

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