The SMV concept goes into production as a midsize SUV, but only for the Chinese market

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The 2021 Volkswagen SMV is a brand-new SUV that the German firm will unleash on the Chinese market sometime in 2020. Based on a concept vehicle unveiled at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show, the SMV is slightly bigger than the Atlas, currently the company’s longest SUV.

Specifically, at 201 inches long the SMV is almost three inches longer than the Atlas, sold as the Teramont in China. The production model doesn’t have an official name yet, but it was spotted testing in cold weather in Sweden. But don’t get your hopes up, although Volkswagen is testing it in Europe, the SMV will be a China-only vehicle. Let’s find out more about it in the speculative review below.

2021 Volkswagen SMV Exterior

  • Looks a bit like the Atlas Sport
  • Slightly bigger than the Atlas
  • Boxy design
  • Based on the concept
left right
The test vehicle is heavily camouflaged, but we can clearly see that it's heavily based on the SMV concept.

Up front, the production model looks a bit more mundane than the show car. The headlamps are a bit smaller and the LED surround is probably missing. The fine chrome trim that runs across the grille is thicker on the production model, but the honeycomb-style mesh is still there. The bumper still features the wide trapezoidal vent, but the outlets onto the sides are notably smaller. The engine hood appears to retain the muscular design of the concept SUV.

Due to the fact that it’s fully wrapped in swirly camo, the profile seems featureless from most angles. But look close enough and you’ll notice that it borrows a lot from the SMV concept. Granted, cool features like the arched signature line of the rear haunches and the dent above the side skirts are tough to see through the camo, but the greenhouse is identical as far as shape and size go, which suggests that Volkswagen didn’t make many changes for the production model. The wheels are as fancy as the concept’s, but that’s not surprising.

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Similarities continue in the back with an identical tailgate with a big spoiler on top and a sturdy bumper with trapezoidal exhaust tips on each side.

The fascia looks similar as cool. It appears that Volkswagen kept the big scallop in the center, which is slightly visible in the tiny areas that aren’t covered in swirly wrap. The license place recess seems similar as well. The taillights, on the other hand, have almost nothing in common with the concept. The latter features thick, horizontal lights that meet in a thinner stripe that runs across the entire width of the tailgate. The production model appears to have simpler taillights without LED technology and the center stripe seems to be missing. On the other hand, these could be just prototype lights, so things could change along the way.

2021 Volkswagen SMV Exterior Spyshots
- image 880652

Overall, the production SMV doesn’t necessarily feel bigger than the Atlas. It doesn’t feel sportier either, so it seems as if Volkswagen is trying to creating its own competitor for the Atlas. It does look different though, with a smaller resemblance to the Atlas Sport version.

2021 Volkswagen SMV Interior

  • Premium feel
  • Glossy dashboard
  • Big infotainment display
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • Floating center console
  • Seven-seat layout
2021 Volkswagen SMV
- image 880959
The interior is far from being a mystery, as paparazzi have already managed to get shots of the cabin.

Despite its massive size, the SMV looks like a regular car inside the cabin. The cabin features aren’t as massive as in an SUV’s, while the steering wheel appears to come from the Passat sedan. The dashboard features a massive slab of piano black trim on the passenger side and a big infotainment display in the center. The latter is backed by an all-digital instrument cluster.

The center console has a rather unusual design for an SUV. Instead of a full-length unit that runs from the bottom of the dashboard to the seatback, the SMV features a short floating deck in the front. The center part is missing, but includes a couple of cupholders for large bottles. The rear section looks really spacious in the photos and the tall roof provides ample headroom. In many way, the SMV combines the benefits of an SUV with those of a minivan.

The crossover will come standard with a five-seat layout, but Volkswagen will also offer optional third-row seats that will increase seating capacity to seven.

2021 Volkswagen SMV Drivetrain

  • Engines from the Atlas/Teramont
  • 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • 2.5-liter VR6
  • Up to 300 horsepower
  • Up to 368 pound-feet of torque
  • Seven-speed DSG
  • All-wheel drive
2021 Volkswagen SMV Exterior Spyshots
- image 880643

There’s no official word as to what will motivate the production SUV, but local reports say Volkswagen will offer two engines.

The base powerplant will be a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 220 horsepower, while the range-topping vehicle will feature a 2.5-liter VR6 that will generate 300 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque.

All models will feature seven-speed DSG automatic transmissions, while all-wheel drive will be standard on some trims and optional on others. Non-AWD SUVs will have front-wheel drive.

Just like the Atlas, the SMV is built on the company’s familiar MQB platform. This SUV will be the largest vehicle to ride on these underpinnings.

2021 Volkswagen SMV Prices

2021 Volkswagen SMV Exterior Spyshots
- image 880649

The largest Volkswagen SUV, the SMV will also be the most expensive vehicle in the lineup. The Teramont, for instance, starts from around CNY301,000, but the range-topping model can cost as much as CNY510,000. That’s around $43,900 to $74,400 as of January 2020.

This means that the SMV could fetch around CNY340,000 (almost $50,000) in base trim, while the range-topping model could come in at around CNY550,000 (around $80,000).

2021 Volkswagen SMV Competition

Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer
- image 813504

Ford’s largest SUV in China, the Explorer is best suited to go against the upcoming SMV. But unlike the Volkswagen and its Ford-badged siblings sold in China, the Explorer is an import and not a vehicle co-developed with a local brand. The other notable thing about this SUV is that it’s not the sixth-generation model that Ford introduced in 2019. Instead, China is still getting the previous-generation SUV. But despite being a few years old, it still has what it takes to tackle newer SUVs. It’s also available in a seven-seat layout, and drivetrain choices include both four-cylinder and V-6 engines.

The base 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-banger generates 280 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, while the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 cranks out 365 horses and 350 pound-feet of twist. Pricing starts from CNY412,800 and goes up to CNY591,800 for the range-topping model. That’s between $60,200 and $86,300, notably more expensive than the SMV. But the hotter sticker makes sense since the Explorer is an import and Ford pays bigger taxes.

Read our full story on the 2020 Ford Explorer

Volkswagen Teramont

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
- image 693391

The Teramont, sold as the Atlas in the United States, may be a different model, but it’s only marginally smaller than the SMV. It also comes in a seven-seat layout and it features the same engines under the hood. Unless Volkswagen revises the engines for the SMV, they will have similar output.

Specifically, the 2.0-liter turbo in Teramont cranks out 220 horsepower, while the 2.5-liter VR6 generates a solid 300 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of twist. The Teramont is also notably more affordable, retailing from CNY301,000 (around $43,000), or around CNY40,000 (about $5,900) less than what the SMV is expected to fetch in base trim.

Read our full review of the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas.


2021 Volkswagen SMV Exterior Spyshots
- image 880654

With the production model still in the testing phase, it’s difficult to draw a conclusion just yet. But based on how the concept SUV looks like and what we already know about the production model, it should be a solid choice for families look for a big, powerful, and somewhat affordable hauler. It will be interesting to see how the SMV fares on the market with the cheaper Teramont still around, but Volkswagen must have a viable strategy behind this launch.

  • Leave it
    • Not yet in production
    • Won’t come to the U.S.
    • It will compete against the Teramont, too
Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert -
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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