Volkswagen’s latest SUV to join their lineup has a lot to offer in a small compact package. The 2022 Taos is now VW’s entry level SUV slotting below the Tiguan in the lineup. It’s a rugged looking mini version of the Atlas packed with plenty of character, technology, and space inside. The Taos is available in three trim levels known as S, SE, and SEL. Base S models start at $22,995 with front wheel drive or $25,040 for an all-wheel drive 4Motion version. A single 1.5L turbocharged four cylinder is offered and is mated to either an 8-speed automatic in the FWD models or a 7-speed DSG in the 4Motion models. Competition in the compact crossover/SUV class is growing and includes vehicles such as the Chevrolet Trax, Ford Ecosport, Honda HR-V, Nissan Rogue Sport, Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Compass, Mazda CX-30, Toyota CH-R, and Subaru Crosstrek.
As an entry level SUV, performance is generally not a primary concern, thus VW has given the Taos a single engine option in the form of the 1.5L turbo four cylinder. It delivers 158 horsepower with 184 lb.-ft. of torque and is available in front or all wheel drive. Many competitors of the Taos deliver more overall horsepower yet the Taos felt appropriately powered for what it is. Acceleration was sufficient and felt peppy from a stop. The transmission doesn’t shift gears as quickly as an enthusiast type of driver might like but then again this isn’t a vehicle targeting an enthusiast. For the Taos buyer, they should be more than satisfied with how it drives. AWD models will come standard with a driving mode selection feature that offers three modes; Normal, Sport, and Individual. Normal and Sport have a different steering heft and throttle response, and Sport mode gives more aggressive shifts. Individual mode allows a driver to tailor the steering and throttle map.
Volkswagen’s 4Motion with active control all-wheel drive is available on each of the trim levels. It does not include a low-range and is not intended for serious off-roading, but it will help with overall traction in a variety of situations. It has four settings referred to as Onroad, Snow, Offroad, and Custom Offroad. The system is highly intuitive, comprising of both a rotary knob and a push-button. Turning the knob engages the various drive modes, while pushing the button triggers a pop-up menu on the screen of the infotainment system, allowing the driver to fine tune the Onroad mode into the aforementioned options (normal, sport, individual). In Snow mode, the controls are adjusted to help negate unintentional and excessive wheelspin, and the transmission upshifts earlier to help optimize traction. Offroad mode operates similar to Snow mode but adds manual control of transmission shifting via Tiptronic, the start/stop system is deactivated, ACC operates normally, and Hill Descent Control is automatically activated on gradients of more than 10 percent. Finally, Custom Offroad mode allows the driver to alter the steering, engine and gearbox behavior as well as Hill Descent Assist and Hill Start Assist.
Like many Volkswagens, handling and ride are a strong point. The ride was comfortable, quiet, and confident. The Taos has a composed demeanor on the road with accurate steering that is fairly agile. Opt for the 4Motion models if you’re looking to maximize its agility. Since it is tuned to provide a comfortable and relatively soft ride, you can expect some body lean on sharper turns at higher speeds. The Taos is an easy vehicle to drive and will leave the majority of its drivers pleased rather than disappointed. It’s the type of the vehicle that does really well in the middle of the pack, neither offending or overly impressing anyone… it’s a comfortable vehicle.
An area of particular importance to many buyers is fuel economy and the Taos does relatively well. My front wheel drive SE arrived with a full 13.2-gallon tank and 305 miles of range. EPA estimates at 28/36/31 MPG city/highway/combined which is better than average. After a week of suburban driving approximately 412 miles, I averaged 29 MPG. Regular grade unleaded fuel is recommended.
The Taos is built on Volkswagen’s MQB platform that is used on several VW and Audi models. It measures at 175.8-inches long and has a wheelbase of 105.9 inches. When parked alone, it doesn’t look all that small like some of its competitors. However, when our Kia Telluride was parked behind it on the street, I was reminded just how compact the Taos actually is. The stretched wheelbase minimizes the overhangs and gives it nice proportions. Up front VW has given it a wide three-bar grill that blends in to the horizontal LED headlights similar to the rest of the VW SUV lineup. Below the grill, it features a more rugged and sportier lower bumper fascia that features side air intakes, black detailing, and a larger lower intake. The LED lighting in front and back are standard across all trims. SEL models will add projector headlights with an adaptive front-lighting system and an illuminated light line stretching out from the emblem on either side that gives it a more unique look at night.
