After years of filling the subcompact crossover void with wagon versions of the Golf and Jetta, Volkswagen dealers finally get a true competitor in the 2022 Taos. The new entry-level model is among the larger subcompact crossovers. It seats 5 passengers, is offered with front- or all-wheel drive and is sold only as a 4-door wagon. Competitors include the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona, Honda HR-V, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Kicks, Subaru Crosstrek and Toyota CH-R.
Trim levels include S, SE and SEL. All come with front- or all-wheel drive. Sole engine is a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Front-drive models get a traditional 8-speed automatic with torque converter while all-wheel drive versions get a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. Volkswagen does not recommend towing with the Taos.
S models list for $24,190 and include 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, roof rails, 60/40-split folding back seat, digital instrumentation cluster and 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Optional on the S is IQ.Drive, which adds forward-collision warning with brake intervention, blind-spot monitor, rear-cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping system and adaptive cruise control. The SE lists for $28,440 and adds to the S 18-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors and washer jet nozzles, hands-free keyless entry, remote engine start, simulated leather seat trim with cloth inserts, power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, wireless smartphone charging, forward-collision warning with brake intervention, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
The SEL starts at $32,685 and adds to the SEL all of the IQ.Drive equipment plus black 18-inch alloy wheels, iIlluminated grille bar, adaptive headlights, automatic high-beam headlights, rain-sensing wipers, ambient interior lighting, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats, larger digital instrument display, navigation system, 8-speaker premium sound system, rear parking sensors. Adding all-wheel drive to the SEL brings 19-inch alloy wheels and ventilated front seats.
Taos offers one of the more powerful engines in the class and it shows. Stomp the gas and this diminutive crossover will sprint from 0 to 60 MPH in less than 8 seconds. Not only that, but the engine offers plenty of passing punch and enough torque to easily merge with fast-moving expressway traffic. While far from ruckus, the turbo-four wooshes and whines a bit when under hard acceleration.
The 8-speed automatic in front-drive models shifts smoothly, if a bit slowly. That's most noticeable in highway passing when you step on the gas and have to wait a tick or two for power. No such hesitation in the dual-clutch 7-speed that comes with all-wheel drive. However, it suffers from shift-shock at times and often hunts between two gears when rounding corners.
Speaking of all-wheel drive, like most competitors in this class, Taos' all-wheel-drive system doesn't have a low range and isn't intended for severe off-road use. That said, front-drive versions do have a bit of wheel slip on quick starts and all-wheel drive would prove additional security on slippery roads.
Taos is EPA rated at 28/36 MPG with front-wheel drive and 25/32 MPG with all-wheel drive. As impressive as those numbers are, they trail class leaders (though that's not a shock as Taos is a bit larger than most subcompact crossovers). Thankfully in routine suburban commuting most owners will likely average close to 30 MPG overall. Perhaps a bit higher if you throw in some gentile highway cruising. In addition, the Taos engine runs fine on regular-grade gasoline.
Dynamically, Volkswagen didn't stray too far from the class norm. That means Taos isn't going to win any autocross events, but it isn't going to beat you up with a rough ride or give you motion sickness on a bumpy road either. But it is a Volkswagen after all, and that means a bit more emphasis on athleticism than your typical Hyundai or Subaru. It should be noted that all-wheel drive models have a more sophisticated rear suspension that provides a bit more composure around turns.
In the ride quality department Taos leans toward controlled rather than compliant. That means you feel bumps and road imperfections, but they don't intrude. It also means you don't have any unwanted secondary motions that tend to upset rear-seat occupants. The steering is a trifle over boosted, but at least it's accurate and tracks true on the highway. Brakes have excellent stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal.
Interior noise levels are appropriate for the class. The engine is certainly more vocal than some other subcompact crossovers, but it doesn't drone and quiets down nicely on the highway.
Taos offers an upscale, if a bit business-like, interior. In typical Volkswagen fashion, black is the dominant theme. But there's just enough brightwork and that handsome digital instrument cluster to offset the drab tone. For a first-year model, build quality was impressive and materials seem a cut above the class norm.
The front seats provide surprisingly good support and are all-day comfortable on longer highway trips. Head and leg room are impressive given the class. Rear seats are impressively roomy as well, but lack enough knee space to be truly adult rated. Still, they offer more room than most others in the class.
The modest ride height and wide-opening doors make it exceptionally easy to get in and out of Taos. Outward visibility is quite good as well, thanks to a tall and airy greenhouse and relatively thin roof pillars. In all, the Taos feels almost like a class-size up from most of its competition.
On the tech side, Taos matches competitive offerings feature-for-feature. The step-up infotainment system, with its large screen, wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play and wireless charger are somewhat unexpected, especially that it is offered in the mid-tier trim. Regardless of model, controls are logical and conveniently placed. So much so, that just about anyone can instantly feel at home behind the wheel. (That's saying something given some of the unusual cockpit setups in competitors.)
With a design that maximizes interior and cargo space Taos doesn't disappoint. It offers 27.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 65.9 cubic feet overall. Rear seats have a center pass-through and a 60/40 split. While they fold mostly flat, there's a 2-inch step from the load floor. Interior storage is highlighted by large map pockets and deep cup holders. The glove box and center-console bin are also generously sized.
Bottom Line -- From its zippy engine to its roomy interior, Taos impresses. Unexpected standard equipment like a digital instrument cluster only adds to that feeling. It's priced competitively and comes standard with free maintenance. SEL models are definitely on the pricy side, but come loaded with standard equipment. In all, Volkswagen dealers have been waiting for a vehicle like this and its sure to become Volkswagen's bestselling model in short order.