The 2022 Volkswagen Taos is an all-new midcompact SUV that's been designed specifically for the American market as opposed to something that's shared throughout VW's global empire. It's not the first such American VW, but it's easily the most successful … and least cynical. You see, previous efforts like the Jetta, Passat and Atlas broadly followed a simple, supposedly more American-friendly format: make 'em big and make 'em cheap. They were certainly that, but they also weren't as broadly competitive. Turns out American car buyers are more sophisticated than Volkswagen gave them credit for.
The new Taos, then, represents a smart course correction. Yes, it's a bit bigger than competitors like the Kia Seltos and Ford Bronco Sport, but it's not to the engorged levels of a Passat or Atlas. Indeed, the Taos manages to provide family-friendly backseat and cargo space while still being smaller on the outside than various compact SUVs. That's good for fitting in your garage, for fuel economy, for maneuverability and for ensuring a lower price. At the same time, the Taos doesn't have the same cost-cutting feel relative its competitors as past "American Volkswagens." You also get a little more style inside and out, with the exterior leaning a bit into the outdoor adventure space with a few rugged styling cues and functional raised roof rails. Don't expect much ground clearance or extra off-the-beaten-path capability, though.
We're really pleased with the 2022 Taos and consider it one of the best small SUVs. It scores high for functionality and value without being bland or chintzy. We actually think it’s a smarter buy than Volkswagen's other small SUV: the made-for-America Tiguan.
What's new for 2022?
The Taos is an all-new model.
The Taos pulls heavily from the Volkswagen parts bin, which is just fine. The same high-quality switchgear and user-friendly touchscreen interfaces you'll find in the Tiguan and Atlas are also found in the lower-priced Taos. VW's Digital Cockpit instrument panel is also standard equipment, allowing drivers a wide array of customization options to provide as little or as much information directly in front of you as you desire. Materials quality is comparable to everything in the segment save the swanky Mazda CX-30 – expect plenty of hard plastics but with a few strategically placed pieces of painted trim and padded leatherette to spruce up the joint. We also like that every trim has some variation of a two-tone color scheme.
The Taos is a few inches longer than other midcompact SUVs like the Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30, but is still closer to those than compact models like the Toyota RAV4. You don't really notice this extra size while driving, but in addition to some smart interior packaging, you absolutely notice it when trying to fit people into the back seat or load up the cargo area.
The back seat is particularly impressive. We were able to fit a giant rear-facing Britax Boulevard car seat and still have plenty of space for a 6-foot-3 passenger up front. That's rare for any compact SUV, let alone this smaller segment. It also translates into genuine adult-friendly space regardless of who's up front. The back doors are also quite large.
Cargo space differs slightly depending on whether you get all-wheel drive: it's 27.9 cubic-feet without it and 24.9 with it due to a higher load floor. Without all-wheel drive, the Taos managed to hold more stuff in our luggage test than anything in the segment save for the Bronco Sport. In fact, it was more voluminous than several compact SUVs. We also like that the Taos has raised roof rails, making it easier to swap aftermarket roof racks between cars.
Unlike its competitors, the Taos offers only one engine, but it effectively splits the difference between those rivals' respective choices. Its 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four produces 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.
Front-wheel drive is standard, and is paired with a traditional eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual (aka DSG). Though you may notice some slight differences in their behavior, they're basically just automatics that shift smoothly as expected. Fuel economy with FWD is 28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. With AWD those drop to 25/32/28, but the Taos is nevertheless one of the most efficient midcompact SUVs.
Despite the front- and all-wheel drive Taos models having different transmissions and rear suspensions, we actually couldn't tell much of a difference between them when behind the wheel. Both versions of the Taos we drove erred on the side of comfort over performance, demonstrating well-controlled responses to bigger bumps and sopping up smaller pavement imperfections with a sophistication expected of a German brand. Its chassis is more than capable of keeping its poise when hustling along a winding road, but Volkswagen's steering prevents you from actually feeling the experience, let alone enjoy it. Its Novocaine numb on center, then feels like you’re turning elastic bands thereafter. If you're looking for a more involving drive, the Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30 are better choices.
Also like other Volkswagens, the Taos doesn't have the sharpest response to throttle inputs. Whether it’s throttle tuning or turbo lag from the small-displacement engine, the result is a car that likes to make sure you really mean it. Similarly, neither transmission is particularly quick about downshifting as needed. Like the steering, this isn't really a deal breaker, but it does speak to VW's new compact SUV being more like the Jetta than a GTI.
What other VW Taos reviews can I read?
Read this more in-depth comparisons between the FWD and AWD Taos versions, as well as the SE and SEL trim levels. We also include more info about its design and engineering.
We take a close look into the Taos cargo area, which actually differs in size depending on whether you get FWD or AWD. We had the FWD one and found that it's second to only the Bronco Sport in its segment.
The Taos is competitively priced. It starts at $24,190, which puts it right at the heart of the midcompact segment along with the Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30. They're pretty evenly equipped, but you do have to pay $995 to get the driver assistance features included on the Kia and Mazda. Unusually, the price of adding all-wheel drive differs depending on trim level.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, a manual height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, heated front seats (AWD), an 8-inch Digital Cockpit instrument panel, two USB ports, a 6.5-inch touchscreen interface and a four-speaker sound system.
Key upgrades for the SE include bigger wheels, proximity entry and push-button start, a leatherette-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, a rear USB port, an 8-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker sound system. A Convenience package consisting of automatic wipers and a heated leatherette-wrapped steering wheel is optional on both the S and SE, as is the IQ.Drive suite of driver assistance features described in the safety section below.
The SEL's key upgrades include parking sensors, leather upholstery, a 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit, in-car navigation, an eight-speaker BeatsAudio system and the IQ.Drive suite. A panoramic sunroof can be added to the SE and SEL.
S FWD: $24,190
SE FWD: $28,440
SEL FWD: $32,685
S AWD: $26,235
SE AWD: $29,890
SEL AWD: $34,240
The Taos has not been crash tested by a third party.
Unfortunately, the Taos does not come standard with any driver assistance features besides the government-mandated rear-view camera. The IQ.Drive suite — optional on the S and SE, and standard on the SEL — adds the usual assortment of features: forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot and rear-cross traffic warning, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability. The performance of these systems is average for the industry.
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