2022 Volkswagen Taos Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | May 26, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

For years, Volkswagen’s SUV lineup was uncompetitive. The first-generation Tiguan was too small, and the larger Touareg was too expensive. But in just the past half-decade, VW has resolved these problems with right-sized, competitively-priced offerings in the compact, midsize, and upper midsize vehicle segments. 

The result is significant sales success, and during the first quarter of 2021 65% of Volkswagen sales were comprised of the Tiguan, Atlas Cross Sport, and Atlas. Now, the automaker debuts the all-new 2022 Volkswagen Taos to its SUV arsenal. 

A small SUV slotting under the Tiguan in Volkswagen’s SUV lineup, the 2022 Taos applies the automaker’s successful tactics to an entry-level segment. Priced from $22,995 (not including a $1,195 destination charge), the Taos is roomier inside, more fun to drive on pavement, and more technologically advanced than many of its rivals. It should expand on VW’s current success, pushing the automaker’s SUV sales mix even higher.

That base price is for the S trim with front-wheel drive. Buyers can also choose the Taos SE and the Taos SEL. Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is an option for all three, but every Taos has a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. 

Stick with standard front-wheel drive, and you’ll enjoy a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. The Taos 4Motion employs an occasionally confused and harsh-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, or DCT. 

However, a benefit of selecting 4Motion, aside from its added traction on slippery surfaces, is that it swaps out the standard torsion-beam rear suspension for a multilink independent design. Additionally, with 4Motion there are more driving modes to choose from and some features, like 19-inch aluminum wheels and ventilated front seats, are exclusive to the SEL 4Motion.

Volkswagen bases the new SUV on a vehicle it sells in China, but makes the Taos in Mexico for the North American market. It effectively replaces the Golf 5-door hatchback and Jetta Sportswagen in the region.

What Owners Say About Small SUVs - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

2022 Volkswagen Taos SEL Cornflower Blue Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 58% of small SUV owners are female (vs. 40% for the entire automotive market), and the median age of a small SUV owner is 56 years (identical to the entire automotive market).

Owners say their favorite things about small SUVs are (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Feeling of safety
  • Setting up and starting
  • Getting in and out

Owners indicate their least favorite things about small SUVs are (in descending order) the: 

  • Fuel economy
  • Interior design
  • Infotainment system
  • Driving comfort
  • Powertrain

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the Mini Countryman and the Toyota C-HR tied for the top ranking, followed by the Mazda CX-30.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Volkswagen Taos - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a Taos SEL equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive. The price of the test vehicle came to $34,240, including the $1,195 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2022 Volkswagen Taos SEL Front Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The Volkswagen Taos sits closer to the ground than most crossover SUVs. The SEL 4Motion’s 19-inch wheels have short 45-series tire sidewalls, and the Taos offers no more than 6.6 inches of ground clearance. This means its easier than you might expect to wash this VW’s roof, but more importantly it also means sliding into and out of this vehicle is easy for shorter adults. Only the robustly bolstered front seats impede entry and exit.

Once you’re settled in, you’ll face a standard digital instrumentation panel and a 6.5-inch or an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Plastic covers most of the interior. It has a slight gloss to it, and when you rap your knuckles on it in spots it sounds hollow. However, in the SEL 4Motion test vehicle Volkswagen softly padded the armrests and upper door panels, and the heated steering wheel came wrapped in simulated leather.

Interior design is simple but stylish. The test vehicle’s black leather had light gray bolsters and contrast stitching to match the door panel inserts and a strip of material on the dashboard. Piping on the floor mats looked upscale.

Upper trim levels include an 8-way power driver seat, and all Taos models include a manual front-seat height adjuster. Volkswagen supplies plenty of seat track travel, too, making the Taos especially worthy of consideration by tall people.

Given the target market and competitive set, rear-seat room is exceptionally good and the seat itself is comfortable. There is plenty of space for reverse-facing child safety seats inside of the Taos, and once your children are grown the SUV accommodates teenagers without a problem. Air vents add to comfort levels, but they do restrict front-seat storage space.

The bin under the center armrest is small. Otherwise, Volkswagen provides numerous places to stash things, and upper trim levels have a standard wireless smartphone charging pad forward of the transmission shifter.

2022 Volkswagen Taos MIB3 Infotainment System Review

2022 Volkswagen Taos SEL Interior Dashboard Front Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

With S trim, the Taos features a basic 6.5-inch infotainment system, but it nevertheless includes Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Car-Net connected services with a Wi-Fi hotspot. It runs on Volkswagen’s old “MIB2” platform and technology.

