The Taos is a brand-new vehicle for the U.S. market and Volkswagen's first subcompact SUV. It promises confident handling in a package that is 11 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 are looking for an SUV that has more refinement than many other models in this price range.
2022 Volkswagen Taos
So far Volkswagen has only allowed us to test a prototype camouflaged Taos. That means some changes may occur before the Taos is finalized for production. Our time with the Taos was also limited to about 30 miles of driving, which isn't much. 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.
It's very easy to drive the Taos. The steering is smooth and light, and the Taos stays composed around turns. 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. Based on our initial drive, the automatic climate control kept us comfortable on a muggy morning. A bigger problem was an unwelcome amount of wind road and engine noise that infiltrates the cabin at speed.
Based on the prototype we drove, you can expect the Taos to bring Volkswagen's philosophy of affordable refinement to the extra-small SUV class. The interior of the Taos prototype is highlighted by contrast. There are hard plastics, but VW has also thrown in some nicer materials and even leather with contrast stitching. Many of the controls, including the steering wheel, are soft to the touch. This is a step above many subcompact SUV interiors, and it will be interesting to see whether all Taos trims get the same treatment.
Since the Taos we drove was a prototype, most of its technology was unavailable for use. The infotainment screen offered limited functionality, and the adaptive cruise control system was disabled. However, the large digital instrument display shone bright and clear, making it easy to read the tachometer and speedometer. Apple CarPlay smartphone integration booted up quickly via one of two USB-C ports. But that was about the extent of our tech experience.
While we don't yet know official fuel economy figures, we know that Volkswagen is targeting the top of the class. The Taos' engine has several enhancements that VW says help improve fuel efficiency. The goal of top fuel economy seems at least plausible. Even with lots of stopping and starting and frequent hard acceleration, the Taos showed 27.8 mpg on its digital gauge. Onboard fuel economy gauges are frequently inaccurate, so we'll have to wait until we can test a production Taos on our evaluation route. But it's a good sign. Time will tell if the Taos can better the likes of the Chevrolet Trax (28 mpg combined) or the Honda HR-V (30 mpg combined).
Volkswagen has a compelling SUV on its hands with sophistication not normally found in the class. The turbocharged engine is impressive, but it will take a moonshot fuel economy figure to make up for the significant delay in throttle response. We look forward to seeing the final Taos design and spending more time behind the wheel to get the full picture.