Respected Critics Don’t Agree on the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas

The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas offers an enjoyable riding experience, and it’s pretty stylish. However, the reviews on this year’s VW Atlas are mixed, to say the least. Some reviewers celebrate its spacious cabin and fuel economy. Others critics question this SUV’s overall dependability. But ultimately, it’s up to you to determine whether the pros of the Atlas outweigh its cons.

Consumer Reports says the 2020 Atlas is unreliable 

A blue Volkswagen Atlas on display at an auto show
A Volkswagen Atlas on display | Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Consumer Reports ranks the Atlas as one of the most unreliable midsize SUVs of 2020. Needless to say, this VW isn’t one of CR’s recommended choices. CR’s rating is mostly because the big Atlas got off to a rough start as an all-new model in 2018. There were 11 NHTSA recall actions on the 2018 Atlas and almost 200 related complaints, mostly due to its fuel system. The following year, there were similar trouble spots on the 2019 version.

Because of its history of recalls, CR gave the 2020 Atlas a one out of five for predicted reliability. Even so, CR still had a few nice things to say about the Atlas. The team liked that Atlas felt like a “big coach” on the road, plus it actually has a comfortable third-row seat. But at the same time, reviewers noted that some buyers might be disappointed with the Atlas’ interior material quality. 

However, the 2020 Atlas Won Best Family SUV

The 2020 VW Atlas boasts sharp lines and bold exterior color options.
2020 VW Atlas SUV | Volkswagen

RELATED: 2020 Volkswagen Atlas vs. 2020 Hyundai Palisade: Which One Works Best for You?

Despite its spotty reliability history, voted the Atlas as the best family SUV of 2020 based on its survey. This came as a surprise since models like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade have primarily stolen the show this year. Reviewers at recognized the Atlas for its competitive starting price of $31K. They also liked that this VW offers peppy power and a host of convenience features.

U.S. News liked the SUV for the most part

RELATED: How Capable Is The Volkswagen Atlas?

U.S. News also ranks the Atlas as one of the better midsize SUVs of the year. This organization honors the Atlas for its admirable handling and cushiony ride quality. Although, U.S. News did take points away from the SUV’s overall performance score. 

There are two engine choices for this SUV. Base models have a 235-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. The upper-level trims feature a 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. U.S. News found that the Atlas’ base engine felt underpowered on the highway. And while the available V6 offers a livelier experience, U.S. News doesn’t think it’s as potent compared to class rivals. 

For the most part, the Atlas feels upscale on the inside, but some buyers aren’t fans of its plastic finishings. Cloth upholstery is standard on this model, with leatherette and leather seats available as upgrades. In addition to the ample interior space, the Atlas also stands out for its user-friendly technology.

So, is it a bad idea to buy the Atlas?

The Atlas does have some concerning reliability scores, but it still has a lot going for it. I have a few friends who bought the 2020 Atlas, and they have enjoyed their purchases so far. But regarding its questionable reliability, you might want to opt for VW’s extended warranty for more peace of mind.