Upgrade to the Taos SE or SEL, and you get a more sophisticated “MIB3” infotainment system. It features:

  • 8-inch touchscreen display
  • Bluetooth smartphone pairing
  • SiriusXM 360L satellite radio
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay
  • Wireless Android Auto
  • Car-Net connected services
  • Wi-Fi access
  • Voice control technology
  • Wireless smartphone charging
  • Navigation (SEL only)
  • 8-speaker BeatsAudio premium sound system (SEL only)

Using the “MIB3” system is largely intuitive thanks to logical menus, shortcut buttons on either side of the touchscreen display, and stereo volume and tuning knobs. However, I experienced a few unexpected hiccups while using the system installed in my pre-production test vehicle.

First, finding and saving favorite SiriusXM stations was easy enough, and to access them you push the Presets virtual button at the bottom of the screen. Now, let’s say you want to go up or down just a few stations from the one you’re listening to. Twisting the tuning knob won’t work if you’re on the Presets screen. Instead, you must choose the Station virtual button, then twist the tuning knob, and then push on the tuning knob to choose the new station.

The test vehicle’s software also seemed slower to react to input than expected, from initial load time to responsiveness when using the controls. During voice recognition system testing, the virtual assistant often inaccurately interpreted a command, or responded inaccurately, or told me that the system’s data connection wasn’t active. Given the amount of road noise that can permeate the cabin, perhaps this isn’t surprising.

What It’s Like to Drive the 2022 Volkswagen Taos

2022 Volkswagen Taos SEL Cornflower Blue Side View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Volkswagen equips every 2022 Taos with a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 158 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 184 pound-feet of torque starting at 1,750 rpm. With front-wheel drive, the Taos has an 8-speed automatic transmission. With 4Motion all-wheel drive, VW’s 7-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) dual-clutch automated manual transmission is standard.

“Is there a reason you can’t use the 8-speed automatic with the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system?” I asked a Volkswagen spokesperson giving journalists a walk-around of the new 2022 Taos before we were set loose in the SUVs.

“No, we just thought driving enthusiasts would prefer the DSG,” he responded. 

Normally, this would be the case. A DCT works similarly to a manual gearbox except the driver doesn’t need to use a clutch pedal or actively change gears. But, they behave differently from a traditional automatic transmission with a torque converter, and driving enthusiasts tend to like the more visceral, mechanical feel of a DCT. I know I do. Most of the time.

Based on my experience in the pre-production Taos SEL 4Motion, however, the DCT doesn’t always play nice with the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, frequently seeming befuddled about the best course of action to take. And VW doesn’t provide any steering wheel paddle shifters, though a manual shift gate is available if you don’t mind removing your hands from the steering wheel to use it.

It helps to run the Taos 4Motion in Sport mode. You can choose it using the driving mode selector on the center console, and if you do this while the DCT is in Drive, the transmission also changes to its separate Sport mode. So calibrated, the powertrain keeps revs higher, putting the engine at or near where its peak 184 pound-feet of torque kicks in at 1,750 rpm. The result is a smoother and more engaging driving experience.

A short drive in a Taos SE with front-wheel drive and the 8-speed automatic also demonstrated a smoother driving experience. With either transmission, when revs fall off, turbo lag is evident. But aside from waiting for the engine to overcome that lag and respond to pressure on the accelerator, the automatic offers what most drivers will likely think is a more satisfying driving character.

My bet is that VW dealers will need to educate Taos buyers about the DCT’s unique characteristics. Otherwise, Volkswagen could find itself with unhappy customers claiming something is wrong with their new SUV’s transmission. Or, it could be that the rough, inconsistent and unpredictable shifting was a quirk of my particular test vehicle.

A benefit of choosing 4Motion and its accompanying DCT is that Volkswagen also bolts an independent rear suspension into the SUV. This type of design typically offers better ride and handling qualities, and with the SEL 4Motion’s standard 19-inch machined-finish aluminum wheels and P225/45R19 Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-season tires, the Taos is a tossable little tyke and genuinely fun to drive.

However, if you choose a Taos with front-wheel drive and the automatic transmission, the standard torsion-beam rear suspension isn’t as much of a liability as expected. During a quick ride on a mountain road in the Taos SE, I could barely tell the difference when driving across mid-corner rumples in the road.

Volkswagen also fortfies the Taos 4Motion with Active Control, a trio of additional driving modes including Snow, Off-Road, and Custom Off-Road. But since the Taos 4Motion offers no more than 6.6 inches of ground clearance and shallow approach and breakover angles, you’ll want to be careful when traveling trails.

