Compared with rivals, Volkswagen has been struggling with an undersize SUV lineup for years. That began to change on the larger end of the portfolio with the debut of the German company’sfor 2018, a product beachhead further reinforced with the arrival of a sleeker two-row derivative that debuted this year. These models have clearly helped, but much of the action in crossovers has occurred on the entry-level end of the market, below the brand’s existing . Those small SUV shoppers are finally poised to get some attention with the debut of this crisp-looking 2022 Volkswagen Taos.
If you need help figuring out where this new entry fits, at 175.8 inches long and 72.5 inches wide, the 2022 Taos is sized to take on models like the, , and in the affordable end of today’s overcrowded small-SUV swimming pool. America’s compact utility segment actually has quite a spread in terms of footprint, with VW’s own Tiguan on the large side (it’s even available with three rows) and new entries like VW’s splitting the middle in size. The new Taos will skirt above subcompact models like the , , and .
VW Taos offers standard turbo power
Powered by a 1.5-liter derivative of the EA211 four-cylinder turbocharged and direct-injected engine found in the Jetta, the Taos follows VW’s well-established design language that favors sharply tailored lines and unadorned surfaces over some of the segment’s busier (if more youthful and energetic) designs. Like the aforementioned ID 4 EV, the Taos’ nose features a grille bisected by an available light bar that flows cleanly into the standard LED headlamps (higher-end models have adaptive units).
The model’s most distinct departure from other recent VW SUVs is the blacked-out bumper fascia that gives the Taos a slightly tougher appearance. While hardly revolutionary, this design’s relatively simple lines are likely to age well. (Note: A standard model is shown here; a sportier-looking R-Design trimmay eventually come to market.)
2022 Volkswagen Taos is a budget small SUV with upscale ambition
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Thanks in part to a longer 105.9-inch wheelbase, VW says this model, built in Puebla, Mexico, features a cabin that’s nearly as spacious as the 9.6-inches-longer Tiguan inside. The Taos offers 28.1 cubic feet of cargo space, expanding to 66.3 cubes with the rear seats folded. Indeed, Roadshow’s own Steven Ewingand found that it offered solid space and road manners.
The aforementioned four-cylinder engine powers the Taos’ front wheels as standard, with 4Motion all-wheel drive available as an optional extra. VW says the Taos’ powertrain is good for 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, the latter coming on boil from 1,750 rpm. That’s slightly more horsepower and significantly more torque than the nonturbo 2.0-liter flat four found in Subaru’s Crosstrek. In fact, the Taos has more horsepower than the Subaru’s up-level 2.5-liter four (176 lb-ft), though it can’t match the Japanese soft-roader’s 182 hp.
Interestingly, FWD Taos models rely on a traditional eight-speed torque-converter automatic, while 4Motion AWD models ship with a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. The latter will likely offer quicker shifting, which could make it the pick of the range for driving enthusiasts. However, with one fewer ratio and more mechanical drag due to its additional driveshafts, AWD models are certain to have inferior fuel economy (EPA estimates have not yet been released).
At least for the moment, there are no electrified powertrains planned for this model. At this entry-level compact SUV end of the market, hybrid models are rare (with or without a plug). Pricing has not yet been announced, but the Taos is likely to start in the $23,000-$24,000 range to be in line with rivals, and trying to engineer such costly tech into a vehicle in that price range would be very difficult. That said, a 48-volt mild-hybrid system for higher-end trims could be possible over time.
VW Taos has upscale interior options
The 2022 VW Taos’ cabin will look familiar to those who have been in the company’s recent offerings, but that’s no a bad thing. Like the exterior, the model’s cockpit styling is sleek and clean, with a horizontally oriented dashboard and what looks to be many of the same higher-quality controls that we’ve experienced previously. Interestingly, even base models receive a reconfigurable all-digital gauge cluster. Two-tone cloth seats are standard, with both leatherette and full-on cowhide available. A panoramic moonroof and heated/ventilated seats will also be available, both of which are nice (and relatively rare) inclusions at this end of the market.
Infotainment is handled by VW’s MIB3 hardware via an 8-inch touchscreen on base models and a 10.25-inch unit on upper trims. Features like wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot are also available, as is embedded navigation (the latter is not always offered at this end of the market). Integration ofand is standard on all models, with wireless CarPlay available on midlevel trims and above. Up to three USB-C ports are offered, so if your devices still use traditional USB-A connections, prepare to use some dongles.
VW Taos is a bit light on standard ADAS
On the safety front, VW is bundling a suite of driver assistance tech under its IQ Drive banner. Unfortunately, while forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and blind-spot assist are available on base models, these important safety features are not standard equipment as they are in some rival SUVs. Features like lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control are also optional.
The fact that this model carries a North American name (the Taos is named after the artsy and historic town in New Mexico) isn’t by accident — “It was very important to try and find a localized name,” Hein Schafer, VW’s senior vice president of Product Marketing and Strategy, told Roadshow during a media teleconference. While VW already offers a slew of similar small crossovers around the world, the Taos has been expressly designed with US and Canadian customers in mind, and the Taos name is meant to reinforce that idea. At Roadshow, we’re just happy this SUV has a simpler, less-contrived moniker than the Tiguan (a cross between “tiger” and “iguana” — really).
The 2022 Volkswagen Taos is slated to go on sale in the second quarter of 2021.