Sometimes, the issue isn’t which brand to go with. When making a new vehicle purchase, consumers often get stuck between two models from the same make. For VW enthusiasts, that conundrum often comes in the form of the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan vs Atlas.

Both of these SUVs are VW favorites. However, there’s no denying they have their own pros and cons. The starkest contrast is the standard third row in the Atlas, but that’s just the surface. Let’s dive into each to see if you should go three-row or stick to what you know.

Space in the Volkswagen Tiguan vs Atlas

2012 VW Atlas

2012 VW Atlas

Of course, the Atlas has an entire extra row, making it naturally more spacious than it’s smaller sibling. 

You can opt for a third-row in the Tiguan, but it substantially minimizes cargo space in the rear. Specifically, you go from 37.6 cubic feet with the second row up, all the way down to 12 cubic feet with the optional third row up. It seems like an unnecessary tradeoff to make considering more people almost always equals more luggage. You can fold the second row down in the Tiguan for upwards of 73.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

The Atlas, on the other hand, offers space and seating. However, it may not be as much space as you think. With all rows up, the Atlas brings 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space. If the whole family is in attendance, it might get a little cramped. However, fold the seats down and you’ve got an impressive 96.8 cubic feet of cargo storage.

Powertrain and performance

The Volkswagen Tiguan vs Atlas debate comes down to a lot of factors, and one of them is performance. Both SUVs come standard with a 2.0-liter I4 engine. However, Atlas drivers can upgrade to a V6.

As for horsepower, the Atlas offers 235 horsepower standard, while the Tiguan is limited to 184 horsepower. 

Because of its smaller size, the Tiguan is slightly more efficient. We’re talking a 22 city/29 highway MPG versus the Atlas’ 20 city/24 high MPG. That could really add up in the long run.

Both models feature VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drivetrain as standard equipment.

Headlights and design

2021 Volkswagen Tiguan vs Atlas

2021 VW Tiguan

For the 2021 Atlas, both the headlights and tail lamps got a makeover. They’re undoubtedly sleeker, helping round out a pretty boxy three-row SUV. Plus, they’re both full-on LED from end to end (for the headlights, that’s high and low beams).

The 2021 Tiguan also gets standard LED lights across the board. Unfortunately, the US market has yet to adopt the Tiguan’s European style, which includes a matrix lighting system. Maybe America will get there one day…

Overall, if you’re into a more rugged look, you’re likely to prefer the appearance of the Atlas. That’s not to say the Tiguan isn’t handsome—it’s just a bit smaller and curvier. In short, it’s a style preference. 

New features in the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan vs Atlas

The 2021 model year has been a good one for tech and safety. While many of the features are not necessarily cutting edge for this year, we are seeing them more widely spread across trim levels (meaning you don’t necessarily have to splurge for the upper echelon if you want that extra somethin’).

For the latest VW Tiguan, the lowest two trim levels earn an upgraded 17-inch wheel design. For the SE model, new features include:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • USB-C charging ports
  • MIB3 infotainment with improved navigation and voice recognition, 
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Meanwhile, the Tiguan’s SEL Premium R-Line gets a power-adjustable seat on the passenger side, making it a more holistically comfortable ride.

As for the VW Atlas, a restyle exterior is front and center. It’s three inches longer, plus it analyzes pedestrians in the front of the car more acutely. All-wheel drive is more widely available across variants, and adaptive cruise control is standard on SEL and SEL Premium trims.

The Atlas also gets that updated MIB3 infotainment system as mentioned in the Tiguan.

What about cost?

With a struggling economy and an ongoing pandemic, cost is crucial. The Tiguan’s MSRP is $26,545 while the Atlas starts all the way up at $33,445. However, the average price paid closes the gap slightly for these VW SUVs. On average, consumers paid $24,327 for the base trim of the Tiguan and $28,901 for the base trim of the Atlas.

Even with this discount in mind, the Tiguan remains the more affordable option. But an extra few thousand dollars may not break the bank for many. If the Tiguan is at the top of your price range, I say go for it—but if you could do with the additional space, maybe the Atlas is worth the splurge.

In the debate of 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan vs Atlas, there’s only one driver who can make that choice for you…and that’s you. 

Rachel Curry
"Hey! My name's Rachel Curry and I'm a full-time writer who loves telling the world's stories as much as hanging with my dogs (and that's saying a lot). A University of Delaware graduate, I've traveled extensively, living everywhere from Ireland to Thailand. Bylines include Matador Network and Delaware Today."

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    1. I don’t think I’ll ever be interested in full sized SUVs until I have kids. But at least I know more about the features that come with some.

    2. We love our Tiguan, but if I could go back I would go for the upgrade with the larger Atlas. Love the LED headlights!

    3. Sweet pictures!

    4. I like the Atlas better for me. Its mostly because of the V6.

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