IQ Drive Review

2022 Volkswagen Taos Digital Cockpit Instrumentation

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Volkswagen’s umbrella term for its advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) is IQ Drive. With the 2022 Taos, IQ Drive is an option with S trim, a partial option with SE trim, and standard with SEL trim.

If you want IQ Drive for the Taos S, it is affordably priced at just $995. This upgrade package contains:

  • Front Assist (forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking)
  • Lane Assist (lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance)
  • Travel Assist (adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and lane-centering assistance to provide a hands-on Level 2 ADAS)
  • Emergency Assist (brings the Taos to a safe stop if the driver falls asleep or becomes incapacitated while Travel Assist is active)
  • Blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning

The Taos SE includes Front Assist, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning as standard equipment. The remainder of these features are bundled into the IQ Drive SE Package ($895). Volkswagen includes all of these functions with SEL trim, plus a traffic-jam assistance system and road-sign recognition technology.

In use, IQ Drive proves smooth and accurate, which encourages the driver to keep them turned on rather than shutting them off. And, like any good German-engineered lane-keeping assistance system, when the technology determines it must take action, it does so decisively.

What deserves special mention here is Emergency Assist, an impressive technology at any price but especially in the small SUV class. When Travel Assist is active, Emergency Assist can tell if the driver has fallen asleep or is suffering a medical emergency. Unlike other Level 2 ADAS, Emergency Assist doesn’t simply shut down. Instead, this automatic emergency stop assistance technology will slow and brake the Taos to a halt and also activate the hazard flashers.

Volkswagen also equips the SEL with Park Distance Control Rear, which is parking sensors combined with an automatic reverse braking system. The first time I tried backing out of my driveway, the Taos slammed itself to a stop. (I have an angled driveway leading to a crowned suburban street.) Thankfully, Volkswagen supplies a way to turn the automatic braking function off, and to leave it off through future engine start cycles. That solved the problem.

2022 Volkswagen Taos FAQ - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

2022 Volkswagen Taos Cargo Space

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

How much cargo space does the 2022 Volkswagen Taos have?

With the rear seat in use, the 2022 Taos can carry between 24.9 and 27.9 cubic feet of cargo. Fold the 60/40-split rear seat flat, and the SUV holds between 60.2 and 65.9 cubic feet of cargo. Note that the load floor is not flat when the rear seat is folded down.

The reason the cargo volumes differ is because the Taos FWD uses a more compact torsion-beam rear suspension design. That allows for a lower trunk floor, which in turn adds extra space. The Taos 4Motion has a more complex multilink independent rear suspension design, and that chews into maximum cargo space.

Also, note that VW provides small wells on either side of the SEL 4Motion’s cargo floor, which are good for carrying jugs of milk or bottles of wine. The rear seat also offers a center pass-through, making the Taos useful for carrying long items, such as skis, while preserving space for four occupants.

Does the 2022 Volkswagen Taos get good gas mileage?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 2022 Taos returns 31 mpg in combined driving with front-wheel drive and 28 mpg with 4Motion all-wheel drive. The SEL 4Motion test vehicle averaged 27.1 mpg on the testing loop.

Is the 2022 Volkswagen Taos safe?

Because the Taos is a brand-new model, as this review was published, crash-test ratings were unavailable. The IQ Drive collection of ADAS is, however, sophisticated and effective. We asked a Volkswagen spokesperson if the company had made any structural modifications specific to the North American market, and were told no.

How much is the 2022 Volkswagen Taos?

Volkswagen offers the new Taos in S, SE, and SEL trim levels. Prices range from $22,995 for the S with front-wheel drive to $33,045 for the SEL with 4Motion all-wheel drive. These prices do not include a destination charge amounting to $1,195.

What are the 2022 Volkswagen Taos competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Kia Soul ranked highest in the small SUV segment. The Toyota C-HR ranked second, followed by a 3-way tie between the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

In the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study (APEAL), the Mini Countryman and Toyota C-HR tied for the top ranking in the small SUV segment. The Mazda CX-30 was the next highest-ranked model.

Volkswagen says the Taos competes against the Kia Seltos, Jeep Compass, and Subaru Crosstrek.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

2022 Volkswagen Taos SEL Cornflower Blue Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Overall, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos has terrific potential. This is a genuinely likable small SUV, offering more interior room and technology than buyers in this class are likely to expect. 

Add VW’s Carefree Coverage plan, which offers complimentary scheduled maintenance, a good warranty and roadside assistance plan, and a generous subscription to connected services, and there is genuine value here, too.

However, unless my turbo lag, DCT transmission observations, and MIB3 infotainment system voice control difficulties were one-off problems related to my specific test vehicle, there is room for improvement.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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