With the disappearance of the normally aspirated Golf, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos is now the least-expensive VW hatchback you can buy, as it slots in at the bottom of the company’s crossover line-up.
Looking much like an Atlas Cross Sport that was left in the dryer too long, this handsome new subcompact wears much the same wardrobe as its larger siblings, with a distinctively handsome design that sets this vehicle apart in the increasingly crowded subcompact crossover class.
But the new model nicely fleshes out Volkswagen’s crossover portfolio, one that now includes the entry-level Taos, alongside the Tiguan, Atlas Cross Sport and Atlas, making for a line of vehicles that’s more tailored to the American market more than any previous group.
Offered in ascending S, mid-range SE and top-of-the-line SEL trim, Taos is offered with front-wheel drive or 4Motion all-wheel drive. It’s built on the same MQB platform used across the company, including the larger Tiguan.
While it competes with such players as the Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Compass, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Kicks and Subaru Crosstrek, it’s among the largest of the group. In fact, it’s about an inch longer than the first-generation Tiguan, while costing significantly less. And like all VW CUVs, its cabin is remarkably roomy. In fact, even though it gives up 9 inches to the Tiguan, it boasts nearly as much passenger volume. Sounds like a good deal to us.
The Taos carefully follows the design dictates of its larger siblings. Like them, it wears uncluttered, refined styling is pleasingly distinctive, and avoids the childish excess that will date its look within a couple years. This vehicle doesn’t look like an escapee from a video game. Its chiseled lines are sensibly sculpted, and gratifyingly mature.
Considering its size, the Taos’s interior is cavernous. Seating is very comfortable and supportive. Head and leg room are generous, and visibility is excellent. It’s also fairly quiet. Ambience is similar to that of other VWs, with a logical layout that’s bereft of flashy styling.
A bastion of ergonomic simplicity, its controls are easy to use and operate. Mirroring its siblings, the Taos’s cabin is a symphony of stark, hard plastic. It is well-assembled and rattle-free, but it seems cheap on a car that surpasses $30,000 in upper trim levels.
While even base models come with automatic headlights, and push-button start, it’s better to opt for the SE, as it adds full keyless access, remote start, an eight-way power driver seat with lumbar, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, heated washer nozzles, leatherette-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, and privacy glass. If you really want to indulge your inner-hedonist, opt for the SEL. It gets dual-zone automatic climate control; ventilated front seats; auto-dimming rearview mirror; rain-sensing wipers; and a heated, leatherette-wrapped steering wheel.
Under the hood, you’ll find a an updated 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine derived from the unit used in the Jetta. It generates 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel-drive models get an 8-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel-drive models come with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for a sportier feel. 4Motion models come with normal, sport and individual driving modes.
The driveline also can be set to one of four road profiles: Onroad, Snow, Offroad, and Custom Offroad. This allows you to adjust the engine, transmission and other systems to road conditions. All-wheel drive also nets a multi-link rear suspension, rather than the torsion beam axle used in front-wheel-drive models.
Safety and Technology
Standard on SEL trim and optional on other models, Volkswagen’s IQ.Drive is a semi-automated driver assistance system that bundles forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitor; rear traffic alert; adaptive cruise control with stop and go; lane-keeping assist and emergency assist.
Opting for this package also allows gives buyers access to Travel Assist, which enables partially automated hands-on driving up to 95 mph and is activated by a steering wheel button. We found it to be only marginally useful, as most of these systems are.
Lower-priced models come with an 8-inch digital instrument cluster, a 6.5-inch center infotainment touchscreen and two USB ports. Pricier models get a 10.3-inch instrument cluster and 8-inch infotainment screen. Bluetooth, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and three USB ports. SEL models include navigation and a Beats audio system.
Acceleration is sufficient for the task at hand, and more than competitive for its class. The engine is derived from the powerplant used in the Volkswagen Jetta sedan. There is noticeable turbo lag when accelerating from a standstill, so some planning is called for when you need a sudden dose of power — typical of the most of the engines in this class.
The transmission shifts smoothly, but off-the-line behavior makes smooth driving difficult. The ride is absorbent for the most part, and there is a hint of the compliance you expect of a crossover’s ride. But the worst bumps pound through, and there is noticeable body lean in corners, although it’s not excessive. It’s an adequate performance, but we think Volkswagen is capable of delivering the European style performance buyers might be expecting.
2021 Volkswagen Taos specifications:
|Dimension||L: 178.8 inches/W: 72.5 inches/H: 64.6 inches/Wheelbase: 105.9 inches|
|Powertrain||1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine; 7-speed dual-clutch transmission; AWD|
|Fuel Economy||25 mpg city/32 mpg highway/28 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $25,045; As tested: Not Available|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The 2022 Volkswagen Taos’s spacious cabin and reasonable starting price are attractive. It’s a decent crossover with fetching looks that’s fighting in a field filled with compelling competitors. We would recommend an SE with front-wheel drive; most buyers will never truly need the added complexity, weight and poorer fuel economy of the 4Motion model. It also gives you access to the VW’s suite of driver-assistance safety features. Finally, adding four-wheel drive in a higher trim level overlaps brings a price that overlaps the larger Tiguan, which negates the whole point of buying an entry-level model. Still, choose your options carefully, and you’ll find the Taos to be an accommodatingly efficient crossover.
2021 Volkswagen Taos — Frequently Asked Questions
How much is a 2022 Taos?
The Taos starts at $22,995; the top level, the Taos SEL, starts at $31,490.
What is the VW Taos replacing?
Nothing. The Taos is VW’s all-new entry-level compact crossover model for 2022, which slots in below the Tiguan in the VW line-up.
Is the VW Taos AWD?
Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is optional.