First Drive: The 2022 Volkswagen Taos Small SUV Misses the Mark

An unrefined powertrain, an overly firm ride, and no active safety features in the base model leave us puzzled

2022 Volkswagen Taos front driving

Named for a small town in New Mexico’s high desert, the 2022 Taos (pronounced like “house”) is the latest model in Volkswagen’s expanding SUV portfolio.

It slots beneath the Tiguan, where it competes in the growing subcompact SUV class. While the 2022 Volkswagen Taos gives buyers a surprisingly roomy cabin and plenty of high-tech features—including a standard configurable digital instrument cluster—its powertrain has some drivability hiccups.

We’re also extremely disappointed that important active safety features such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic warning don’t come standard on the base model.

This will ultimately hurt its Overall Score when we buy our own Taos to test.

All versions of the Taos come with a 158-hp, 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Front-wheel-drive models get a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission, and those with all-wheel drive are fitted with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. 

The size of the Taos gives buyers a rather unique choice. It’s larger than tiny subcompacts such as the Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona, and Mazda CX-30 but smaller than popular compact models like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. It’s about the same size as the Audi Q3 and Subaru Crosstrek.

Taos pricing ranges from $22,995 for the base S with front-wheel drive up to $34,240 for the SEL 4Motion (VW’s term for all-wheel drive), plus a $1,195 destination charge on all models. We rented both front- and all-wheel-drive SEL models from Volkswagen for this First Drive evaluation.

More on Small SUVs

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial expert assessment of the Taos is available to you below.

We’ll purchase a Taos AWD for the CR test program soon, after which we’ll put it through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will get access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available. 

If you haven’t signed up yet, click below and become a member to access this full article and all our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and home appliances.

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What we rented: 2022 Volkswagen Taos 1.5T SEL FWD
Powertrain: 158-hp, 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive
MSRP: $31,490
Options: Pure Gray exterior paint, $395
Total options: $395
Destination fee: $1,195
Total cost: $33,080

What we rented: 2022 Volkswagen Taos 1.5T SEL 4Motion
Powertrain: 158-hp, 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $33,045
Options: Panoramic sunroof, $1,200; King’s Red metallic exterior paint, $395
Total options: $1,595
Destination fee: $1,195
Total cost: $35,835

CR’s Take

On paper the new Taos makes sense, because it provides consumers with a less expensive model than the Tiguan SUV at a time when buyers are moving away from the small hatchbacks and wagons that long defined the VW brand.

And despite that it’s about 9 inches shorter than the Tiguan, the Taos loses only 1.6 cubic feet of passenger volume in the process, according to VW. Those merits, along with the expected excellent fuel economy, should help it appeal to city dwellers who need a small, easy-to-park package with a space-efficient cabin.   

But while VW did a good job with the Taos in terms of its SUV functionality and entertaining handling demeanor, the obstreperous powertrain—especially the AWD version with its dual-clutch transmission—and overly firm ride should make buyers think twice. Plus, it doesn’t help the Taos’ value proposition that its pricing sits so close to the larger Tiguan's.

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