This is not about a physical swap of a car for an SUV. Rather this is a question of whether the new Taos has the soul of a Volkswagen.
No, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos will not replace your Golf or Jetta. It could, if you want to trade out your sedan or hatchback for one.
This is not about a physical swap of a car for an SUV. Rather this is a question of whether the new Taos has the soul of a Volkswagen. This has been a huge question for those of us who had a long history with the brand.
It is the same question that had challenged us since the arrival of the mid-size Atlas. Volkswagen enthusiasts had praised the Touareg and first-generation Tiguan for having that soul found on other products from the brand. Since then, every SUV sold by Volkswagen in this country had been seen as a money grab that sucked the soul out of cars, such as the Golf GTI, Golf R, and Jetta GLI – to name a few.
Certainly, we are not privy to some SUV/Crossover products Volkswagen customers in Europe are enjoying. The T-Roc and T-Cross are extremely popular that orders for them have stopped in certain markets. To make matters more frustrating for Volkswagen enthusiasts, there is a new generation Touareg available on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
All of this is not helping the cause of the Volkswagen Taos. Therefore, I must take another approach to this newest entry for the USA market. I have to see whether this small SUV competes well in its segment based on just the Taos alone.
It is hard to ignore the iconic Volkswagen logo. It is right in front of your face. That face follows the latest design convention as with the updated Volkswagen models – a deeper grille onto the front bumper, aggressive lower grille and some LED lighting.
Following the rest of the Taos’ exterior, you would have sworn that it looks like someone put an Atlas or a Tiguan in the dryer for too long. The roofline and side glass profile are the same design practically. Not that it’s a bad thing. It actually turned out quite handsome.
The rear end also follows Volkswagen design conventions, with its horizontal taillights and modernized brand-correct badging.
The trim level I got for the Taos is the middle model, the SE. While you have to close the liftgate manually, this tester added 18-inch gloss black alloy wheels. That alone made this King’s Red SE tester pop out a lot more than usual. That I can appreciate from Volkswagen.
What I appreciate from Volkswagen is design continuity. The overall interior atmosphere does follow a convention that you could state that it was from the Tiguan and the Jetta. The dashboard looks familiar, even if looked more scaled down from the Tiguan. The center vents were positioned below the infotainment screen, which is a complaint I had with the current Jetta.
Then, we get to the instrumentation screen. If I had the top-of-the-line SEL model, I would get the full Volkswagen Digital Cockpit found across the lineup. Instead, there is an eight-inch screen with limited customization. In the screen with the most information, you only get a digital speedometer, fuel and water temperature readouts and a few bits of travel information. The other two screens are designed around a single dial with less information available to the driver. Not to mention, there are two open spaces on each end for the warning lights.
The new shifter felt quick. The steering wheel offered a good set of controls, as experienced in the latest updated Volkswagen models – you know, the Atlas, the Atlas Cross Sport, and the Arteon. I just wished that the air conditioning blew a bit better in a middle setting. I know, I’m nitpicking now…
My SE tester was equipped with the eight-inch Composition infotainment screen. This is a good system overall, which now offers wireless smartphone integration, along with two USB-C ports behind the wireless charging pad in the center console.
Upholstery for the Taos SE can be described as interesting. There are three different surfaces on the seats. The outside is a leatherette, which you usually find on mid-level Volkswagen trims. The cushions and backrests are a mix of some neoprene-like “cloth” called CloudTex and a few swatches of textured cloth. They’re fine for comfort. However, I wished there was a bit more bolstering on the front seats. Obviously, I’m not asking for Golf GTI/R or Jetta GLI type bolstering, but enough to keep me locked in on the drive.
As for the second row, not only can I sit behind myself – I got loads of room doing so. The seats are pretty decent, even for taller folks who can still not reach the panoramic sunroof that was equipped on this SE tester.
Equally amazing is the cargo space the Taos offered. Behind the second-row seats is 27.9 cubic feet of space, with a stepped-down floor from the bumper. Fold down the second-row seats for a total of 65.9 cubic feet of space. However, you will find that when you fold down the second row seats, there is a step up from the low cargo floor that disallows a flat surface from the bumper to the first row of seats.
The 2022 Taos is powered by a new-to-the-North American market 158-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This is an upgraded engine from the one found on the Jetta. However, it still has 184 pound-feet of torque, which is very good for its size class.
You do have a choice of front-wheel drive or 4MOTION all-wheel drive. Each one has its own transmission choice. My tester is the front-drive model, which means I have the eight-speed automatic transmission – similar to the one on the Jetta.
Overall performance was pretty good, despite some “torque holes” in certain acceleration situations. The driveline does a good job keep then Taos going in any condition. In turn, fuel economy was fantastic. I averaged 34.3 MPG. That’s pretty good, if I must say.
Because the Taos was made for practically everyone, the ride quality was very smooth. It absorbed bumpy roads and made occupants comfortable on nicer sections of road. Maneuverability was also very good, despite and overall soft feeling in terms of handling. There were few situations where there was no cause for alarm when avoiding certain items left on the road.
I felt that the steering was fine for the Taos. On-center feel was a bit on the light side. If you have the Adaptive Cruise Control on, it can be weighed down. You may mark that as part of the available IQ. DRIVE driver assistance package. The steering radius was tight, yet I felt some looseness when doing tight maneuver. Brake pedal feel is fine, but I wished it would stop the Taos better. Granted, normal and panic stops were OK – just OK.
My front-drive SE tester came with a sticker price of $31,325. Some may excuse the pricing for “being in the segment,” but I know there are comparable vehicles in its class that offer a bit more in terms of content than this SE tester (hint: all-wheel drive) for the same money. Volkswagen starts the Taos off at $22,995 for an S model with front-wheel drive.
Please note that 4MOTION is part of the Taos’ offering. However, a recent stop sale due to a software programming issue has kept all-wheel drive models from your hands. A software update is coming soon. Once that happens, you can get your Taos with 4MOTION again.
You have read from this review that I may seem unimpressed with the Volkswagen Taos. You might be off target there. There is a lot to like about the Taos, such as the performance of the new turbocharged engine and the interior space is offers for passengers and cargo alike.
As a side note, I was going to do a video of the Taos for V&R. Part of the video was to bring in my friends (and others) from a local Volkswagen club for a bit of humor to state that the Taos is not like their rides. Namely, the Golf R, GTI, Jetta GLI…even a New Beetle.
However, I’m glad we did not do that video. It is because it sends the wrong message about the Taos. It is a Volkswagen for a different kind of modern Volkswagen customer. It is for the customer who wants a small SUV with the space for their family and their luggage to travel wherever they want. It is what Volkswagen wants their North American customers to own and enjoy today.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Volkswagen of America
All photos by Randy Stern