Vehicle Type: Subcompact five-passenger crossover SUV.
Price Range: $24,190 - $32,685
Powertrain: 158-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder paired with an eight-speed automatic and front-wheel drive as standard.
VW's 4motion All-wheel drive is optional, and models with AWD include a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
What’s New for 2022?
The Volkswagen Taos is a brand-new model for the 2022 model year.
- The surprisingly roomy interior delivers comfort no matter where you sit; cargo space much bigger than expected too
- The turbocharged four-cylinder delivers excellent fuel economy, particularly for front-wheel-drive models
- The interior is quality across all trims, with good material choices and a simple ergonomic design
- Very little low-end torque makes the Taos feel too sluggish and tepid from a stop
- Higher-tier trims cost enough to compete with larger compact SUVs.
- Standard safety tech doesn't keep up with the current technology offered by other brands
- So derivative in styling, it is difficult to distinguish from other VW SUVs
Would we buy one? Maybe.
The new Taos is a subcompact SUV filling a spot for the brand in a very competitive segment, as well as a hole left by the Volkswagen Golf. 2022 is the first year for the Taos and it faces stiff competition from the likes of the Hyundai Kona, Jeep Compass, Mazda CX-30, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota C-HR, and the Kia Seltos and Soul.
The Taos is large for the class, barely smaller than its larger sibling the VW Tiguan, and shares extremely similar, but handsome styling. The rear seat and cargo area are among the most spacious in the subcompact market. This makes it a compelling option for buyers who want an SUV, but don't have the space or the budget for a larger vehicle.
All Taos models are powered by the same turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is less powerful than many offerings in its class but delivers a 184 lb-ft of low-end torque, making its lack of power less noticeable at most speeds. The engine is a new, larger iteration of the current 1.4-liter found in the VW Jetta.
The Taos appeals to sensible people, the interior is simple and high quality with plenty of space, but slots into the middle of the pack for material choices and luxury. The drivetrain is similar, delivering acceptable, but middling acceleration. Front-wheel-drive models feel less composed than AWD versions due to differences in rear suspensions, though the AWD's optional eight-speed automatic feels finicky. The Taos is not quite the Goldilocks of the subcompact segment but maybe just the right fit for certain buyers.
Overall Score: 3.5/5 stars
Driving Experience: 3/5 stars
The Taos doesn't deliver thrills when it comes to acceleration, but it does have more than enough power for normal daily driving. The turbo-four engine does make power low in the RPM range, which makes the Taos feel peppy in low-speed situations. BUT from a dead-stop, the turbos take way too long to give any meaningful boost to the Taos, so it feels frightlyfully reluctant to start moving.
Zero to sixty times are middle of the road for the segment in either engine and transmission configuration.
The standard eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly, while the seven-speed DSG transmission in all-wheel-drive models struggled to operate fluidly in both stop and go situations and during spirited driving. There is no steering wheel mounted paddles to easily allow the driver to select gears, meaning drivers are at the mercy of transmission programming.
AWD versions have different, multilink rear suspension, and feel more composed and precise than front-wheel-drive models, which use a torsion beam setup. Even though the AWD version is heavier it delivers sportier driving dynamics and includes selectable drive modes. Steering is good for an SUV but doesn't match the outgoing Golf. AWD models deliver only the slightest amount of off-road capability, the Taos is designed to excel on the street.
The interior is quieter than average for a car in this segment, and the ride is comfortable with both AWD and FWD absorbing road imperfections without too much jostling.
Visibility is good, and seating position to deliver the expected higher feel SUV buyers enjoy. The short wheelbase makes the Taos VW's easiest SUV to park, for city dwellers considering the SUV.
Safety Features: 2.5/5 stars
Safety Scores from the NHTSA and IIHS were not yet available at the time of writing for the 2022 Taos. Check their respective websites for updates, as the Taos was selected for testing.
Most safety tech is reserved for higher-level trims or as part of additional packages. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian monitoring are only available on higher trims or as part of the optional IQ.Drive Package.
Value: 3.5/5 stars
The base model competes well with similarly optioned competition, and pricing escalates quickly from there.
With the non-GTI Golf non longer available in the US, this is a compelling value for those also considering a small hatchback. It costs roughly the same as the now-discontinued regular Golf did in the base configuration. It is also barely more than a base Subaru Impreza wagon or the Toyota Corolla Hatchback. Buyers who prefer the height and driving position of an SUV may find it an appealing option.
Higher trim levels encroach on Tiguan pricing, buyers with the room for the slightly larger vehicle should definitely consider stepping up. Those looking for more luxury in the subcompact class can find it from other vehicles for a lower price.
