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2022 Volkswagen Taos Test Drive Review

With the all-new 2022 Taos, Volkswagen grows its crossover SUV family to four members, covering almost every segment with models offering more space, comfort, and utility than the competition.

7 /10
Overall Score

Car companies are becoming SUV companies. People want crossovers, and automakers are fleshing out their lineups to meet customer demand. One of the latest new models to join the mix is the 2022 Volkswagen Taos. Bigger than most small SUVs but smaller than most compact SUVs, the Taos is a tweener that should prove appealing to people seeking space and utility at an affordable price.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

The way Volkswagen explains it, the new 2022 Taos and refreshed 2022 Tiguan are bookends within the compact SUV segment. Not quite a subcompact, the Taos competes at the lower end, while the Tiguan resides at the higher end. Volkswagen says the Taos’s competitors include the Kia Seltos, Jeep Compass, and Subaru Crosstrek, each of which is a subcompact or compact crossover SUV.

On the surface, Volkswagen appears to keep things simple with the new Taos. But, as they say, the devil is in the details.

The 2022 Volkswagen Taos comes in S, SE, or SEL trim with one available engine and a choice between front-wheel drive and 4Motion all-wheel drive. Prices range from $22,995 for the Taos S FWD to $33,045 for the Taos SEL 4Motion. The destination charge to ship the SUV to the U.S. from VW’s Mexico factory is $1,195.

A handful of factory options and packages are available, in addition to dealer-installed accessories. VW is also considering a Basecamp package for Taos owners planning off-pavement adventures.

When you add 4Motion AWD to the Taos, VW makes additional changes. The company swaps out the automatic transmission for a dual-clutch automated manual transmission and drops the torsion-beam rear axle suspension in favor of an independent multilink design. Additional driving modes are also available, and with SEL trim, the 4Motion upgrade comes with 19-inch wheels and ventilated front seats.

So, things are not quite as simple as they appear on the surface. And the 4Motion upgrade definitely alters the Taos’s driving character.

As far as the SUV’s styling goes, this VeeDub fits right in with the existing lineup. The SEL 4Motion test vehicle’s handsome 19-inch machined-finish aluminum wheels add significant presence, and its Cornflower Blue paint matched the Taos’s vibrant personality.

Naturally, it wears the roof rails, dark gray plastic cladding, and simulated front and rear skid plates seemingly required for admission to the SUV club. If there is a questionable element to the exterior styling, it’s the blacked-out front bumper between the grille and the lower air intake.

Inside, hard, somewhat shiny and slippery, sometimes hollow-sounding plastic is the rule rather than the exception. In fact, during the video shoot for the Taos, our videographer commented that the interior reminded him of his young daughter’s toys. It was not a compliment.

But, VW supplies soft surfaces where they matter the most, and the cabin’s tones and textures are complimentary. The SEL trim level supplies two-tone perforated leather with contrast stitching, an upscale strip of stitched material on the dashboard, and matching door panel inserts.

Performance

4/ 10

Every 2022 Volkswagen Taos has a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 158 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 184 pound-feet of torque beginning at a low 1,750 rpm.

Thanks to the robust torque figure, the Taos feels powerful enough to stay out of its own way. But the turbocharger takes more than a moment to spool up and spit the torque out, resulting in delayed throttle response. And when the torque arrives, it is frequently sudden.

The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) paired with the 4Motion AWD system offers rousing performance, but it comes with a penalty in the form of erratic and sometimes harsh shifting. Combined with the engine’s on/off torque characteristics, it will undoubtedly irritate Taos owners who don’t know (or care) how a DCT works and are, therefore, under the impression that something is wrong with their new SUV’s transmission.

Between the two transmissions, the standard eight-speed automatic is superior when it comes to consistent behavior and overall driving smoothness. But, it comes with only front-wheel drive, with only the less sophisticated torsion-beam rear suspension, and with a maximum wheel-and-tire size of 18 inches.

