2022 Volkswagen Taos
1.5T SEL AWD price: $33,045
Pros—Impressively roomy. Supple ride. Lively. Fairly economical. AWD. Fun to drive. Safety features.
Cons—Rather nondescript styling. Efficient DSG automatic transmission can occasionally be uneven. No power rear hatch.
Bottom Line—Taos model with AWD and independent rear suspension especially shines.
Volkswagen had no choice but to add its compact Taos to its line for 2022, considering strong demand for all sizes and types of SUVs. It promises to be a smart move, considering the popularity of its larger, costlier compact Tiguan model, with which the Taos favorably compares in many areas.
Rivals include the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30 and and Subaru Crosstrek.
The new Taos has understated styling, but my test model was sort of set off with black detailing of the wide three-bar grille, an illuminated light bar between the headlights with a large Volkswagen badge in the middle of the grille and 19-inch alloy wheels.
The first thing that impressed me about my test top-line $33,045 Taos 1.5T SEL was its impressively roomy interior. Legroom is 40.1 inches in front and a generous 37.9 inches in the rear. Headroom also is appreciably above average, both front and rear, although my test vehicle had a $1,200 power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof. Such a feature cuts down on headroom in some other SUVs.
Options and a destination charge bought the bototm-line price to $35,835.
It’s easy to slide in or out, with wide-opening doors of the Taos, named after a town in New Mexico. All-around visibility is good, and the supportive heated/ventilated driver’s seat is well suited to long-distance travel—as is the manual heated/ventilated front passenger seat. Side bolstering keeps front occupants comfortably in place, and the two-tone leather upholstery has nice stitching and brightens the interior.
The cabin has a generally German no-nonsense appearance, but it looks good with its contoured trim pieces and contrasting colors. Soft-touch materials are in the right places, but there’s a fair amount of hard plastic throughout the cabin. The plastic is especially noticeable on the top of the dashboard, which contains an attractive 10.2-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster. Manual dashboard buttons and knobs for the climate control system reside below an 8-inch center touchscreen that has a good amount of settings and is fairly easy to use.
Upscale features include dual-zone automatic climate control with second-row air vents, thick heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, impressive sound system, push-button start, and a center console with USB data ports, dual cupholders and armrest.
Cargo room is impressive. It’s 27.9 cubic feet, or 60.2 cubic feet with the rear split seat backs flipped forward. There’s a rear center pass-through area and armrest with dual cupholders, along with a USB charging port, in the second row.
However I found it surprising that the heavy cargo hatch must be open and closed manually. One might expect power assist for a $30,000-plus SUV. However, the illuminated carpeted cargo area has a 12-volt power port.
The Tiguan has a larger, more powerful engine than the Taos. But all Taos models have a sophisticated 1.5-liter engine with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and a variable-geometry turbocharger. It produces a modest 158 horsepower but generates 184 pound/feet of torque at only 1,750 r.p.m. which results in quick responsiveness when the gas pedal is pressed.
The Taos 1.5T SEL AWD does 0-60 m.p.h. in 7.7 seconds and delivers an estimated 25 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on highways. The Taos SEL has an engine start/stop system to help fuel economy.
However, a driver must become familiar with the Taos SEL’s efficient, automatic 7-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox), which has a manual-shift feature. This SUV can be moderately unresponsive during quick on/off throttle applications in stop/go traffic. I soon got used to it and found there was no problem at cruising speeds. Moreover, acceleration in town becomes more linear when a driver switches the 3,430-pound Taos SEL AWD Taos from “Normal” to “Sport” mode.
In any case, my test Taos 1.5T AWD was fun to drive. The electro-mechanical variable-assist power steering was tight and quick. Handling was sharp, with little body lean on tight curves. And the ride was very supple for a 106-inch-wheelbase vehicle. A firm brake pedal helped this SUV to stop stop quickly and surely.
Helping keep things steady in tight curves were electronic stability control, the AWD system and the multi-link independent rear suspension, which allows a better ride and surer handling. A driver can select various modes with a console switch, including “On road,” “Snow,” and “Off Road” modes, although it’s doubtful if manyTaos drivers will take it off road.
The DSG and independent rear suspension come with the SEL’s AWD system. The lower-priced S and SE Taos models, which start with front-wheel-drive at $22,295, have a non-independent rear suspension and a conventional 8-speed automatic transmission.
Safety features include an advanced air bag protection system, electronic brake pressure distribution, lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, road-sign display, active blind-spot monitor, rearview camera and rear traffic alert.
The original Volkswagen Beetle had a slow start in the 1950s, but the VW Taos is hitting the market at just the right time.