The side profile of the Taos features a prominent character line that stretches from the top of the front headlights to the back taillights. On the front fenders, you’ll notice a chrome embellishment that stretches into the front doors with the name Taos on it. The wheel arches are more squared off and trimmed in a black body cladding that stretches along the lower portion of the SUV adding to that rugged appearance. Roof rails also come standard and give it a more finished look and less of a ‘base model’ type of vehicle. Around back, the LED taillights will draw attention to the name T-A-O-S spelled out at the bottom center of the hatch, something that is becoming a new Volkswagen trait. We’ve seen many manufacturers start spelling out model names across the backs of vehicles which I generally tend to like, however, with a name as short as Taos I’m not completely sold on the placement. The black molded sides carry over into the rear bumper with silver detailing at each corner and a gray center give it more rugged character and dimension.
VW also continues to deliver good-looking wheel designs with sizes ranging from 17 up to 19-inch wheels on the Taos and available in both machine-faced finishes or black. S models will get the 17-inch aluminium alloys, SE models feature 18-inch machine faced allows or black wheels, and the SEL will offer 18-inch black alloys standard or 19-inch machine-faced/black wheels on the AWD models. All of the designs look good and match the character of the Taos. All models come with all-season tires; my test model was equipped with the 225/50R18s.
Inside, the Taos really shines as it does not feel like a compact SUV. The overall layout is simple, clean, and functional. Accent materials give it a more premium feel and I really liked the variable color pallet in my test vehicle that had a gray interior with brushed silver accents and a blue dash. Anyone who has been in other VWs will find the layout and controls familiar. Drivers will face either an 8 or 10-inch digital gauge cluster that both offer multiple views and a variety of customization options. One option is to change the cluster to a full screen navigation map which is nice for longer trips. At the center of the dash is the touchscreen infotainment screen that utilizes a capacitive-touch sensor similar to a smart phone. S models will come with a 6.5-inch screen while the rest of the lineup gets a glass-covered 8-inch display with wireless charging and wireless App-Connect for services such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Pairing devices was easy as the system is quite user-friendly and intuitive. Below the touchscreen are air/heat vents and standard buttons and knobs to control the climate. The center stack features a traditional gear selector, wireless charging tray, two cup holders, and a storage bin. Other available features include an upgraded eight-speaker BeatsAudio sound system, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, and additional USB ports. Also available on the Taos is the latest version of Volkswagen Car-Net which comes with a mobile app that features remote commands to start, lock, or unlock your vehicle; family guardian alerts that will help you keep tabs on your car with custom boundaries, speed, and curfews; DriveView which scores your driving habits for potential insurance discounts and more features such as a hotspot, parking info and more.
Perhaps one of the most impressive features of the Taos is the amount of space inside. It seats five with cloth upholstery standard on the S model. Synthetic leather, genuine leather, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and heated and ventilated front seats are all available upgrades to the seating. Our family of five fit surprisingly well and there was plenty of head and legroom for all passengers. The seats are comfortable, supportive and come with two sets of LATCH connectors for child seats in the back. A panoramic sunroof is optional and gives the Taos an even more open-air vibe inside.
Front wheel drive models offer the most cargo space which are generally more than most in the compact SUV class. There is 27.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 65.9 cubic feet with the seats folded down. In AWD drive models you’ll get 24.9 cubic feet behind the second row and 60.2 cubic feet with the seats folded. The rear hatch opening is large and it has a lower load floor making it very accessible. For comparison, these numbers are all bigger than the previous generation VW Tiguan.
Even as an entry-level vehicle, the Taos comes with a long list of standard and available safety features. Standard on all models are things such as a rear-view camera system, safety cage, intelligent crash response system, automatic post-collision braking system, tire pressure monitoring system, stability-enhancing system, and six airbags. Also available is Volkswagen’s IQ.DRIVE advanced driver assistance technology. This was a $895 option on my test SE model, but added features such as travel assist (semi-automated driving assistance), adaptive cruise control, stop & go, lane keep assist, emergency assist, active blind spot monitor, and front and rear traffic alerts. The IQ.DRIVE package is definitely a worthwhile add that brings both peace of mind and another level of value to the Taos.
For a vehicle that starts under $23,000 I was very impressed with what the Taos brings to the table. It looks like a much more expensive vehicle outside with a lot of detail work and a well-balanced exterior design. It’s even more impressive inside with a spacious cabin, driver focused- technology, and above average materials. The Taos performs well with its single engine offering and would make a great vehicle for someone living in the city or just learning how to drive. It may be one of the newest players in this segment, but it is one to take out for test drive if you’re in the market.
First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle: 2022 Volkswagen Taos 1.5T SE
Exterior Color: King’s Red Metallic
Interior Color: Black CloudTex & Cloth
Notable Options: Power Titling & Sliding Panoramic Roof ($1,200), IQ.DRIVE SE Package ($895), 18” Black Alloys ($395), King’s Red Metallic Paint ($395)
MSRP as tested: $31,325 (with destination)