Fans of the Volkswagen Golf were saddened to hear that the automaker is no longer selling non-performance models of the hatchback in the United States. Volkswagen is filling the void left behind with the 2022 Taos. This little SUV is about to show up in driveways around the country.
(Full Disclosure: Volkswagen invited me to take a front-wheel-drive Taos and a 4MOTION all-wheel-drive Taos on southeast Michigan’s best driving roads for a few hours with full tanks of fuel and a stomach full of snacks.)
Taos is named after a small town in New Mexico and pays tribute to John Muir, engineer and author of the book ‘How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step By Step Procedures For The Compleat Idiot’.
I know a lot of people will already be throwing up their hands because Volkswagen is effectively replacing the regular Golf with an SUV. Volkswagen made its reasoning clear. While the Golf is an awesome car, American buyers are flocking to SUVs and crossovers as the segment continues to grow. The marque is giving people what they want and hopefully making a ton of cash with the Taos.
Taos is entering into a fiercely competitive segment, with entries from a number of automakers. Volkswagen believes the Taos’ biggest competitors will be the Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Seltos and the Jeep Compass. But the world of compact SUVs is huge, with practically every manufacturer offering something that looks like a wagon on stilts and sells like hotcakes. I think the Taos has what it takes to compete.
The Taos looks larger than it actually is. Volkswagen gave it a front fascia that looks borrowed from the Atlas and the rear profile gives off some Tiguan vibes. The result is a butch appearance that looks bigger than the Tiguan. However, the Taos actually slots in under the Tiguan at only about 176 inches long to the Tiguan’s 185 inches.
It doesn’t really stand out in the crowd. During my test drive I often found myself seeing what I thought were the other Taos testers from the event in the oncoming lane, but ultimately finding out that they were an Atlas or Tiguan. I can see Taos owners losing their car in a parking lot between the endless rows of other SUVs and crossovers. And while the Taos may not look particularly distinctive, it’s a vehicle that looks good in any setting from a city street to a forest.
I drove a FWD model and a 4MOTION AWD model. Both SUVs were the top SEL trim with the options that Volkswagen feels that most owners will take.
The Taos drives like a lot of other small crossovers. Under the hood is a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four making 158 horsepower. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot for a vehicle of this size but the Taos makes sure to use every pony that it can. Mash the accelerator pedal and the machine takes off at a rate that isn’t fast, but just quick enough to make you smile just a little. The addition of more horsepower would really wake the Taos up.
The FWD model comes equipped with an eight-speed automatic while the 4MOTION has a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox. There are drive modes available to tune the driving experience for a sportier feel, fuel economy and even off-roading.
In terms of performance, I prefer the traditional automatic. On my test runs with both the automatic and the DSG I had to pass a slow-moving vehicle on the road. Putting the pedal down in the automatic resulted in an immediate downshift and surge of power while the DSG took a moment before finally swapping some cogs. I found the regular automatic to be quicker to get the car going from a dead stop, too.
I got about 30 mpg testing the Taos. The 4MOTION car is rated at 25 mpg city, 32 highway and 28 combined while the FWD model is expected to get 28 city, 36 highway and 31 combined.
I was impressed with how this nearly 4,000-pound SUV handles. The suspension soaks up the bumps of Michigan’s terrible roads well and body roll is restrained. The Taos tackles curves like a wagon, not like the tall crossover it actually is. I drove a Smart Fortwo on the same roads after the test and I was surprised at just how many bumps the Taos practically erased.
The Taos brings a strong game on the technology front, too. Instrumentation is handled by the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit.
It’s a sharp display that’s not unlike what you’ll find in other cars with a digital speedometer, tachometer and GPS map all housed in one place. The SUV has additional tech onboard like an available Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless phone charging, too.
It also has Volkswagen’s IQ.DRIVE driver assistance software. This combines popular features like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist. One of the more notable features of IQ.DRIVE is Travel Assist, which helps you with keeping the car centered in its lane. There was one part of the system that I wasn’t too fond of, and it was that the car basically does a few brake checks if it determines that you are no longer in control. I imagine that this is good for a driver that’s fallen asleep, but not so good if it happens in traffic.
I found the dashboard materials to be a little disappointing, too.
The interior uses a mixture of materials from glossy plastic that’s a fingerprint magnet to a dashboard of the kind of hard textured plastic that somehow defies the laws of physics when you place a phone on it and take a turn.
Soft-touch surfaces do exist, but really only on the upper door trim that flows into the hard plastic. It’s weird to see that decent soft-touch material transition to the hard plastic.
I asked Volkswagen if there will be an option for a different dashboard material and was told that the hard plastic will come on all versions.
On the plus side, the cabin is roomy and airy; especially when equipped with the glass moonroof. Like the exterior, the inside is nice, but won’t wow your friends.
Infotainment is handled by a standard 6.5-inch display or an 8-inch optional display with available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Taos system is one of the more confusing ones I’ve used. While I love the fact that the marque maintained a physical volume knob, the menus of the system are hard to navigate. Certain settings aren’t where you expect them to be, leading you to either sit there trying to find what menu a setting is in or just giving up.
But once you do find the settings you want and get the music playing, the audio output sounds good. Music gets pumped out through an eight-speaker BeatsAudio system.
Overall, I enjoyed my short amount of time with the pair of Taos. The SUV is solid and while it doesn’t stand out in the crowd, driving it is an enjoyable experience. I expect to see a bunch of these on the road soon.
Pricing starts out at $24,190 for the base S model, $28,440 for the SE and $32,685 for the SEL. Features like 4MOTION AWD add to the price.
Volkswagen’s aiming for the Crosstrek and Compass isn’t a mistake, either. The automaker says that the Taos can do some light off-roading like its competition and it will also offer accessories to make the Taos a bit better at the task. I’d love to see how these perform in the dirt. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to test how well the Taos wheels.