In the SEL 4Motion test vehicle, switching to the Sport driving mode helped improve driveability by keeping engine revs higher but did not completely eradicate the herky-jerky nature of the powertrain. Also, if you shut the Taos off and return to it later, the Sport driving mode remains engaged but not the Sport transmission mode, so you’ll need to remember to reactivate that.

These issues crop up mainly when accelerating from a stop or at low speeds when engine revs fall below where the torque plateau begins. For example, if you’re in a Normal driving mode and you brake to take a corner or a curve, and then you accelerate, you’ll often feel a delay in the form of turbo lag, like nothing is happening when you push down on the accelerator. In turn, this encourages you to push harder on the accelerator pedal just as the torque hits, causing the Taos to surge forward with unexpected power. Add the DCT’s sometimes harsh shifting to the mix, and you could find yourself wearing a frowny face when running around in urban areas or driving in traffic.

This situation is unfortunate because the Taos is otherwise a joy to drive. It has that light, effortless, compliant character common to Volkswagens, combined with impressive road feel, responsive steering, effective brakes, commendable grip, and taut handling. With the Taos SEL 4Motion in Sport mode (and with the DCT in Sport mode) and by keeping the SUV in the thick of its torque band, you can rip around on the pavement with confidence, aided by the sticky P225/45R19 Pirelli Scorpion all-season tires.

However, while Volkswagen names a couple of the more capable off-roaders in the segment as direct competitors to the Taos (Jeep Compass and Subaru Crosstrek), maximum ground clearance is a paltry 6.6 inches. That’s 2.1 inches less than a Compass Trailhawk and also 2.1 inches less than every version of the Crosstrek. Even a Hyundai Kona, which, in turbocharged format, I’ve likened to a driving a Volkswagen GTI, offers more clearance than the Taos.

As far as fuel economy goes, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the Taos SEL 4Motion will get 28 mpg in combined driving. During our testing, the SUV averaged 27.1 mpg.

Form and Function

8/ 10

Volkswagen might be keen to classify the Taos as a compact to underscore its impressively roomy cabin. Given the targeted competitive set, it’s huge inside.

Up front, both of the SEL’s deeply bolstered seats offer plenty of seat-track travel and height adjustment. The driver’s seat provides an eight-way power adjustment plus power lumbar support. And the SEL 4Motion offers heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel. If you are tall and you have trouble finding small, affordable vehicles that accommodate you, be sure to check out the new Taos.

The rear seat is equally spacious, with generous leg- and foot room and a comfortable cushion and backrest. Rear air conditioning vents help to keep passengers cool on hot days.

Storage space is plentiful, but the bin underneath the front center armrest is small. Most likely, this is due to the addition of rear air conditioning vents for the back seat.

Cargo space is not quite as impressive, and the volume is dependent on which drive system the Taos has. In standard front-wheel-drive format, the SUV’s torsion-beam rear suspension takes up less space, so there is more cargo volume. Measurements are 27.9 cubic feet behind the back seat and 65.9 cubic feet with the back seat folded down. With 4Motion and the accompanying independent rear suspension, cargo space is 24.9 cubic feet and 60.2 cubic feet.

Notably, the Taos has a center pass-through between the two outboard seating positions. This inclusion makes the SUV perfect for ski trips for four people.

Tech Level

6/ 10

Volkswagen equips every 2022 Taos with its Digital Cockpit instrumentation. It pairs with a standard 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with S trim, while the SE and SEL have 8-inch touchscreen displays running more sophisticated “MIB3” software.

All Taos trim levels include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Car-Net connected services, including an available Wi-Fi hotspot. Starting with SE trim, VW equips the Taos with the 8-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio with 360L service, voice control, and wireless smartphone charging. The Taos SEL adds a navigation system and an eight-speaker BeatsAudio premium sound system.

