2022 Volkswagen Taos First Drive Review: A New Baby SUV From Volkswagen

2022 Volkswagen Taos First Drive Review: A New Baby Suv From Volkswagen
Volkswagen

With Volkswagen dropping its entry-level Golf hatchback in the U.S. (though the sporty GTI and Golf R variants will live on), the German automaker is in need of a new entry into the brand. Thus comes the Taos, which has the advantage of being an SUV, today’s preferred body style. 

VW already offers the Tiguan compact SUV, but the Taos is 9.3 inches shorter and rides on a 4-inch-trimmer wheelbase. So, where does that place the Taos in the competitive firmament? The most popular compact crossovers, such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue, are slightly larger. And most subcompact entrants, such as the Honda HR-V, Nissan Kicks, and Hyundai Kona, are a bit smaller. In the vast spectrum of small-ish SUVs, this VW’s closest competitors are tweeners like the Subaru Crosstrek, the Jeep Compass, the Nissan Rogue Sport and the Kia Sportage.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is volkswagen_taos-grille.jpg
 An illuminated bar across the center of the grille is one of the few flourishes in this VW’s exterior design. The light-up element is exclusive to the SEL.  Volkswagen

The Taos interior is roomy for four or even five. VW says there are 37.9 inches of rear-seat legroom, but it feels like more, and the cabin seems wide. Popping the rear hatch reveals 27.9 cubic feet of luggage space or 24.9 with AWD. That’s pretty good, as those two figures straddle the Compass, are shy of the Kia Sportage, but beat the Crosstrek and the Rogue Sport. Folding the rear seatbacks expands that to 65.9 cubic feet (60.2 with AWD), besting all four of those rivals.

Upholstery is cloth, a cloth-and-vinyl combo or leather, depending on the model. Contrast stitching and subtle two-tone color options add some visual interest, as does glossy plastic trim. The front door panels are upholstered, but the rears are hard plastic. The materials and design pose no threat to the segment-best Mazda CX-30.

The Taos cabin relies more on its dual screens to make an impression. A digital instrument cluster is standard and is an upscale feature for this class. A more basic smaller unit is found in the S and SE, with the SEL getting a larger one that offers greater configurability. Of course, there’s also a central touchscreen, which measures 6.5 inches in the S, while upper trims get an 8-inch unit (with navigation in the SEL). The screen features sharp graphics but a somewhat dense menu structure. Even the larger unit cannot show multiple functions at once, as similar-sized systems from Ford and Toyota can, but the instrument cluster screen can be set up to show secondary info. A neat trick: Paging through different screens can be done via a hand-wave gesture as well as the typical finger-swipe across the glass.

The Taos comes exclusively with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 158 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel-drive models get a traditional 8-speed automatic, and AWD versions have a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. For now, that’s the only engine on offer; VW executives hinted at a potential plug-in-hybrid variant, but that’s likely to be a couple of years off.

2022 Volkswagen Taos

Press the go pedal, and there’s a moment of turbo lag before the Taos scoots forward, but this baby SUV still feels sprightly enough around town. Acceleration at highway speeds requires a bit more patience. It’s nice to have a multi-speed gearbox rather than a droning continuously variable transmission, as is common in this segment. And there isn’t much difference in feel between the FWD model’s 8-speed conventional automatic and the AWD version’s 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The steering in the Taos is a let-down—it’s overly light, feels disconnected, and has little sense of on-center. Switching into Sport mode helps a little, adding a bit more effort, but not much. And only in the AWD version comes with selectable drive modes.

It’s too bad about the steering because the chassis is otherwise well-tuned. The Taos rides firmly but doesn’t feel harsh and effectively controls body motions to keep the ride from being overly busy. For now, there’s no R-Line or GTI sporty version, though VW executives seemed interested in adding one at some point.

Currently, there are three trim levels. The Taos starts at $24,190 (including the $1,195 destination fee) for the FWD S, with the base AWD version at $26,235. VW also boasts that the base FWD Taos S will carry a $199/month lease price. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, an 8-inch digital instrument cluster, two USB-C ports and roof rails; the AWD version also adds heated seats plus heating for the side mirrors and washer nozzles. Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are not included, but it’s worth spending $995 for the IQ.DRIVE S Package to get them, netting adaptive cruise control in the process.

Jumping to the SE costs $28,440 or $29,890 with AWD. The SE brings a raft of additional equipment, including a forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a power driver’s seat, cloth-and-vinyl upholstery, wireless charging, a rear-seat USB-C port, heated seats, the 8-inch infotainment screen and 18-inch wheels. Lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control are again optional.

The top-dog SEL is $32,865 (FWD) and $34,240 (AWD). Adaptive cruise and lane-keeping assist are included here, along with leather, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, and adaptive headlights, among other niceties. The only option here is a panoramic sunroof for $1,200.

Some of those Taos prices are quite close to the Tiguan. The difference varies from $2250 (S) to $150 (SE) to $875 (SEL). However, that narrow gap may soon widen as VW of America CEO Scott Keogh indicated that Volkswagen is likely to take the Tiguan upmarket for 2022, creating more space between the two models.