Volkswagens traditionally do not hold their value as well or have the same reputation for reliability, as many competitors. Those fears are not assuaged by a shorter-than-average powertrain warranty. Buyers concerned with the long-term cost of their purchase should consider resale value, reliability, and depreciation.
Tech Features: 4/5 stars
The Taos' infotainment system is well-liked, intuitive, and user-friendly. A 6.5-inch touchscreen is standard, with an optional 8.0-inch available. VW wisely kept some controls in the physical realm, with buttons and dials for volume and climate controls.
The Taos includes two front seat USB-C connectors, a standard four-speaker audio system, and a push-button start.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included. Navigation, an eight-speaker BeatsAudio sound system, wireless charging, and multi-phone compatible Bluetooth are available options.
Practicality: 4/5 stars
For the category, the VW Taos is large, almost competing with compact SUVs. Passenger space is great for two full-size adults in each row of seats. The Taos actually has a width slightly greater than its bigger sibling the VW Tiguan. The cabin also feels spacious, with good visibility.
With the rear seats folded up, you get at least 25 cubic feet of cargo space, three more for vehicles without the optional all-wheel drive. With the rear seats folded down capacity grows to nearly 66 cubic feet. Both numbers are excellent for the segment. The liftover height is also low, meaning it will be easy to take advantage of all of that space.
The Taos is not rated for towing, and even AWD models have a relatively low 6.6" of ground clearance. The Taos is a good all-weather commuter but lacks off-road prowess or truck-like capabilities of the Ford Bronco Sport or Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.
Styling & Design: 3.5/5 stars
Inside the Taos follows the company line. It has a clean, simple design that would look familiar to any current model VW owner. That is not necessarily a bad thing, ergonomics are great, and controls are intuitively located.
A standard digital instrument cluster is easy to read and displays all of the important information. This screen also enables VW's Digital Cockpit which allows you to customize what is presented, including GPS directions for models so equipped.
Interior comfort is excellent, with supportive seats, and plenty of legroom for to stretch out for both front seat and back seat passengers, at least for a subcompact SUV. Standard cloth upholstery looks and feels sturdy, and available leatherette and leather seats up the luxury quotient. An available panoramic sunroof makes the already large interior feel downright airy.
Interior fit and finish are as expected from VW. Everything is well thought out, and properly in place. No overly large gaps or other quality issues are noticeable upon first drives by journalists.
The exterior styling is also in line with the larger Tiguan and Atlas. The grille and headlight treatment is closer to the well-received design of the Atlas Cross Sport, with a less aggressive slope to the rear window, which preserves interior functionality.
If Volkswagen was looking for a replacement for the Golf that would appease both economy car buyers, and those wanting the extra utility of a crossover SUV, the Taos hits the mark.
Aside from a few hard plastics, the Taos is a pleasant place to be. Those cheap-looking panels become less tolerable as trim level and price increase. Most high-touch surfaces are pleasant and soft though, and buyers wanting a luxury car should look elsewhere.
Fuel Efficiency: 3/5 stars
Fuel Economy for FWD models is best in class with the EPA estimating 36 MPG on the highway and 28 in the city. AWD models see a slight hit at 32 MPG highway and 25 city.
In our week of testing, over about 150 miles, we averaged 23 MPG, which isn't great for a crossover this small.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
The Volkswagen Taos starts at an MSRP of $24,190 in base S trim. S models still get LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, and 2 USB-C ports. Seating upholstery is cloth, the smaller 6.5-inch touchscreen is included, and the HVAC system is manually controlled.
Stepping up to SE trim costs at least $28,440 and adds 18" wheels, heated windshield washer nozzles and side mirrors, and CloudTex leatherette seating surfaces and steering wheel treatment. Safety features include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian monitoring. Tech is also upgraded including remote start, heated front seats, a larger 8-inch touchscreen, and Sirius XM capability with three months free.
The top-tier Taos SEL model start at $32,685. SEL cars get an adaptive front-lighting system with an illuminated grille, blacked-out 18" wheels, and rain-sensing wipers. Inside seats are upgraded to leather, ambient lighting is added, and the steering wheel is heated. Upgraded safety features include adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane-keeping assist. Tech is better too, with BeatsAudio premium sound, automatic climate control, built-in navigation, and Volkswagen Digital Cockpit Pro, which unlocks more driver assistance features.
Base S trim cars deliver the most competitive value for the segment, adding the practicality of a small SUV to VW's lineup at the price of the outgoing Golf hatchback or slightly more than the current Jetta sedan. Pricier trims encroach on the larger Tiguan as well as other compact SUVs.