Volkswagen’s decision to kill the base Golf in the US was unexpected at the time. And that meant another headstone in the ever-expanding graveyard of dead cars. So with the lone entry-level option in the VW range being the base Jetta sedan, how are new shoppers supposed to make their way into an affordable, sensible German vehicle with abundant cargo space?
Enter the Volkswagen Taos. Although not as tiny as the Golf, the Taos has a similar price tag and just as much equipment out of the box. Plus, it’s a crossover, which means additional passenger and cargo space over your traditional hatchback.
But while the Taos is a reliable option for shoppers looking specifically for a cheap VW, this class is brimming with better alternatives. The Taos isn’t the most affordable, spacious, or even coolest crossover that you can buy today – it falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.
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|Quick Stats||2022 Volkswagen Taos SE 4Motion|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 1.5-liter I4|
|Output:||158 Horsepower / 184 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||25 City / 32 Highway / 28 Combined|
|Base Price:||$24,490 + $1,195 Destination|
- Exterior Color: Cornflower Blue
- Interior Color: Black
- Wheel Size: 18 Inches
In a class that includes subcompacts like the funky Chevrolet Trailblazer and the sleek Mazda CX-30, the Volkswagen Taos is one of the blandest looking options of the bunch. And it’s not that the Taos looks bad, it just mimics every other Volkswagen product from the past few years, only slightly updated.
The small crossover wears the brand’s signature front fascia and horizontal grille, with a sharper lower bumper detail that helps differentiate it from the larger Tiguan and Atlas, if only slightly. And in the rear, the tapered taillight design once again falls in line with the rest of the VW range.
This SE model sports gloss black 18-inch rims (a $395 option), which fit the wheel wells of the small crossover nicely, and this particular car wears a shade of Cornflower Blue, a no-cost option that looks quite nice. Opting for the SE over the base S model also gives you access to silver-painted roof rails as opposed to traditional black bars.
The inside of the Taos is basic, even for this segment – but at least everything feels well put together. There’s hard black plastic everywhere you look, with black leather on the steering wheel and shift knob. The SE and above wear VW’s CloudTex faux leather on the seats, which looks good, but it’s only available in full black or an uninteresting gray/black two-tone.
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- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 27.9 / 65.2 Cubic Feet
With most cars that come in under $25,000, you’re going to experience some on-road noise, and that’s true of the Taos. Wind and tire noise is loud at highway speeds and even at moments around town. The four-cylinder engine is extremely buzzy, too, piercing the cabin if you attempt to depress the gas pedal more than halfway.
The suspension is firm but not harsh, absorbing broken pavement well and cruising over smooth asphalt. But the seats themselves leave something to be desired; the faux leather buckets fail to offer enough back support or bolstering.
In terms of passenger and cargo space, though, the Taos is near the top of the class. The front compartment is open and airy, with 40.7 inches of headroom – only the Ford Bronco Sport is better here. The second row is just as roomy and feels spacious even with two adult passengers back there. The bench could be a bit cushier, but that’s a minor complaint.
But it’s in the cargo department where the tiny Taos truly shines. Behind the second row is 27.9 cubic feet of cargo space, and folding that second row flat gives you access to a capacious 65.2 cubes. No other compact crossover even comes close to that second figure.
|Interior Dimensions||Headroom, Front/Rear||Legroom Front/Rear||Cargo Volume, Min/Max|
|Volkswagen Taos:||40.7 / 39.8 Inches||40.1 / 37.9 Inches||27.9 / 65.9 Cubic Feet|
|Chevrolet Trailblazer:||40.0 / 38.4 Inches||40.9 / 39.4 Inches||25.3 / 54.4 Cubic Feet|
|Ford Bronco Sport:||41.5 / 41.7 Inches||42.4 / 36.9 Inches||25.3 / 54.4 Cubic Feet|
|Hyundai Kona:||39.6 / 37.8 Inches||41.5 / 35.2 Inches||19.2 / 45.8 Cubic Feet|
|Jeep Compass:||39.2 / 38.5 Inches||41.8 / 38.3 Inches||27.2 / 59.8 Cubic Feet|
|Kia Seltos:||40.0 / 38.4 Inches||41.4 / 38.0 Inches||26.6 / 62.8 Cubic Feet|
|Mazda CX-30:||37.8 / 38.3 Inches||41.7 / 36.3 Inches||20.2 / 45.2 Cubic Feet|
|Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross:||39.5 / 37.3 Inches||40.9 / 35.3 Inches||23.4 / 50.1 Cubic Feet|
|Subaru Crosstrek:||39.8 / 38.0 Inches||43.1 / 36.5 Inches||20.8 / 55.3 Cubic Feet|
|Toyota Corolla Cross:||40.7 / 39.8 Inches||42.9 / 32.0 Inches||25.5 Cubic Feet|
Technology & Connectivity
- Center Display: 8.0-Inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: Digital 8.0-Inch
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: No
Opting for the Taos SE gives you access to a crisp 8.0-inch touchscreen display, as opposed to the base 6.5-inch unit. It runs the latest version of VW’s MIB3 infotainment system, which is laid out well and easy to use, even while on the move. Navigation comes standard on the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, as do wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections and wireless smartphone charging.
