2020 Kia Telluride vs. 2020 VW Atlas: Compare Crossover SUVs

November 29, 2019
2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

Three-row crossovers spread out in suburbia like Potbelly franchises and cupcake bakeries. 

We celebrate all of the above, by the way. 

The 2020 VW Atlas and 2020 Kia Telluride are two popular family crossover SUVs that wear relatively new names. The Atlas is the automaker’s largest three-row crossover on sale and was new for 2018. The Telluride is new for 2020 and also Kia’s largest three-row crossover. 

If there’s any confusion about their intentions, they begin and end with their names. The Atlas? Big enough to carry a family with a world of cargo. The Telluride? Plush enough to look at home in a tony Colorado mountain town. 

Which one is right for you and your family? Our TCC Rating indicates a relative landslide for the Kia over the Volkswagen—7.0 versus 5.7—but the numbers are closer than that.

MORE: Read our full reviews of the 2020 Kia Telluride and 2020 Volkswagen Atlas

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

Style and performance

Among three-row crossover SUVs, the VW Atlas looks less exciting than math homework—it’s by design. The Atlas started VW down the path for its current crop of crossovers that includes the Tiguan, the Atlas Cross Sport (which is related to the Atlas), and an upcoming small crossover. VW needed to adapt its shape to various body sizes; not an easy task with wild curves. The clean lines and simple curves of the Atlas are classic VW—and not many of their designs have aged poorly.

In contrast, the Kia Telluride looks nothing like the rest of the Kia lineup. It’s a gamble that paid off. The Telluride is related to the Hyundai Palisade but the two look very different. The Telluride is a little more rock and roll—it’s tougher looking, more angular, and more masculine.

Inside, the Telluride widens its lead with a sharp interior shod in synthetic or real leather. It looks dynamite—filled with very user-friendly tech. 

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

The interior of the Atlas can be stark and utilitarian. The VW has nearly as much tech inside as the Telluride, but its plainer presentation hardly feels special. 

Under the hoods of the Telluride and Atlas, most shoppers will find V-6 engines that make similar power. The Telluride’s 3.8-liter 291-horsepower V-6 is paired to a good 8-speed automatic that drives the front wheels, or all four wheels when optionally equipped. The Atlas’ 3.6-liter V-6 makes a similar 276 hp, driven through an 8-speed automatic to power the front or all four wheels. (VW makes available a 235-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4, although we’ve only had brief drives in those models, which are geared mostly toward sun-belters that don’t require an all-wheel-drive vehicle.)

Both V-6 engines are tasked with lugging more than two tons of crossover before fuel, passengers, pets, cargo, Cheerios, iPads, snacks, and juice boxes are aboard. Fully laden both crossovers feel confident but very heavy. 

Both are rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, when properly equipped, although we haven’t tried it with either. Send pictures if you do. 

It’s a coinflip for what’s better behind the wheel. Both steer confidently but lean into corners, and the Atlas and Telluride both keep pace with traffic but won’t win any drag races. 

The EPA says the Atlas returns combined mileage in the high teens and the Telluride in the low 20s, which may speak to the VW’s relatively older engine design more than anything else. 

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

Comfort, safety, and features

The Telluride and Atlas trade on available space for seven or eight passengers with room for cargo. 

The Atlas rides on a wheelbase that’s about three inches longer than the Telluride, but both SUVs span about 198 inches from bumper to bumper. 

Between the two, the Telluride uses its available interior room better. The first two rows are spacious and comfortable for long legs, with more than 40 inches of leg room available in both two rows. The third row in the Telluride is good for small children who don’t require car seats, although only two will realistically fit back there, even if there are three seatbelts. The second row can be a bench or captain’s chairs, depending on the configuration. With all three rows in place, the Telluride can hold up to 21 cubic feet of cargo—although that space is mostly vertical. With the third row stowed, the Kia holds 46 cubic feet of gear. 

The Atlas and Telluride’s interior space is nearly identical, but VW affords more leg room in the third row than Kia (33 inches vs. 31 inches), which we’re not sure will be as useful. The Atlas only seats two in back, which is more practical, with a second-row bench standard or captain’s chairs optional. The cargo capacities are nearly identical. The Atlas seats six or seven, while the Telluride can squeeze in up to eight passengers. 

VW makes cloth standard, with synthetic and real leather available. Kia offers only synthetic or real leather upholstery. 

Both crossovers make automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors standard on all models, but Kia goes further with adaptive cruise control and active lane control standard on all trims. VW makes both optional. 

The Kia hasn’t been comprehensively crash-tested by both major rating agencies in the U.S., so we’ll reserve judgment until all scores are in. 

The Telluride and Atlas draw closer in features, although top trims of the Kia outrun the Atlas. 

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

The base Atlas S costs about $32,000 and includes cloth upholstery, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, active safety features, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Opting for all-wheel drive drives the price up to about $35,000, but also adds the optional V-6 engine, which we consider to be necessary for the big crossover. 

The base Telluride costs about $32,700—with a V-6—and includes synthetic leather upholstery, active safety tech, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and 18-inch wheels. All-wheel drive costs $2,000 more. 

In top trims, the $43,000 Telluride SX has everything we could ask for and more: a 10.3-inch widescreen display, leather upholstery, cooled front seats, three-zone automatic climate control, a wireless charging pad, six USB ports, a power tailgate, Harman Kardon audio, 20-inch wheels, a surround-view camera system, and a sunroof. 

The Atlas SEL with the optional Premium package runs about $50,000 and includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, Fender-branded speakers, four USB ports, and a panoramic sunroof.

Our edge goes to the Telluride in most categories, but the gap widens considerably at the top end where the Telluride may tempt luxury buyers.

Summary

7.0
Expert Rating
There’s substance to the 2020 Kia Telluride’s style.
5.7
Expert Rating
Space comes before pace with the roomy 2020 Volkswagen Atlas.

Styling

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Kia Telluride has a boxy, modern look.
Read More
4.0
Expert Rating
The all-business 2020 VW Atlas looks as big as it is.
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Performance

6.0
Expert Rating
The supple 2020 Kia Telluride takes bumps better than many competitors.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 VW Atlas smothers bumps well but could use more power.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

9.0
Expert Rating
The spacious 2020 Kia Telluride has room for everyone and their gear.
Read More
9.0
Expert Rating
Great space in all three rows means the 2020 VW Atlas is a good choice for families with growing children.
Read More

Safety

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Kia Telluride is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
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7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas is a safe choice among crossover SUVs.
Read More

Features

9.0
Expert Rating
Even with every option selected, the 2020 Kia Telluride is a good value.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The well-equipped 2020 VW Atlas can get expensive with options.
Read More

Fuel Economy

4.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Kia Telluride could use a hybrid option.
Read More
3.0
Expert Rating
Fuel economy isn’t the 2020 VW Atlas’ forte.
Read More

MSRP

from $31,690
from N/A

Invoice

from $30,581
from N/A

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

23

Engine

Regular Unleaded V-6, 3.8 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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