When choosing an SUV, is it better to go for something more compact, or size up for something that may or may not be essential? Many ask themselves this question, especially when choosing a family car. It’s always a difficult choice, but a choice that can be made easier by considering the various differences besides size.
Today we’re taking a look at two options from Volkswagen, namely the compact VW Tiguan and the larger mid-size VW Atlas to see how they compare and what they can offer their owners.
The VW Atlas is the VW Tiguan’s bigger sibling, offering more space on the inside and a bigger engine under the hood. The Atlas comes with seating for 7 passengers as standard, whereas a third-row is optional in the Tiguan and comparably cramped. The engine of the VW Atlas can be upgraded to a 3.0-liter V6, whereas the Tiguan range only features a 2.0-liter I-4 engine across all trims.
As you might expect, the Tiguan comes in at a more affordable price starting at $25,995 for the base S model. The Atlas begins at $33,475 for the base SE model. At the high end of the spectrum, the Tiguan MSRP grows to $36,595 for the SEL R-Line model. For the Atlas, the trims go all the way up to the SEL Premium R-Line, which starts from $50,645.
The difference in pricing is most obviously to do with sheer size and scale. The Atlas is a bigger and grander offering, which we’ll cover in more detail in the next section.
Exterior and Interior Styling
Since both the VW Tiguan and VW Atlas come from the same German automaker, there are obvious similarities in the exterior and interior designs and styling DNA. The clean, executive lines that you see on both models are a real hallmark of Volkswagen design, as are the metallic horizontal lines of the front grille and fascia detailing.
The Atlas, as the larger sibling, brings a more imposing presence when looking at the front end. It’s wider than the Tiguan by a whole 5.9 inches and it’s clearly visible when you stand before the two models. The Atlas also gets up to 21-inch wheels, and is about 4 inches higher, which even with the half-inch of additional ground clearance the Tiguan gets, leaves the Atlas bigger and grander in every exterior respect.
On the inside, the differing dimensions create different feelings too. Both the Tiguan and the Atlas offer a third seating row. The difference is that the Atlas feels more naturally built for that third seating row, which seats adults comfortably even on longer journeys.
Neither the Tiguan nor Atlas offers anything especially mind-blowing in terms of style. It’s typical Volkswagen placing function above fashion and keeping the layouts fairly generic and as you might expect. They both lack the kinds of the unique asymmetrical dash and center stack designs that are emerging in many Japanese and Korean models, for instance. The main thing to note is that the extra inches of height and width help to make the Atlas truly cavernous in comparison to the Tiguan.
The Atlas has two engine options: a 4-cylinder 2.0L option or a 3.6L V6 engine. The former outputs up to 235-hp and the latter up to 276-hp, and both are mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission, with either a front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive drivetrain. Both engines feel like they have decent power levels, but the V6 offers a more refined sound for an SUV of that size. Many drivers report that the Atlas is surprisingly nimble and agile for its size, but the drive isn’t quite as refined or exciting as more luxurious German SUVs like the Audi Q7 or BMW X5.
The Tiguan is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged engine offering up to 184-hp in total. It leaves the Tiguan a bit lackluster in acceleration, but offers sufficient performance on the road, making the Tiguan a fairly decent cruising vehicle. There are times, perhaps when you’re passing other vehicles on the freeway, or when you’re trying to pick up speed on the on-ramp, that you’d just wish the Tiguan had a little more power. However, unlike the Volkswagen Atlas, the Tiguan does get 4Motion AWD as standard, so you won’t have to decide whether or not you should pay more for the luxury.
In terms of cargo space, the third row on the Tiguan is what makes the crippling difference. If you opt for that third row, you only get 12 cubic feet of cargo space behind it. You can fold the third row down to get up to. 37.3 cubic feet, of course, but that doesn’t help when you need the extra seating. With all seats folded down, the Tiguan gets up to 73.5 cubic feet at its greatest extent.
The Atlas is a lot more spacious, as you might have guessed. It begins with 20.6 cubic feet with the 3 rows of seats up, and goes up to 96.8 cubic feet with the seats folded. That’s a good amount of space even with the seats up.
It should be no surprise that when it comes to fuel economy, the smaller Tiguan has the better deal, getting up to 23-mpg in the city and even breaking 30-mpg on the highway. The bigger VW Atlas manages a lower 21-mpg and 25-mpg city/highway.
Technology & Features
Both Tiguan and Atlas are well connected with Wi-Fi hotspots, an 8-inch infotainment display, and up to 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster capable of customizable displays in the form of the VW Digital Cockpit system. Touchscreens are about as responsive as a common smartphone, but the Atlas is perhaps the easier of the two to use, but not by any significant degree.
Premium audio in the form of a Fender sound system is available on both the Tiguan and Atlas, and both also offer wireless charging, connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and more. Each is also equipped with varying drive modes to suit different weather: snow mode, on-road, off-road, and off-road custom.
Both Atlas and Tiguan make use of Volkswagen’s IQ Drive and get the same list of standard features, including front assist, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, dynamic road sign display, and many more features.
