Tested: 2022 Volkswagen Taos 1.5T SEL AWD ($35,835 MSRP)
|✓ Impressively roomy for its size||☓ Nondescript styling|
|✓ Comfortable ride||☓ DSG transmission response can feel uneven at times|
|✓ Can be lively (with some exceptions)||☓ No power liftgate option|
|✓ Fuel economy|
Overview: 2022 Volkswagen Taos
Volkswagen had little choice but to add its compact Taos to its line for 2022, considering strong demand for all sizes and types of SUVs. On its face, that is a smart move, considering the popularity of its rivals as well as the larger, costlier Tiguan, to which the Taos favorably compares in many areas. Direct competition to this small VW includes the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30 and the Subaru Crosstrek.
The new 2022 Volkswagen Taos has understated styling, but my test SEL model is jazzed up a bit with black detailing of the wide three-bar grille, an illuminated light bar between the headlights with a large Volkswagen badge in the middle of the grille. The top-end model also gets 19-inch alloy wheels.
The first thing that impressed me about the Taos is its impressively roomy interior. Volkswagen made great use of the available space: Legroom is 40.1 inches in front and a generous 37.9 inches in the rear. Headroom also is appreciably above average, both front and rear, although my test vehicle had a $1,200 power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof. Such a feature cuts down on headroom in most cars, and the Taos is no exception.
Options and a destination charge bought the bottom-line price to $35,835.
Comfort and Convenience: A notably good all-rounder
It’s easy to slide in or out of the 2022 Volkswagen Taos thanks to its wide-opening doors. All-around visibility is good, and the supportive heated/ventilated driver’s seat is well suited to long-distance travel. The manual heated/ventilated front passenger seat is the same story. Side bolstering keeps front occupants comfortably in place around curves, and the two-tone leather upholstery has nice stitching and brightens the interior.
The cabin has a generally German no-nonsense appearance. That’s no bad thing, as it still looks good with its contoured trim pieces and contrasting colors. Soft-touch materials are in the right places, but there’s a fair amount of hard plastic throughout the cabin. The plastic is especially noticeable on the top of the dashboard, which contains an attractive 10.2-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster. Manual dashboard buttons and knobs for the climate control system reside below an 8-inch center touchscreen that has a good amount of settings and is fairly easy to use.
Upscale features on the higher SEL model include dual-zone automatic climate control with second-row air vents, thick heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, impressive sound system, push-button start, and a center console with USB data ports, dual cupholders and armrest. The illuminated carpeted cargo area does a 12-volt port for a bit of extra power.
Cargo room is impressive, too. The 2022 Volkswagen Taos packs 27.9 cubic feet with the seats in place, or 60.2 cubic feet with the rear 60/40-split seats flipped forward. There’s a rear center pass-through area and armrest with dual cupholders, along with a USB charging port, in the second row.
Even with everything it does have, I found it surprising that you have to open and close the heavy liftgate manually, even on the top-end version. One might expect power assist for what is, after all, a $30,000-plus small SUV.
Performance: Decent for its size
Naturally, the Volkswagen Tiguan has a larger, more powerful engine than the Taos. But, all Taos models have a sophisticated 1.5-liter engine with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and a variable-geometry turbocharger. It produces a modest 158 horsepower, but generates 184 pound-feet of torque at only 1,750 RPM. That results in quick responsiveness when the gas pedal is pressed, at least most of the time.
The Taos 1.5T SEL AWD I tested manages 0-60 MPH in 7.7 seconds and delivers an estimated 25 MPG in the city, and 32 MPG on highways. The Taos SEL has an engine start/stop system to help fuel economy. As the market currently stands, the Taos is near the front of the pack on its fuel-sipping capability.
However, drivers must familiarize themselves with the Taos SEL’s efficient, 7-speed DSG automatic, which has a manual-shift feature. This SUV can be a bit unresponsive during quick on-off throttle applications in stop-and-go traffic. I did get used to it soon enough, though, and found no further problems at cruising speeds. Acceleration in town gets more linear when a driver switches the 3,430-pound Taos from its Normal drive mode into Sport.
In any case, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos is fun to drive, for the type of vehicle we’re talking about. The electro-mechanical variable-assist power steering is well-weighted and quick. Handling is sharp, with little body lean on tight curves. Not only does it handle fairly well, but the ride is still compliant, considering its short 106-inch-wheelbase. Braking is also appreciably firm and can bring the small SUV to a stop in a hurry, when needed.
Helping keep things steady in tight curves is VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system and the Taos’ multi-link independent rear suspension. Both allow for a more predictable ride and surer handling. A driver can select various terrain modes for the AWD system with a console switch, including “On-road”, “Snow” and “Off Road”. Really, though, I’m doubtful if many Taos drivers will actually take it off-road.
Verdict: Comfort & safety are strong points, but here’s where the Taos excels
That DSG and independent rear suspension come with the 2022 Volkswagen Taos SEL’s AWD setup. When you drive that version, you’ll really feel where the tiny Taos shines. The lower-priced S and SE models, which start with front-wheel-drive at $22,295, have a torsion beam rear suspension and a conventional 8-speed automatic transmission.
Safety features include an advanced air bag protection system, electronic brake pressure distribution, lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, road sign display, active blind-spot monitoring, the federally-mandated rearview camera and rear traffic alert.
It may not be the first to the segment, but with rising gas prices and demand for SUVs remaining strong, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos is hitting the market at just the right time.