I guess I may as well get this out of the way right up front: it wasn’t easy for me to be interested in the Volkswagen Taos. That’s not because there was anything wrong with it, quite the opposite, really. It’s that you don’t really pay attention to things that just work, like fire hydrants or trash cans or light switches. When they’re done right, they’re almost invisible. I’m not saying the Taos is invisible, but I am saying that it is very much a product of what studies must show is what people who buy cars right now want. That’s good for VW, good for lots of car buyers, and a snoozefest for me. But that last part doesn’t really matter to anyone.
The Taos is VW’s new compact crossover, about nine inches shorter than the Tiguan, which it shares a platform with, and fills the “compact” slot in VW’s SUV lineup, behind the Atlas and Tiguan.
I actually had a 2022 Tiguan press car as well, but I’m just going to include it here to compare against the Taos, which is new, and the Tiguan is just a refresh of essentially the same car we reviewed a couple of years back.
I did stick my shitty canoe on it, though, and it handled that just fine. It looks good with a canoe hat! Of course, I think most cars do.
These crossovers and SUVs are what makes money for Volkswagen right now. This is hardly news. That’s why they have what is effectively three sizes of more or less the same vehicle, at fairly close price points.
At first glance, you may wonder what the point of the Tiguan is when there’s a Taos (small) and an Atlas (big); it can be had with three-row seating, but so can the Atlas. The Atlas even has an ever-so-slightly smaller variant, the Atlas Cross Sport, which is two-row only.
The pricing spread is pretty tight and there’s a lot of overlap once you get into the higher-spec versions of each model, so really you end up with this blurry, overlapping gradient of vehicles and specs ranging from $22,995 for the cheapest Taos to over $50,000 for the high-spec Atlas SEL Premium R-Line.
The granularity of choice consumers have is pretty impressive, and if you think about VW’s SUV offerings as one basic vehicle with different sizes and ways of optioning them out, I suppose it makes a bit more sense.
Except the Atlas Cross Sport. That thing makes zero sense.
Again, these are all cars that sell right now. Crossovers and SUVs are what people want, and a car like the Taos appears to have been designed to check all of the basic boxes and wrap it all up in a handsome, inoffensive, forgettable shell.
The VW Taos is like the Toyota RAV4 or a Honda CR-V or Nissan Rogue or any of the other small crossovers out there. It’s modernity’s default car, the replacement for that standard three-box sedan silhouette you see on no parking signs or whatever.
It’s part of the filler of our surrounding carscape, the staple grain in your diet, one of the many grains of rice that fill the bowl, the medium that carries the interesting bits of meat or excitingly-marinated vegetables.
It’s not interesting. It is, however, well-designed for what it is, and I bet will make a lot of the people who buy them very happy, because it will be their uninteresting car, their machine that carries them and their stuff wherever they need to go, with all the expected levels of comfort, style, and safety.
The Taos is a handsome compact crossover. It’s dressed in VW’s current crisp design language, fairly unadorned, with sharp character line creases, a lot of 45-ish-degree angled cuts, and VW’s signature lighting design with its hockey-stick shapes.
Also, I like the contrasting black of the front bumper area, which I think breaks up the front nicely. It’s more noticeable on higher-contrast colors:
The most interesting bit of lighting design is probably the full-width DRL light bar, found on the SEL trim and up, which seems to be something that VW is pushing as a lighting signature:
The taillight design incorporates some shapes that look a bit like a pair of airplanes in profile:
Overall, it feels “premium,” which I know is a crucial requirement of the sadly insecure car-buying public, so VW achieved that goal well. The one I was loaned has an interesting almost-matte gray paint that looked quite good, especially with the optional black wheels, which match well with the minimal chrome/blacked out pillars and wheelarch trim of the car.
This combination does lend the Taos a little more of an agressive look, and would help it stand out a bit in a parking lot sea of other crossovers.
VW still can’t help themselves with the dumb fake exhaust tips in the rear bumper, but they’re hardly the only manufacturer to still do this kind of thing. Do buyers actually like this? I have no idea. At the least they could have made it into a foothold or something so it wouldn’t be quite so stupid.
The size is actually extremely close to my 2010 Tiguan, and the interior room feels about the same. The beltline is higher, fitting with more recent design trends, and that does make the interior a bit less open and airy-feeling than the old Tiguan, which is a bit of a shame, as that’s the quality I like best in the old car.
Well, I’ve already started talking about the interior, so we may as well keep going. It’s quite roomy for the crossover’s fairly compact size, and, like nearly all crossovers, it’s effectively a wagon on big wheels. You miss having a Golf or Golf/Jetta wagon? This is what they’re called now, so get used to it.
The Taos is just a two-row car, unlike the Tiguan, though it doesn’t feel much smaller when you’re inside it. Part of that is likely due to the use of the now nearly ubiquitous panoramic roof, which really does open up car interiors a lot, visually.
I took Otto camping in the Tiguan when I had it, and it proved to have plenty of cargo room. With the third row folded (two rows up), the Tiguan has about 33 cubic feet of cargo room; with both rows up, the Taos has 28 cubic feet, so while it’s smaller, it’s not that much smaller, really.
Passenger space is just about the same as the Tiguan, minus, of course, that third row, if you need that. If you don’t need that third row, I bet most people could get by just fine in the Taos compared to the Tiguan.
Now, one place where there is some difference between the Taos and Tiguan is interior materials and cost-cutting.
Visually, I don’t think the Taos looks all that much lower-spec than the Tiguan, at least in the SEL trim I tested, but you can feel some differences. Where all of the Tiguan’s dash is squishy, pliant “soft-touch” materials, most of the Taos dashboard is harder plastic.
