3-Across in a Volkswagen Atlas or Atlas Cross Sport (all models)

The Volkswagen Atlas (and its 5-seater sibling, the Atlas Cross Sport) are one of our top picks for mid-size SUVs because of their wide 2nd row with 3 LATCH positions and roomier 3rd row than many competitors. 

The trickiest part for 3-across in the Atlas 2nd row is fitting 2 seats in 2D and 2C. The Atlas’s 2nd row bench is unevenly divided and 2P is wider than either 2D or 2C. Therefore, we focused mostly on what two seats can install securely in 2D and 2C, and did the seat in 2C prevent 2P from moving for 3rd row access. 

The 3rd row in the Atlas is best used for adults & teens as they’ll be able to take advantage of the leg room by tucking their feet under the 2nd row seat in a way that younger kids in car seats and boosters can’t. While there are tether anchors in the 3rd row, most forward facing car seats didn’t install securely due to the rigid buckles that angle sharply forward. It is possible to fit some rear-facing car seats in this 3rd row, but the elevated 3rd row seats make it more likely you’ll bop the kid’s head on the roof getting them in. 

We spent many, many hours installing lots of car seats in the Atlas to give you “recipes” for how to fit 3-across (or 2-together) in this vehicle. There are certainly additional combinations that work… but we’ve given you quite a few combos to choose from. Our recommendations below start with the 2nd row and then as you scroll you’ll find 3rd row recommendations. 

3rd Row Access: "Car Seat Safe" Lift + Slide

The Atlas features a “car seat safe” lift + slide for 3rd row access on both the driver’s side (2D/2C move together) and passenger side (2P moves by itself). If you have a car seat in 2D or 2P and want that vehicle seat to lift + slide, the car seat must be installed with the lower anchors, not the vehicle’s seat belt (because the vehicle’s seat belt is attached to the frame of the vehicle, it prevents the vehicle seat from sliding). The car seat in 2C can be installed with the seat belt or lower anchors and the lift + slide will work, as 2C’s seat belt is connected to the vehicle seat, not the frame of the vehicle. 

Some car seats can be installed with LATCH to a higher child weight than others. The Graco Extend2Fit is an ideal choice for a rear-facing seat (can be installed up to a child’s weight of 45 pounds with LATCH) and the IMMI Go for forward-facing (up to 55 pounds with LATCH). 

Atlas Models

This information applies to all 7-seater Ascent models (because you can’t do 3-across in the 6-seater since it only has 2 seats in the 2nd row). The 2nd row bench in the Atlas Cross Sport is identical to the 2nd row bench in the 7-seater Atlas. The Atlas has not changed since its introduction in 2018.

Why Did We Choose These Car Seats and Boosters?

We know you’ll want to learn more about how and why we chose these car seats and boosters. You’ll find in depth explanations about each one of them here including installation videos for many and links where you can purchase – so you can be sure you’re getting the exact model shown. We’ll also explain why you don’t see some of the seats you may have expected to.

Abbreviations Used:

2D: 2nd Row Driver’s Side || 2C: 2nd Row Center Seat || 2P: 2nd Row Passenger’s Side

RF: Rear-facing || FF: Forward-facing || HBB: High-back Booster || NBB: No-back Booster

Seat Back Recline Trick

We used the seat back recline trick for every car seat installation shown below. It allowed us to get a tight installation in some really tight spots. Therefore, be sure to watch this video to learn what it is and how to do it. For some of the forward-facing car seats, we also used the double seat back recline trick - which you can learn about here.

2nd Row

3 RF Convertibles

2D: Clek Foonf (seat belt + anti-rebound bar)
2C: Clek Fllo (seat belt + anti-rebound bar)
2P: Clek Fllo (Lower Anchors + anti-rebound bar)

3rd Row Access from 2D/2C: No
3rd Row Access from 2P: Yes

Notes: For families needing a RF convertible, the Clek Fllo in 2C is the best way to go in an Atlas - as Fllo in 2C won't be a driver visibility issue like other seats can be, doesn't interfere with 3rd row access, and keeps kids rear-facing until around age 5.
Clek Q-Tether (not shown in picture) may be added to make the RF Clek Foonf and Fllo even safer.
The Fllo can be installed with lower anchors until the child weighs 35 pounds to preserve 3rd row access from 2P.

3 RF Convertibles

2D: Graco Extend2Fit (Lower Anchors)
2C: Clek Fllo (seat belt + anti-rebound bar)
2P: Graco Extend2Fit (Lower Anchors)

3rd Row Access from 2D/2C: Yes
3rd Row Access from 2P: Yes

Notes: Clek Q-Tether (not shown in picture) may be added to make the RF Clek Fllo even safer. As noted above, a Fllo in 2C is an ideal choice.
The Extend2Fit can be installed with lower anchors until the child weighs 45 pounds to preserve 3rd row access from both sides (2D/2C and 2P).