Both have also received 5 stars for their 2021 models for safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA extensively tests for crash safety and roll-over safety, and the Tiguan and Atlas both scored highly.
With so many equal points, it’s hard to really go beyond size and utility when it comes to really comparing the Atlas and Tiguan. Obviously, the Atlas gives you more cargo space, more interior passenger space, and a better third row. On the other hand, it’s a lot more expensive, especially when you climb the trim ladder.
The Tiguan offers affordability, better fuel efficiency, and a great compact option that will fit better in tighter city spaces. It does also have the optional third row, which is important for those on a budget who want 7 seats but can’t afford the much larger Atlas. Each one has a clear preferred market, and in the end it will mostly come down to personal preference.
|2022 Volkswagen Tiguan||2022 Volkswagen Atlas|
|Engine||2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas||2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas|
|Horsepower||184 hp @ 6000 rpm||235 hp @ 5400 rpm|
|Torque||221 lb-ft @ 1900 rpm||258 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm|
|Transmission||8-Speed Automatic||8-Speed Automatic|
|Drivetrain||Front-Wheel Drive||Front-Wheel Drive|
|Rear Wheel Size||P215/65HR17||P245/60HR18|
|Front Wheel Size||P215/65HR17||P245/60HR18|
|Turning Diameter (ft.)||37.7||40.5|
|MPG/MPGe - Hwy||30||25|
|MPG/MPGe - City||23||21|
|MPG/MPGe - Combined||26||23|
|Gas Tank Size (gallons)||15.3||18.6|
|Cruising Range - Hwy (miles)||459.0||465.0|
|Size and Weight|
|Max Width (in.)||72.4||78.3|
|Front Seat Leg Room (in.)||40.2||41.7|
|Front Seat Head Room (in.)||39.6||41.3|
|Front Seat Hip Room (in.)||54.5||58.2|
|Front Seat Shoulder Room (in.)||57.0||61.5|
|Rear Seat Leg room (in.)||36.6||37.6|
|Rear Seat Head Room (in.)||39.1||40.4|
|Rear Seat Hip Room (in.)||53.5||58.0|
|Rear Seat Shoulder Room (in.)||55.9||60.8|
|Third Row Leg Room (in.)||27.9||33.7|
|Third Row Head Room (in.)||33.8||38.3|
|Third Row Hip Room (in.)||39.5||45.1|
|Third Row Shoulder Room (in.)||47.8||54.9|
|HD Radio||Not Available||Not Available|
|Satellite Radio||Not Available||Not Available|
|Entertainment System||Not Available||Not Available|
|Premium Sound System||Not Available||Not Available|
|Auxiliary Audio Input||Standard||Standard|
|Smart Device Integration||Standard||Standard|
|Hard Disk Drive Media Storage||Not Available||Not Available|
|Premium Synthetic Seats||Standard||Standard|
|Sun/Moonroof||Not Available||Not Available|
|Leather Steering Wheel||Not Available||Not Available|
|Woodgrain Interior Trim||Not Available||Not Available|
|Rear A/C||Not Available||Not Available|
|Seat Memory||Not Available||Not Available|
|Seat-Massage||Not Available||Not Available|
|Multi-Zone A/C||Not Available||Not Available|
|Power Liftgate||Not Available||Not Available|
|Climate Control||Not Available||Not Available|
|Head-Up Display||Not Available||Not Available|
|Automatic Parking||Not Available||Not Available|
|Navigation System||Not Available||Not Available|
|Power Driver Seat||Not Available||Standard|
|Cooled Rear Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Hands-Free Liftgate||Not Available||Not Available|
|Heated Rear Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Remote Engine Start||Not Available||Not Available|
|Cooled Front Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Heated Front Seat(s)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Power Passenger Seat||Not Available||Not Available|
|Remote Trunk Release||Not Available||Not Available|
|Heated Steering Wheel||Not Available||Not Available|
|Adaptive Cruise Control||Optional||Not Available|
|Navigation from Telematics||Not Available||Not Available|
|Universal Garage Door Opener||Not Available||Not Available|
|Steering Wheel Audio Controls||Standard||Standard|
|Night Vision||Not Available||Not Available|
|Rear Parking Aid||Not Available||Not Available|
|Blind Spot Monitor||Standard||Standard|
|Lane Keeping Assist||Optional||Not Available|
|Tire Pressure Monitor||Standard||Standard|
|Lane Departure Warning||Optional||Not Available|
|Knee Air Bag||Not Available||Not Available|
|Driver Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Seatbelt Air Bag||Not Available||Not Available|
|Passenger Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Rear Head Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Rear Side Air Bag||Not Available||Not Available|
|Front Head Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Front Side Air Bag||Standard||Standard|
|Basic||4 Years / 50,000 Miles||4 Years / 50,000 Miles|
|Corrosion||7 Years / 100,000 Miles||7 Years / 100,000 Miles|
|Drivetrain||4 Years / 50,000 Miles||4 Years / 50,000 Miles|
|Maintenance||2 Years / 20,000 Miles||2 Years / 20,000 Miles|
|Roadside Assistance||3 Years / 36,000 Miles||3 Years / 36,000 Miles|