How do you know the new Taos is a VW SUV? Well, its name begins with a "T," and a mouthful of vowels makes it hard to pronounce...so it must be a Volkswagen SUV. The Taos is VW's all-new entry-level compact crossover model for 2022, which slots in below the Tiguan. It's a de facto replacement for the Volkswagen Golf, which won't arrive stateside in base form.
It would be easy to denounce the Taos on principle. After all, I own a Golf Sportwagen, which is excellent — and coincidentally, VW loaned me an outgoing Golf hatchback to review the same week I drove the Taos. The taller crossover can't match up with either as a pure, affordable driver's car — but it's a solid little SUV with a fair bit to offer. And — as much as this pains me to admit it — the Taos meets present American needs and tastes better than the Mk8 Golf would have.
The Taos is a mini Volkswagen Atlas with a wee bit of Tiguan thrown in. VW took design cues from the Atlas, and the Taos emerges from the same mindset. If you polled Americans on what they wanted from a car and then built it, it would be an Atlas: It's a crossover; it looks nice on the outside; it has a ton of space on the inside; you can get in all-wheel drive; it's affordable. The Taos is the same formula, but smaller.
And remember, that formula is now the core business for VW. SUV sales now make up 64 percent of the brand's business in America — up from 14 percent just five years ago.
The Taos lacks the pep and precision of a Golf, but it's a solid-driving little crossover. It uses a new 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four — an updated version of the 1.4-liter in the Jetta, which puts out 158 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It's reasonably punchy in city driving, and it's not a complete sluggard on curvy back roads. The default steering feel will seem light to a seasoned driver, like the Atlas, but non-enthusiasts will find nothing ro complain about.
Like with the Kia Seltos, leveling up to AWD is critical. You lose a bit of efficiency. But you get the sportier seven-speed DSG transmission instead of the less-involving eight-speed automatic, an upgraded multi-link rear suspension and a drive mode selector. The latter lets you add in the otherwise-absent steering heft via the Sport and Individual settings.
The Taos's primary attribute is space. By small compact crossover standards, it's enormous (again, like the Atlas). The rear seat is adult-sized, with nearly as much legroom as the larger Tiguan. Behind that, you get a quiet-decent 27.9 cubic feet of trunk space. Fold down the seats, and you get 65.9 cubic feet for cargo, about the same as the Golf Sportwagen.
Beyond the space, it's a modernized version of the basic interior in many VW models. You get a standard digital instrument display. It doesn't go full-on ID.4 digital cockpit...though I'd argue that's for the better.
Volkswagen starts the Taos at $22,995 (before the $1,195 destination charge.) You have to go up to $25,040 if you want AWD. The fully loaded SEL trim starts at $31,490. Overall, the Taos comes in about $2-3K less than an equivalent Tiguan.
Powertrain: turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four, 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic, AWD
Torque: 184 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway