Always interesting how different publications and people value all the attributes differently.
We compared these 2 as top possibilities with the following:
- Wife is 5’2, tall dash did not fit was a dealbreaker on the Atlas
- drives and sounds (interior noise) like a truck.
+ Lane centering better than eyesight lane departure
+ size in rear seats
- Deiselgate rubbed me the wrong way
+ locally made in TN
+ interior noise
+ seat raises very high and great visibility
- space behind 3rd row smaller
Our key drivers were fit for short people, interior noise as we were coming from a loud minivan. Ascent won out on those.
Friend just got an atlas and his main need was the size.
So you find that being made in TN is better than Indiana? Parts are coming from all over in both vehicles, they are just being bolted here. So that's a either a plus for both or a minus for both, depending on your point of view.
I was ready to buy an Atlas, researched and test drove both extensively and ended up choosing the Ascent when the VW dealership started playing with the numbers (added some 3k in hidden fees after giving me a great quote) and I realized the price was higher than the Ascent with comparable options.
They are both very good, the Ascent interior is 10 times more comfortable and luxurious in my view (I have captain chairs with ivory leather). My family is not made of big people, so the wider seats and extra leg room aren't really important for us. Reclining 3rd row and the mushy captain chairs made a difference towards the Ascent when I compared.
It's true that my (short) wife had a bit of trouble seeing the front of the Atlas when she test drove it. While she can see much better in the Ascent, her short legs don't like the extendable leg support. Even set back completely it bothered her a little at the beginning, so that's a tie between them for short drivers.
For us, the biggest issues with the Atlas were the quality of the interior plastics, general reputation of VW reliability, and the slight sluggishness of the engine at low speeds. Sport mode helped but it really just held onto each gear a little longer. And fuel economy, which at 17 mpg in our Ascent ( up from 16.5 a month ago), turns out to probably be a non issue... I doubt the Atlas is (much) worse.
Interestingly enough, we felt the Atlas was a little clunky around town as well compared to the Ascent, but on more engaging (ie fun to drive) roads, it seemed to handle better. My wife, the shorter of us, is 5'10", so outward visibility and fitting comfortably was a non issue in either car.
We felt the Atlas interior was more attractive and nicely designed ( Sel Premium with that sharp tan/black interior), but cheaper feeling. Top end Fender audio was excellent. It was slightly more expensive- we had a great deal worked out on the Atlas as well- but considering our last car was a GL450, relatively speaking a couple K's difference on the Ascent vs Atlas was not an issue.
I don't think there are many bad choices in this segment, save for the outdated Journey or Outlander.