Safety Features in the 2021 VW Atlas

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas offers all of the leading-edge safety technology you’d expect from the VW brand. Atlas safety features include:

  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Hands-free parallel park assist
  • Surround-view parking camera system
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Automatic High-beam headlights
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-speed Traffic Jam Assist


VW Atlas History

Built on the same platform as the mega-popular Volkswagen Golf, and offering eight trim levels to choose from, the VW Atlas is the largest Volkswagen vehicle offered in North America on the VW MQB platform.

What’s this MQB platform all about? The Modular Transverse Toolkit (denoted as MQB – don’t ask, we don’t know why either!) is a technology platform used by Volkswagen in a wide variety of their vehicle models. You can find the MQB platform in everything from their small VW Polo, up to their large Atlas SUV. All MQB models are equipped with transverse engines that are installed in the front of the vehicle.

Developed as a concept, diesel plug-in hybrid in September 2013, the predecessor to the current Atlas model was introduced at the LA Auto Show late in the 4th quarter of 2016, but it still took many more months after that preview to actually be available for purchase. It was finally presented for sale to car buying consumers in the United States and Canada in May of 2017, for the model year 2018.

Small overlap front: passenger-side

Rating applies to 2018-22 models

Tested vehicle: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas S 4-door 4wd

The Volkswagen Atlas was introduced in the 2018 model year. The ratings also apply to the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, introduced in the 2020 model year. The Cross Sport is derived from the Atlas, but it has only two rows of seats instead of three.

Overall evaluation


Structure and safety cage


Passenger injury measures






Lower leg/foot


Passenger restraints and dummy kinematics


Driver injury measures






Lower leg/foot


Driver restraints and dummy kinematics


Action shot taken during the passenger-side small overlap frontal crash test.

The dummy’s position in relation to the door frame and dashboard after the crash test indicates that the passenger’s survival space was maintained well.

The frontal and side curtain airbags worked well together to keep the passenger dummy’s head from coming close to any stiff structure or outside objects that could cause injury.

The passenger’s space was maintained well, and risk of injuries to the dummy’s legs and feet was low.

Technical measurements for this test Measures of occupant compartment intrusion on passenger side Test ID CEP1814 Lower occupant compartment Lower hinge pillar max (cm) 9 Footrest (cm) 14 Right toepan (cm) 11 Center toepan (cm) 7 Rocker panel lateral average (cm) 4 Upper occupant compartment Center dash (cm) 3 Upper hinge pillar max (cm) 6 Upper dash (cm) 6 Right lower dash (cm) 7 Passenger injury measures Test ID CEP1814 Head HIC-15 397 Peak gs at hard contact no contact Neck Tension (kN) 1.4 Extension bending moment (Nm) 15 Maximum Nij 0.26 Chest maximum compression (mm) 19 Femur (kN) Left 0.9 Right 4.1 Knee displacement (mm) Left 7 Right 3 Knee-thigh-hip injury risk (%) Left Right 2 Maximum tibia index Left 0.60 Right 0.78 Tibia axial force (kN) Left 3.4 Right 2.7 Foot acceleration (g) Left 105 Right 43 Driver injury measures Test ID CEP1814 Head HIC-15 205 Peak gs at hard contact no contact Neck Tension (kN) 0.7 Extension bending moment (Nm) 14 Maximum Nij 0.16 Chest maximum compression (mm) 29 Femur (kN) Left 0.1 Right 0.1 Knee displacement (mm) Left Right Knee-thigh-hip injury risk (%) Left Right Maximum tibia index Left 0.29 Right 0.47 Tibia axial force (kN) Left 1.3 Right 0.4 Foot acceleration (g) Left 46 Right 65

How the passenger-side small overlap front test is conducted

VW Atlas Reliability and Issues with the VW Atlas

So here’s where the Atlas falls behind other similar cars from other makers. When comparing the reliability of the Volkswagen SUV to other SUVs in its class, the Atlas ranks DEAD LAST. The Atlas has only a 13% reliability rating. Compare that to the Subaru at 63% and the Kia at 62%, and you may start hearing warning bells go off!