2 FF + 1 HBB

2D: Clek Foonf (Rigid LATCH + seat belt + tether strap)
2C: Clek Foonf (Rigid LATCH + seat belt + tether strap)
2P: Maxi Cosi Rodifix (Rigid LATCH + seat belt)

3rd Row Access from 2D/2C: Yes, but only if child in 2D is under 35 pounds, and therefore doesn't need the seat belt added.
3rd Row Access from 2P: Yes

Notes: Install the Foonf in 2C first, and do the following with the 2D buckle to ensure it does not get damaged in the installation process. Some drivers may find the Foonf in 2C to be a visibility issue when in its highest height settings.


2nd Row

3rd Row

Notes for all 3rd row scenarios:

The 3rd row of the Atlas only has 2 seats... so clearly no 3-across is happening there. Keep in mind there are no lower anchors back here - so all seats will be installed with a seat belt. There are tether anchors in this 3rd row which makes it a suitable spot for a forward-facing car seat.

Rear-facing seats:

The 3rd row of the Atlas was deep enough for a rear-facing car seat. We used the Clek Foonf in the 3rd row as it installed nicely thanks to the Clek's built-in seat belt locking devices. Foonf takes up less room into the seat in front than Fllo, which is why we put Foonf in back to allow more room for the 2nd row.

Here's one, of many, examples of a set up for 3 extended rear-facing kids: Foonf in 3D with seat belt, Graco Extend2Fit in 2D with LATCH, Clek Fllo in 2C with seat belt.

While there is enough room to fit some of the infant seats in the 3rd row (its tight, but works) we don't know who in their right mind would want to do this and break their back lifting the seat in/out every time... so we didn't focus on this set-up as it seems highly impractical.

Forward-facing seats:

However, the 3rd row is challenging for forward-facing car seats as the seat belt buckles are very far forward of the bight (seat crease) and are rigid.

The Chicco MyFit installed securely in the 3rd row, but was a challenging installation. Many of the other forward-facing-only seats that we tried did not install securely and wiggled like a loose tooth no matter what we tried. This incompatibility was due to the seat belt buckle being forward of the seat crease and angled toward the front of the car. We haven't tried the Nuna Exec, but think it may install securely in the 3rd row - but there likely won't be enough leg room for the child.

Leg Room... There is good leg room for adults in the 3rd row. With the 2nd row all the way back, my 5'1" frame had room between my knees & the 2nd row AND my thighs were almost completely supported on the vehicle seat cushion. This is in contrast to many other 3rd rows where your knees are into the 2nd row seats and your thighs are completely unsupported and your knees are next to your nose. My feet tucked nicely under the 2nd row seats.

However, it's a different story for kids in car seats & boosters in the 3rd row. For an adult in the 3rd row the leg room was decent - but this relied on the adult's knees bending at the edge of the vehicle seat and the adult's feet tucking under the 2nd row seat. For kids in forward-facing car seats their knees won't go to the edge of the vehicle seat, and their toes are going to be pointing forward, not anywhere near able to tuck under the 2nd row seat. You may find it necessary to slide the 2nd row up considerably in order to allow sufficient leg room for the child in the 3rd row. You could ask the child who is harnessed to sit cross-legged or with their knees up (this is not a good idea for kids sitting in a booster seat). Here's what it looked like with a Chicco MyFit installed in 3P with the 2nd row pushed all the way back (same as it was in the above picture with the 5'1" adult sitting in the 3rd row). There is just 3 inches of room between the end of the MyFit and the 2nd row seats

In some 3rd rows the top of the car seat/booster hitting the roof can be an issue that prevents the seat from being used to its full capacity. Here's the Chicco MyFit (in 3P) with its head rest in the highest setting. 


Boosters - when unoccupied - can be a projectile that can fly around and hurt someone else (like your kid in the 2nd row) during a crash. Many boosters feature lower anchor connectors (either a strap or rigid LATCH) to connect themselves to the lower anchors in the vehicle to prevent this projectile possibility. Since there are no lower anchors in the 3rd row of the Atlas, this is not an option. If the booster has a tether strap AND allows the tether strap to be used in booster mode, then you can use the tether strap to prevent it from being a projectile. Otherwise, you'll need to have the child rebuckle the booster when they climb out so the seat belt holds it in place while it is unoccupied.

A big thank you to Volkswagen for loaning us a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas for a few days so we could complete this project! Volkswagen did not reach out to us – rather, we reached out to Volkswagen and asked them if we could borrow an Atlas. Volkswagen had no say in any part of this project. This project, like all that we do, is completely independent of manufacturer input. As always, our opinions are our own – based on our experience & expertise.