As crossover utility vehicles continue to insinuate themselves into the automotive market, manufacturers fill out their lineups to offer more sizes and styles, as Germany’s Volkswagen has done with its all-new 2022 Taos.
It now is the smallest crossover in the VW lineup, joining the Tiguan, Atlas Sport, Atlas, and the new all-electric ID.4 It is described as a small sport utility vehicle by the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy website. There are no specific size categories for crossovers, but the Taos has more room inside than a sedan classified as large by the EPA.
It is four inches shorter than 15 feet long, 5 feet 4 inches tall and seats five in a passenger pod of 96 cubic feet, with a generous 28 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the back seat, some of it recessed into the floor. Fold the rear seatbacks and the cargo area expands to 66 cubic feet, though there’s a step up of more than six inches from the cargo floor.
The Taos, named for a town in north-central New Mexico, presents itself as an affordable and economical alternative to such established crossover SUVs as the Subaru Crosstrek and Hyundai Kona. The name derives from the American Indian Taos language and means “place of red willows.”
The Volkswagen red willow is powered by a turbocharged, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. That engine is mated to two different transmissions: a conventional eight-speed automatic in front-wheel drive models and a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic (DCT) in all-wheel drive versions.
On paper, that doesn’t look like a lot of juice to drive a 3,175-pound vehicle and its passengers. But the Taos delivers sprightly acceleration, though only after you suffer a second or three of turbo lag, that dreaded hesitation as the turbocharger spools up. Once past that, acceleration is strong.
Highway cruising is mostly quiet except for some modest engine drone and tire noise. The latter is either pleasant or annoying, depending on the road surfaces, which these days have too many variations that need to be included in infrastructure improvements.
Handling is competent and secure with tactile steering feel. The tested Taos tracked true on turnpikes and twisting two-lane roads. Of course, even a small crossover is usually no match for a reasonably capable sports coupe or sedan.
Tested for this review was the front-drive SE, which is the middle of three trim levels. It was well-equipped, though lacking automatic climate control, and had a base price of $28,440, including the destination charge. The bottom-line sticker, with options, came to $31,325. Other versions are the base S, which starts at $24,190, and the top-line SEL, $32,685.
Given its relatively tidy size, the Taos was roomy inside with enough head room for all passengers and plenty of air for the knees of second-row passengers. As usual, the disrespected center-rear passenger has to contend with intrusions from the center console and a large floor hump. Front seats are supportive with prominent seatback bolstering to hold the torso around curves.
The seats on the SE were upholstered in a combination of cloth and faux leather, though Volkswagen got it backwards. The seating areas were done up in the leatherette, with cloth trim. The preference anywhere would be for breathable cloth seats with whatever else for trim.
An appreciated feature was the capability to change the view of the instrument cluster with the touch of a button. It was cool to display the speed as digital, with the tachometer surrounding the number. An eight-inch center touch screen handles infotainment functions.
The center console consists of an open storage area with cup holders and a small storage area under the center armrest. The cup holders have spring loaded grippers to secure different sized cups — another appreciated feature.
The Taos has full modern safety equipment, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, rear traffic alert and adaptive cruise control with distance settings.
The tested Taos SE also came with optional black alloy wheels and a panoramic glass sunroof, which opened at the front but not in back. But the motorized sunshade was made of a flimsy, translucent white cloth that admitted some welcome light but too much hot sunlight, straining the air conditioning.
With this new entry, Volkswagen gets another tire solidly into the deepening groove created by consumer demands for more and better vehicles that combine practicality and entertaining motoring.
- Model: 2022 Volkswagen Taos SE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
- Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 158 hp, 184 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
- Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 96/28 cubic feet. (66)
- Weight: 3,175 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/36/21 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $28,440.
- Price as tested: $31,325.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.
Photos (c) Volkswagen