Volkswagen Taos — Extraordinarily spacious photo

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(August 15, 2021) After years of being uncompetitive in the SUV segment, Volkswagen has finally caught up with the competition filling out what is now a four-vehicle lineup with the sub-compact Taos. Volkswagen has entered the fray with a very compelling vehicle in a segment that features such nameplates as the Jeep Compass, Subaru Crosstrek, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-30.


Through the first years of the 21st Century, VW was playing catch-up in the growing SUV market  with a Tiguan that was too small and a mid-sized Touareg that was too expensive. The Tiguan was reworked a few years ago into a bigger family-sized vehicle and it's now VW's best seller, the three-row Atlas was added in 2018, a year later the compact two-row Atlas Cross Sport reached the market, and now the Taos has been introduced for the 2022 model year to fill out the lineup. photo

A three-vehicle SUV lineup through the first half of 2021 resulted in 65 percent of the company's U.S. sales. Now add the Taos, and VW's SUV sales success should increase even more.

Our takeaway after a week and 300 miles behind the wheel of a Taos SEL with front-wheel drive — Volkswagen has gotten it right in a very competitive segment.  The Taos is roomier inside, fun to drive, and more technologically advanced than many of its rivals. And it's competitively priced starting at $24,190 including the $1,195 destination charge for the S trim, a surprisingly well equipped model. Our even-better equipped SEL carried a base price of $32,685.

The Taos features three trim levels — S, SE and SEL — all coming with a 1.5-liter turbocharged 158-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Torque measures 184 pound-feet at just 1,750 rpm giving the small crossover excellent feel in around-town driving. All-wheel drive is offered, and there's a bigger difference between two-wheel drive and AWD than in most cars.

For example, the front drive version comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission while the all-wheel Taos employs a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. In addition to improved traction AWD models (called 4Motion) swap out the standard torsion-beam rear suspension for a multilink independent design. Additionally, with 4Motion there are more driving modes to choose from and some features available, like 19-inch aluminum wheels and ventilated front seats.

In addition to its handsome exterior design and pleasing conservative interior, the thing that left us feeling good about the Taos is its spacious living space. That is extremely important for us because more and more we carry a couple of adult passengers in back. Buyers are forced to compromise on rear-seat legroom in too many sub-compact entries. Not with the Taos. There is actually stretch-out room for normal-sized adults in back — and without sacrificing cargo room, which measures nearly 28 cubic feet.

We found the overall performance of the front-drive Taos adequate, falling about mid-level among the competition. It has a sprightly around-town demeanor, but getting up to speed in a hurry in a merging situation is a bit lacking. By our seat-of-the-pants experience, we would measure 0-to-60 time between 8.5 and 9.0 seconds.

We are OK that performance, but there is a concerning problem. There's an annoying delay off the line with both transmissions — it's very disconcerting crossing a busy intersection when you hit the gas to stay clear of traffic, but get an agonizing delay, and then finally surge ahead.

We wondered if this malady was exclusive to our test car until we read the observations of several other reviewers who also experienced this problem, namely three test drivers from Consumers Reports and another from Motor Trend. Perhaps this is simply a tuning problem that Volkswagen can easily remedy — and perhaps has already completed — but we recommend you do a test drive before purchasing the Taos to ensure you are comfortable with the way it performs from a standing start.

The Taos comes with a wide range of features especially if you move up to the mid-level SE starting at $28,440. Standard are 18-inch wheels, hands-free keyless entry, remote engine start, simulated leather trim, power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, and wireless smartphone charging.

Safety features seem to be getting more attention from manufacturers as exemplified in the Taos with a suite of safety features as standard equipment. Standard safety includes forward collision mitigation, active blindspot monitor with cross-traffic alert, a lane keeping system, adaptive cruise control, and emergency assistance (identifies an unresponsive drive and brings the vehicle to a safe stop with the hazard lights flashing).

One of the features we enjoyed the most on our SEL model — taken from the Audi playbook — is a navigation screen positioned in front of the driver between the tachometer and speedometer readouts.

Our front-drive SEL model with the $1,200 panoramic sunroof option carried a bottom line of $34,280. Adding 4Motion (AWD) would have added $1,555 to the bottom line.

The Taos, which is built in Puebla Mexico, comes with a 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with free maintenance for 2 years/20,000 miles.

2022 Volkswagen Taso


Base price: $24,190; as driven, $34,280
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 158 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 184 pound-feet @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Length: 175.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,175 pounds
Turning circle: 37.6 feet
Luggage capacity: 27.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 65.9 inches
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 28 city, 36 highway, 31 combined
0-60: 8.5 seconds (observed)
Also consider: Jeep Compass, Kia Seltos, Honda HR-V

The Good
• Huge passenger space for a sub-compact
• Good range of standard safety
• Smooth driving character
• Excellent gas mileage

The Bad
• Pricey in highest trim level

The Ugly
• Transmission stumbles on quick takeoff