Issues with the VW Atlas are many: brakes, electrical, and engine problems logging the top complaints received by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA).

For 2021, although there is not a reliability rating available yet, the Volkswagen Atlas has already had 7 safety recalls issued by the NHTSA.

WHEELS:RIM: recall date: 03/02/2021STEERING: recall date: 01/26/2021BACK OVER PREVENTION, SENSING SYSTEM, CAMERA: recall date: 11/17/2020STEERING: recall date: 11/16/2020TIRES:SIDEWALL: recall date: 11/12/2020SEATS: recall date: 08/25/2020EXTERIOR LIGHTING, HEADLIGHTS: recall date: 08/25/2020

Although many of these problems are covered under the Volkswagen four year / 50,000 mile limited warranty, these issues would seem to overpower anything that was positive about this SUV.

Consistently reported issues by owners affecting Atlas VW reliability:

VW Atlas remote start issuesVW Atlas coolant issuesVW Atlas catalytic converter problemsVW Atlas battery issuesVW Atlas sunroof problemsVW Atlas air conditioning issuesVW Atlas battery problemsVW Atlas transmission issuesVW Atlas radio problems

And it appears that many of the VW Atlas problems occurred in multiple years. As an example, it was reported that both the 2018 VW Atlas had transmission problems and the 2019 VW Atlas also experienced transmission problems.

Additionally, there were numerous problems still reported with the 2019 VW Atlas that were a carry over from the 2018 VW Atlas issues.

Safety Technology

The Atlas comes with a broad assortment of standard and optional safety systems, both active and passive. It has six airbags in the driver, passenger, side, and full-length curtain regions. An automatic post-collision braking system helps prevent subsequent events that occur after the initial impact by reducing residual kinetic energy.

There’s also the patented 4Motion all-wheel drive system that optimizes stability and traction for greater control. In addition, many high-quality driver aid systems are available including front crash warning and mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, pedestrian monitoring, Blind Spot Monitoring, Cross-Traffic Alerts, Lane Departure and Lane Keeping features, and a variety of Volkswagen parking assist functions.

Head restraints seats

Seat type: Power leatherette seat

Overall evaluation


Dynamic rating


Seat/head restraint geometry


Technical measurements for this test Seat type Power leatherette seat Geometry Backset (mm) 38 Distance below top of head (mm) -8 Seat design parameters Pass/fail Pass Max T1 acceleration (g) 11.0 Head contact time (ms) 65 Force rating 1 Neck forces Max neck shear force (N) 22 Max neck tension (N) 334

How the head restraint & seat test is conductedCurrently, IIHS tests apply only to front seats.

IIHS Ratings

The IIHS, or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is one of the most important organizations in the nation in terms of safety ratings. This year’s model of Atlas got top Good ratings in all major areas, including small overlap front driver and passenger side, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. It also scored the top Superior score for front crash protection for its automatic emergency braking feature.

Together these results combine to garner the Atlas the coveted Top Safety Pick award. Only the safest vehicles garner this honor every year.

Recommended Safety Technologies

These features have been either verified by NHTSA or reported by the vehicle manufacturers as meeting NHTSA’s performance criteria.

Learn about safety technology

What this means for the 2020 model

Get you a #VW that can do it all. #CanDoItAllChallenge #AtlasCrossSport — Volkswagen USA (@VW) January 24, 2020

There will probably be a few hiccups with the 2020 model, but for the most part, it looks like it will be a good, reliable vehicle. It’s based on the same model as the 2018 and 2019, so there have not been any major changes. 

The recalls on the 2019 model are somewhat disturbing, however, so we’re hoping that Volkswagen took the time to make the proper repairs before releasing the 2020 Atlas.


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