I know a lot of car reviewers place a good bit of value in the soft-touches (I mean, who doesn’t like to be touched, softly?) but I’m honestly not sure how much I really, really give a shit, at least in this context.
Sure, the dash doesn’t yield like a supple lover when you pinch the hood over the instrument binnacle, but who really cares? It’s fine. It keeps the wires hidden and holds everything in place. It looks fine, and it works.
VW clearly has done some cost cutting to keep the pricing below the Tiguan, but it all seems to be pretty smart cost-cutting, from what I saw.
The two-tone, grayscale seats were plenty comfortable, the door panels had good-sized pockets and usable armrests, the child seat latches were the easy to find and use kind, not the pinch-your-fingers-off bullshit kind, which I like, and the rear armrest has both cupholders and opens to reveal a useful pass-through.
This is mostly really standard stuff you can find across the board on any crossover in this class, but well, it’s here, too.
My press car didn’t include that usual package shelf thing that covers the rear cargo area, and, to be honest, I didn’t miss it at all. I don’t know if that was a deliberate cost-cutting deletion on VW’s part or if the particular vehicle I got just had it misplaced, but the absence just served to make me realize that I think I don’t like them! Just give me all the cargo room! I don’t care if people see my shit back there, what am I hauling around, kruggerands in clear plastic Tupperware? Who cares?
That’s kind of a breakthrough for me.
The Driving Experience
The driving experience in the Taos is just what buyers in this market want: easy and forgettable. It’s fine, totally fine. If you get aroused while driving the Taos I’m about 85 percent certain its because you’re daydreaming about something as opposed to anything the car is actually doing.
The engine—which, pleasingly, lacks a silly plastic engine cover—is VW’s 1.5-liter TSI turbocharged inline-four, which makes 158 horsepower and 184 FT-LBS of torque. Interestingly, the 2-liter turbo-four in the Tiguan makes 184 horsepower, and 221 FT-LBS of torque, an interesting accidental numeric coincidence there.
In practice, I found the Taos had enough power to keep up with traffic just fine, and felt quick enough when I stomped the pedal. It’s hauling around about 3,200 pounds of weight, which is, alarmingly, on the lower side of modern cars, so it doesn’t feel bloated or sluggish. It’s fine.
Handling is predictable, safe, fine, boring, whatever. Exactly what people want. It’s easy to drive, with everything assisted and nothing to challenge you. It’s a tool for moving people and things.
It’s got a seven-speed DSG transmission (one less gear than the Tiguan) which does its job just fine, and helps the Taos get a respectable 28 mpg city/36 highway. Those are the official numbers, but in my driving I noticed mileage around 30 in mixed driving, which makes sense. Again, pretty much on par with what you’d expect.
All of these numbers, by the way, are very comparable with the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, with a bit less power than those popular competitors, but not so much less that I think any potential buyer would notice.
Tech and Electronics and All That Crap
It’s 2022, and the Taos is very much a car of its time, with the full, now just-about expected array of electronics, even in our currently chip-deprived world. The Taos I tested included VW’s all-digital instrument cluster, which I believe is the same one that’s in the Tiguan.
There’s a button on the steering wheel that allows you to change the visuals on the instrument cluster from three choices, only one of which is skeuomorphic, aping the look of physical gauges, while the others offer arguably a better use of the screen real estate, especially if you like looking at the navigation map.
The center-stack screen is of a reasonable size, and has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but no Windows CE, so you’re out of luck if you want to connect your Sharp Mobilon. Sorry.
There’s also a Qi charging pad in the phone-holding nook, along with some USB-C plugs. USB-C is the only standard used (well, other than the legacy 12V socket) which is sort of a pain, as many of us still have so many old USB plugs, but I get that we’re in a transition period and the world is moving, slowly, to USB-C.
The Taos also has VW’s suite of driver assist tools, collectively known as IQ Drive standard on the SEL model I tested and available in lesser trims. These features include lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert, and Traffic Assist, which effectively combines features to make a sort of Level 1.75 automated driver-assist system.
It’s not quite as advanced as Tesla Autopilot or GM’s Supercruise, but it’s enough to smooth over poor driving skills and occasional attention lapses during highway driving.
The rear view camera image is nice and clear, but I’m really only telling you this as an excuse to post this picture of that old CRX.
One other thing to note: when you turn off the car, the Taos has a very subtle, inoffensive way of asking you if you’re a shitty parent who forgot their kids in the back seat:
Forget anything? Everyone out? Back seat highlighted in orange? Don’t make me say it, thinks the Taos. To be fair, being a parent isn’t always easy, so I’m not going to judge you if you had to double back for a sleeping kid.
There’s nothing wrong with the Taos. Or the Tiguan, for that matter. They’re fine, they’re both just fine, and chances are if you buy one you’ll be plenty happy with what you ended up with.
They’re roomy, they have all of the basic features people want, they’re pretty good-looking, and they’re reasonably priced, for what you get.
The Taos I tested was about $31,500; I think this is a car that makes more sense in its lower-spec versions, which start under $23,000. Unless you need to carry around seven passengers, I don’t really think the jump to the Tiguan makes all that much sense.
The Taos is a difficult car to really give a shit about, like almost everything in this category. It’s like that nice-looking friend of yours from college who has a good job and family life and seems to be doing everything generally right, but he’s just too damn dull to actually make you want to hang out with him.
When you encounter him somewhere, sure, you have a fine time, and if you ever needed something you can be sure he’d be there for you, but you’d be damned if you could come up with one interesting thing about the dude.
Volkswagen will sell plenty of these, and I bet most buyers will be pleased with what they got. If that’s you, fantastic, wonderful, I hope you use it with delight for years.
As for me, I’ve already forgotten it. But, you know, I’m kind of a jerk.