CHELSEA, MI – Volkswagen’s latest entry in its quickly growing CUV lineup is the all-new ’22 Taos, which combines roominess, connectivity and pep in a compact package.
“It’s little but no doubt fierce,” Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen of America, says of the model now on sale.
VW’s smallest CUV slots below the Tiguan, riding on the automaker’s versatile MQB platform. At 175.8 ins. (4,466 mm) long, it’s 9.3 ins. (236 mm) shorter than the Tiguan, but its relatively stretchy 105.9-in. (2,689-mm) wheelbase opens up 99.5 cu.-ft. (2,818 L) of passenger space, just 1.6 cu.-ft. (45 L) less than its longer sibling.
The influence of VW’s other CUVs is seen in the Taos’s exterior. The front end’s sculpted hood and wide three-bar grille evoke the Atlas Cross Sport, while the molded front bumper with side air intakes, black detailing and a large lower air intake gives it an assertive yet accommodating look.
The squared-off wheel arches also give a nod to the Atlas, while the distinctive side profile of the Taos, with its strong character line, suggest the Tiguan.
The base S model carries black roof rails and side mirrors, while SE and SEL trims have silver roof rails and body-colored side mirrors.
At the rear, LED taillights draw the eye to the centered Taos lettering, a motif used by VW and several other automakers. Underneath is a black molded bumper with silver detailing.
Eight colors are available, and a panoramic sunroof is optional on SE and SEL models, while 10-color ambient lighting is standard on the SEL.
All three Taos trim levels use VW’s EA211 1.5L turbocharged 4-cyl. making 158 hp and 184 lb.-ft. (250 Nm) of torque at just 1,750 rpm.
The engine is based on the 1.4L turbo in the Jetta, but the automaker says the new 1.5L builds torque 35% faster. The front-wheel-drive Taos has an 8-speed automatic and the all-wheel-drive version uses a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Official EPA fuel ratings for the front-wheel-drive Taos are 31 mpg (7.6 L/100 km) combined and 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km) combined for AWD on regular fuel.
The 1.5L shows it’s more than up to the task of powering the Taos along the rolling terrain and winding roads surrounding Chelsea, an hour west of Detroit.
All-wheel drive keeps the low-profile (64.4 ins. [1,636 mm] tall) CUV firmly planted on the road. The turbocharged push is gratifying on straightaways and hills, particularly in Sport mode, which provides more aggressive shifting.
We notice different steering feel and throttle response with the other settings, Normal and Individual.
The automatic transmission in our Taos SEL slips smoothly through its eight gears. Braking is prompt but not sudden, and engine noise is noticeable only if you’re listening for it.
We’re not doing that, though, because we’re enjoying music after quickly pairing our smartphone with VW’s third-generation MIB infotainment system.
This SEL features a 10.25-in. (26-cm) Digital Cockpit Pro display with three views, including full-screen navigation, and 21 viewing options including vehicle status, navigation, driving data, phone information and driver-assistance features.
Android and Apple CarPlay connectivity is standard in all trim levels, as well as Wi-Fi and Sirius XL satellite radio.
SEL models are equipped with the BeatsAudio system which includes a 12-channel, 400-watt amplifier, digital signal processing and eight speakers. Wireless phone charging comes with the SEL and SE.
Elsewhere inside, Taos designers have created two separate levels on the dashboard. The top level varies by trim and surrounds functional elements including the air vents and Digital Cockpit.
The lower level’s soft-touch surface runs the width of the interior and continues through the door panels on each side. White contrast stitching looks sharp against the black dashboard.
Two-tone seats (pictured below) are standard on the entry S level and are available across the lineup. Seating materials range from cloth to a combination cloth and leatherette, as well as leather.
Designers wanted to create a visual connection across all interior elements, so they used the same materials for seat covers and other soft décor parts.
The IQ.DRIVE suite of driver-assistance technology, standard on the SEL and optional on the S and SE trims, features forward collision warning with autonomous braking (front assist), active blindspot monitor, lane keeping system (lane assist), adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, travel assist and emergency assist.
We appreciated lane assist while negotiating the two-lane roads outside Chelsea.
Volkswagen of America marketing chief Hein Schafer says the Taos (named for the New Mexico town known for its arts community and pronounced “house”) is targeted at first-time compact CUV buyers and the Hispanic market, and VW anticipates a 50-50 mix of male and female buyers. He says he expects a “slight cannibalization” of Tiguan sales.
VW had 8,000 Taos CUVs ready for the market in June, but production hasn’t been immune from the computer-chip shortage, says José Bravo, compact CUV program manager.
From June through August, VW sold 16,069 units, putting Taos well behind the monthly sales pace of segment leaders, such as the Honda HR-V, Ford Bronco Sport and Kia Sportage, according to Wards Intelligence data.
The Taos (SE trim pictured above) is assembled at Puebla, Mexico, and its engine is built in nearby Silao. The version to be sold in Canada and Mexico is assembled in China.
Base price for the Taos S is $22,995 or $25,040 for all-wheel drive. The SEL is priced at $27,245 or $28,695 for AWD, while the top-trim SEL stickers for $31,490 or $33,045 for AWD. Prices don’t include a $1,195 destination charge.