VW’s MIB3 infotainment system is supposed to be fast and easy to use, with improved voice recognition. This was not our experience with the technology. Pairing to Bluetooth and running wireless Apple CarPlay was not a problem, but the voice-recognition technology in the pre-production test vehicle did not appear to have an active data connection, or so the voice assistant regularly informed me in response to our standard litany of test voice prompts. She also let me know that you cannot use voice control to change the cabin temperature.

The user experience can also use improvement. For example, if you have the radio live on the display, and you’re on the station pre-sets screen to cycle between your saved stations, and you want to switch from a pre-set like Alt Nation to, say, an unsaved SiriusXMU (one channel down), you can’t just twist the tuning knob one click. First, you need to put a fingertip close to the display to activate the proximity sensing feature that calls up the labels for the radio menu icons at the bottom of the screen, choose the Station menu from the icons (not the Tune icon), then twist the tuning knob, then wait for the system’s software to catch up, and then push the tuning knob to choose the new station. It is an unnecessarily complex exercise.

Lastly, Volkswagen appears to be transitioning away from Fender premium sound systems in favor of BeatsAudio components. We don’t find this to be a positive development.

Safety

9/ 10

With the 2022 Taos, Volkswagen democratizes its IQ Drive safety technologies, making them standard or available for each of the SUV’s trim levels.

If you get the standard Taos S, the IQ Drive option package runs $995. It equips the SUV with forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assistance.

Additionally, this option package adds Travel Assist and Emergency Assist to the Taos. (With SE trim, the IQ Drive package supplies only these features because the others are standard.)

Travel Assist is a Level 2 advanced driving assistance system that combines adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability and a lane-centering assistance system. It will work for short distances without your hands on the steering wheel, but it doesn’t take long before the technology requests that you retake control of the steering.

Emergency Assist is a safety feature uncommon in luxury vehicles, let alone an entry-level Volkswagen SUV. Suppose you have Travel Assist engaged and fall asleep or suffer a medical emergency. In that case, Emergency Assist responds to an inactive driver by slowing the Taos, activating the hazard flashers, and bringing the SUV to a safe stop.

The Taos SEL includes all of this technology as standard equipment, and it works pretty well. The SEL also has rain-sensing wipers, road sign recognition capability, and a low-speed version of Travel Assist, including traffic-jam assistance. Lastly, rear parking sensors with automatic braking are standard on this version of the SUV.

The test car’s reverse automatic braking was active when VW delivered the SUV, and the first time we attempted to exit the driveway where we parked the car, the Taos slammed on its own brakes. The driveway has a traditional apron at the street, a short section of a flat sidewalk crossing it, and a modest incline leading up to the house and garage. A handful of test vehicles with automatic rear braking have had trouble with this driveway in the past, and now we can add the Taos to the list.

The good news is that you can turn this feature off using a menu in the infotainment system. And it stays off the next time you start the car, unlike similar technology in a Subaru. If not for this ability to shut the automatic rear braking off and keep it off, there is no possible way we could ever own this SUV at our current residence.

Because the Taos is a new model, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had performed crash tests on the SUV as this review was published.

Cost-Effectiveness

7/ 10

In relationship to its identified competitors, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos is priced right. But most versions of the Kia Seltos, and all versions of the Subaru Crosstrek, offer standard all-wheel drive. And Subaru offers a plug-in hybrid version of the Crosstrek.

Additionally, the Taos comes with Carefree Coverage, which includes five years of Car-Net Remote Access connected services, a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty, a 3-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance plan, and complimentary scheduled maintenance for two years or 20,000 miles. This package of owner benefits is better than what you’ll receive with many small SUVs on the market.

Consider these factors, plus the remarkably roomy cabin, the impressive driving assistance technologies, and the rewarding ride and handling characteristics, and the new Taos makes a strong case for consideration.

All VW needs to do is solve its turbo lag and transmission issues, add some extra ground clearance to the AWD models, and (possibly) improve the MIB3 infotainment system’s user experience and voice recognition technology.

Updated by Christian Wardlaw

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