The Atlas got Volkswagen hooked on SUVs, so it made us another one.
A little more than a year ago, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess spoke up at a press conference and told reporters that the US market would soon see another Volkswagen SUV land and try to become the kind of success the Atlas has been. That Volkswagen was slated to be built in Mexico and slot below the Tiguan, currently the only SUV in VW’s lineup that’s smaller than the seven-seat Atlas.
A few months later that was followed by a report claiming that Volkswagen was planning a small SUV to fight against the Jeep Renegade and Honda HR-V. And now, thanks to the news Volkswagen spilled at a presentation for Argentinian journalists leaked by Autoblog Argentina via Motor 1, we know that Diess has been hard at work trying to make good on that promise.
The SUV being brought to the Americas is slated to be called the Tarek. The funny thing about it is that Volkswagen already sells the Tarek in China, where it's known as the Tharu. True to Diess’ word, the North American version of the Tarek will be built in Mexico and should hit the assembly line sometime in 2021.
China’s Tharu has smaller dimensions relative to the Tiguan, with a wheelbase spanning 105.5 inches long and length sitting at 175.3 inches compared to the Tiguan’s 109.8-inch wheelbase and its 185.1 inches in length. Curiously, that makes the Tarek slightly bigger than the Jeep Renegade, which comes in at 166.6 inches long and has a 101.2-inch wheelbase. Whether these dimensions will be preserved when the Tharu makes it to North America as the Tarek is unknown, but they likely will considering how aggressively Volkswagen is trimming down on differentiation within its portfolio in order to cut down on costs.
The Tarek will also ride on Volkswagen’s highly flexible MQB platform, allowing it to share engines and transmissions with some of its siblings. In China, the Tharu gets three power plants, a 1.2-liter, 1.4-liter, and turbocharged 2.0-liter, each making 116 hp, 150 hp, and 186 hp, respectively. If any of these power plants is to make it to America, expect it to be the 2.0-liter turbocharged unit.
In addition to selling the Tarek in the US, Volkswagen is releasing the small SUV in the Canadian and Mexican markets. What’s strange to us, though, is the timeline behind the Tarek. Its proposed arrival date in 2021 or later leaves a lot of time for Volkswagen’s competitors to carve out a lead in the market before most customers even get familiar with the Tarek's name.