Best & Worst Volkswagen Atlas Years

I have researched all Volkswagen Atlas models from 2018 until the latest models and categorized the best & worst years in this simple guide.

In this guide, I’ll break down all Volkswagen Atlas generations, revealing the best Volkswagen Atlas model years to buy and the worst Atlas years to avoid.

We aim to present a thorough analysis based on extensive data and reviews from respected sources such as the NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and Edmunds, ensuring you have all the information you need to make an informed choice.

We’ll specifically highlight the distinctions between each Volkswagen Atlas model year, focusing on performance, technology, safety, common problems, recalls, and resale values.

Let’s dive right in!

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Table of ContentsShow

Volkswagen Atlas Generations

The Volkswagen Atlas made its debut in 2017. It was designed to cater to the American market and featured three rows of seating, ample cargo space, and a choice between a four-cylinder turbocharged engine or a more powerful V6.

Equipped with modern technology and safety features, the Atlas aimed to provide a comfortable and secure ride for families and adventure-seekers.

Here’s an overview of the Volkswagen Atlas generations from 2018 to the present:

1st generation (CA1)2018-Present

Generational changes can significantly influence a buyer’s decision, especially regarding features, performance, and safety.

Volkswagen Atlas Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

In evaluating the best and worst years for the Volkswagen Atlas, our categorizations and rankings take into account a multitude of factors, including:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • owner ratings

This upcoming graph compiles all these ratings, offering a holistic view of the Volkswagen Atlas’s performance throughout the years.

Volkswagen Atlas Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Below is a table categorizing the model years of the Volkswagen Atlas into best, neutral, and worst years based on thorough research and analysis.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (CA1)2020

“Neutral Years” didn’t stand out for exceptional reliability or face significant issues, offering a balanced choice for buyers.

It’s important to note that factors like NHTSA recalls can negatively affect our rankings. A higher number of complaints and recalls typically indicates lower vehicle reliability.

Let’s dive into the best, neutral, and worst years for the Volkswagen Atlas.

Best & Worst Years for Volkswagen Atlas 1st Generation (2018-Present)

Volkswagen Atlas 1st generation 2018 model
The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Launched in 2017, the first-generation Volkswagen Atlas entered the SUV market as a family-oriented vehicle, offering a spacious cabin, advanced safety features, and robust engine options.

The best years for the Volkswagen Atlas are 2020, 2023, and 2024, while the years to avoid are the 2019, 2018, and 2021 models.

The Best Years: 2020, 2023, 2024

Which VW Atlas is the most reliable? The 2020, 2023, and 2024 Volkswagen Atlas models represent the best years of the first generation.

These models offer a choice between a 2.0L I4 turbocharged engine delivering 235 hp and a 3.6L V6 engine producing 276 hp (until 2024), paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission for smooth handling.

These years saw improvements in fuel efficiency, averaging around 20 city/24 highway MPG for the 2.0L models.

Safety features were enhanced, with advanced driver-assistance systems like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist becoming more standard across trims.

The infotainment system was updated for better user interaction, featuring larger touchscreens and improved connectivity.

These models boast improved reliability, with fewer reported issues related to the electrical system and engine compared to earlier years.

Interior upgrades included more premium materials and comfortable seating, making these years ideal for families seeking a reliable and feature-rich SUV.

The Neutral Years: 2022

The 2022 model year of the Volkswagen Atlas is categorized as neutral. It carried forward the enhancements from 2020 but faced some issues with emergency brake activation.

The 2022 Atlas continued to offer the same engine choices and maintained its reputation for spaciousness and comfort.

Safety features remained robust despite concerns regarding the emergency braking system.

This year also saw a recall of engine stalling due to damaged connecting rod bearings, causing engine failures and stalling.

Despite these issues, the 2022 Atlas still offered a balanced combination of performance, safety, and comfort, making it a viable choice for buyers.

The Worst Years: 2018, 2019, 2021

The worst Volkswagen Atlas years to avoid, which are 2018, 2019, and 2021, experienced several significant issues, particularly in the electrical system, engine, and brakes.

The 2018 and 2019 VW Atlas models were plagued with problems such as airbag malfunctions, door actuator failures, and coolant leaks, leading to several recalls for airbags, brake calipers, coil spring fractures, and tire failures.

Owners also reported “Brake Booster Faulty” warning messages, causing unexpected braking.

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas continued this pattern, with complaints about the forward collision avoidance system and auto start/stop malfunctions, followed by recalls related to airbags, rearview display issues, and power steering failures.

These issues, combined with the frequency of critical recalls, significantly undermined the reliability of these model years, making them less appealing to potential buyers looking for a dependable family SUV.

See NHTSA 2018, 2019, 2021 Volkswagen Atlas recalls and complaints.

Volkswagen Atlas Resale Values

Explore this graph for insights into the Volkswagen Atlas’s average resale prices across different model years.

Volkswagen Atlas Average List Price


What is the best year VW Atlas to buy?

After our comprehensive analysis, we recommend 2020, 2023, and 2024 as the best Volkswagen Atlas model years for their reliability and features while advising you to avoid 2018, 2019, and 2021 due to prevalent issues.

What features do you prioritize when choosing an SUV like the Volkswagen Atlas, and why?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.