- All-new two-row compact SUV to slot below Tiguan
- Turbocharged power and high fuel economy
- Sharp handling and comfortable interior
- Introduces the first generation of the Taos
What is the Volkswagen Taos?
The Taos is a brand-new vehicle for the U.S. market and Volkswagen's smallest SUV. It promises confident handling in a package that is about 10 inches shorter than the brand's next biggest SUV, the Tiguan. We expect the Taos will appeal to you if you've got an active lifestyle and want an SUV with more refinement than many other models in this price range.
The Taos is on the smaller end of the compact SUV category, competing with vehicles such as the Buick Encore GX, Jeep Compass, Mazda CX-30 and Subaru Crosstrek. The 2022 Volkswagen Taos will arrive at dealerships in the summer of 2021 and will start at about $23,000.
How does the Volkswagen Taos drive?
So far, we have been limited to about two hours of driving the Taos, but in that time a few things stood out. For one, the Taos seems to have the same polished ride and handling that VW's big SUVs — the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport — have. That's great because we've been less impressed with the smaller Tiguan's handling composure.
Power comes from a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It's a new engine based on the 1.4-liter engine in the Jetta sedan. Volkswagen increased the muscle from 147 horsepower in the Jetta to 158 hp in the Taos. It generates its maximum 184 lb-ft of torque at a low 1,750 rpm, which helps you get to speed fairly quickly. On paper, the Taos' engine falls below the 180-ish horsepower of its small SUV competitors, but in practice the Taos feels sufficiently peppy off the line.
Unfortunately, the automatic transmission doesn't like to readily change gears. If you're cruising along and step on the throttle, there is a puzzling lag in response as if the Taos says, "Hey buddy, are you sure you want to go full throttle?" Our theory is that VW tuned it this way to help out in the name of fuel economy. More on that below.
How comfortable is the Volkswagen Taos?
The Taos is very easy to drive. It stays composed around turns, and its steering is smooth and light. The ride quality is pleasant, too. The automatic engine stop-start system, which switches off the engine at stops to help save gas, activates quickly and with only a slight shudder. There's an unwelcome amount of road and engine noise that infiltrates the cabin at speed, but this class of vehicle isn't really known for being luxuriously quiet.
How's the Volkswagen Taos' interior?
The Taos brings Volkswagen's philosophy of affordable refinement to the small SUV class. There are hard plastics, but VW has thrown in some nicer materials and even leather with contrast stitching. Many of the controls are soft to the touch. And we were pleased to see physical controls for the climate control, along with a tuning and volume knob of the stereo, which we prefer over having them relegated to a touchscreen, where they're harder to use.
On higher trims, you can opt for a panoramic sunroof, which gives the cabin a more airy feel. Small SUV interiors have steadily become more premium, and it is nice to see the Taos continue that trend.
How's the Volkswagen Taos' tech?
It's impressive from the moment you sit inside. All Taos models will come standard with a digital instrument cluster that can be customized to display anything from the song that's playing to turn-by-turn directions, whether from the navigation system or from your phone, via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A 6.5-inch infotainment screen is standard, expanding at higher trim levels to an 8-inch screen capable of wireless connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
The Taos will also have optional safety packages that will include features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and an adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a complete stop when traffic gets backed up.
How's the Taos' storage?
Front-wheel-drive models of the Taos offer 27.9 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats up and 65.9 cubic feet with the seats down. The all-wheel-drive version cuts into the cargo capacity at 24.9 and 60.2 cubes, respectively. Even so, these are impressive numbers for a compact crossover SUV. For comparison, the rival Buick Encore GX offers 25.2 and 52.7 cubic feet. Honda's CR-V and Volkswagen's Tiguan are roomier, but the Taos likely has enough space for your typical stuff-hauling needs.
How economical is the Volkswagen Taos?
The Taos' engine has several enhancements, including stop-start operation, that VW says helps improve fuel efficiency. Front-wheel-drive models of the Taos have an EPA estimated fuel economy of 31 mpg combined (28 city/36 highway). The all-wheel-drive Taos models drop to 28 mpg combined (25 city/32 highway).
This is better than many other similar SUVs, such as the Jeep Compass (25 mpg combined) and Mazda CX-30 (up to 28 mpg combined), and positions the Taos as one of the most fuel-efficient small non-hybrid SUVs available. However, we only have the EPA's estimates to go on so far. We'll know for sure once we get a Taos in for our own real-world fuel economy testing.
Volkswagen has a compelling SUV on its hands. The Taos offers comparable sophistication and not much of a trade off in cargo space compared to its Tiguan stablemate, but at a lower price. The turbocharged engine is impressive, but we've yet to see if it can deliver on those lofty EPA numbers in the real world. We look forward to spending more time behind the wheel to get the full picture.