The SE model also sports an 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster that’s clear and decently configurable; you can cycle through a few layouts, including one with a central tachometer or one with a basic speed display. But, the SEL model offers a larger 10.3-inch digital cluster at no extra cost that comes with more features, as well as an eight-speaker Beats audio system that delivers a clean, rich sound.
Performance & Handling
- Engine: Turbocharged 1.5-liter I4
- Output: 158 Horsepower / 184 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch
From the base S model to the SEL, every version of the Volkswagen Taos uses the same turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This unit produces 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet, with power sent to either the front wheels or all four. In the case of this test car, 4Motion delivers power at each corner.
The Taos has solid pep off the line with Sport mode engaged, offering ample low-end torque and decent stamina higher up in the rev range. Like I mentioned earlier, this isn’t the smoothest or quietest powertrain as it powers to 60 miles per hour, but it doesn’t feel sluggish either.
With all-wheel drive equipped, the Taos uses a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox as opposed to the traditional eight-speed automatic. At speed, this transmission is crisp and decisive, quick to shift without hesitation. But it exhibits some jerkiness at lower speeds, lurching the Taos forward with just a little bit of pressure on the pedal or not responding quickly enough.
The multilink rear suspension makes the Taos feel moderately composed and relatively easy to fling around. But the steering leaves something to be desired. There’s relatively little feedback from the road to your fingertips, and the overly boosted rack makes it hard to determine what the Taos is doing.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Not Rated
The $895 IQ.Drive and SE Convenience package is the only way to get active safety features like automatic emergency braking, rear automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and adaptive high beams on the Taos S and SE.
The SEL model, though, gets all of those features at no extra cost, and that also includes automatic high-beam assist and traffic-sign recognition. Those two safety features are exclusive to the top-end trim.
Still, with the Taos SE’s active equipment added, it all worked well on the highway. The Travel Assist function is essentially an advanced adaptive cruise control that keeps the car at a steady pace with traffic and centered in the lane. Even though it can be a bit slow to react at times, the system kept the Taos composed.
- City: 25 MPG
- Highway: 32 MPG
- Combined: 28 MPG
With 4Motion all-wheel drive equipped, the Volkswagen Taos achieves 25 miles per gallon city, 32 highway, and 28 combined. The front-wheel-drive model is better, naturally, returning up to 31 mpg combined. But compared to other all-wheel-drive options, the Taos stacks up well.
- Base Price: $24,490 + $1,1,95 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $28,740
- As-Tested Price: $33,030
The base Taos S starts at $24,490 with the $1,195 destination fee included. The SE model tested here, meanwhile, starts at $28,740 with front-wheel drive and $30,190 with all-wheel drive equipped. The cheapest vehicle of the group is still the Hyundai Venue, which is also one of only two subcompacts that come in at under $20,000, alongside the Kicks.
|Base Price + Destination:|
|Volkswagen Taos:||$24,490 + $1,195|
|Chevrolet Trailblazer||$21,600 + $1,195|
|Hyundai Kona:||$21,300 + $1,245|
|Jeep Compass:||$27,890 + $1,595|
|Kia Seltos:||$22,590 + $1,255|
|Nissan Kicks:||$19,800 + $1,225|
|Mazda CX-30||$22,200 + $1,225|
|Subaru Crosstrek CVT:||$23,995 + $1,175|
|Toyota Corolla Cross:||$22,195 + $1,215|
This particular car, with 4Motion all-wheel drive and a few options, costs $33,030 total. But it’s well-equipped out of the box, with the SE model only offering three factory options: black 18-inch wheels ($395), the IQ.Drive and SE Convenience package ($895), and the panoramic sunroof ($1,200).
The 18-inch wheels are worth skipping – the base rims are more interesting to look at, anyway. And if you’re not necessarily a sunroof person, that could save you an extra $1,200, too. But the active safety features equipped on the IQ.Drive and SE Convenience package makes that option worth including, considering alternatives like the Crossotrek and Corolla Cross come with advanced safety features at no extra cost.
But even if you go all out on options and features, the Volkswagen Taos is a reasonably priced and well-equipped small crossover. Offering ample technology and available active safety, Volkswagen’s smallest offerings is certainly one worth considering.