The 2022 VW Taos 1.5T is unpretentious and practical with a teaser’s driving attitude
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Thirty-Nine-point-Five miles per gallon in a front-drive VW Taos — 39.5. On a recent highway drive in a Taos 1.5T, I kept checking the onboard fuel-economy meter to be sure that what I was seeing was correct.
39.5 mpg in a subcompact SUV crossover exceeded my expectations, and that of several of the competing models I’ve tested. 39.5 was not a one-off lucky run. I went out multiple days to repeat the numbers, which the Taos tester did easily. And it seemed as if the highway mileage might even go a few clicks higher.
The around-town mileage was also strong, typically averaging 20 to 30 mpg, on the recommended 87 octane fuel. EPA fuel-economy ratings for the front-drive Taos are 28 mpg city, 36 highway, and 31 mpg combined. Mileage ratings for the Taos 4Motion all-wheel-drive models drop to 25/32/28 mpg.
I would have expected high mileage ratings in a hybrid vehicle, but what separates the 2022 VW Taos from its competition is its driving attitude.
This little SUV with a puny 158-hp., 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is eager to please. And it is just fun to drive.
There are at least 13 competitors in the subcompact SUV segment, but the VW Taos seems less subcompact and roomier. Among the competitors are the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Renegade, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Nissan Rogue Sport, Subaru Crosstrek, and Toyota C-HR.
The VW Taos is Volkswagen’s fourth SUV model. In the lineup, it is the smallest, slotting below the Tiguan, Atlas, and Atlas Cross Sport.
Taos is built on VW’s “modular transverse toolkit,” or MQB platform. The MQB is easily tuned for various world markets, VW says. Road conditions were a challenge for chassis engineers. Striking a compromise between ride and handling becomes a serious task.
“For the front-wheel-drive [U.S.] Taos, we went through 77 iterations of the various chassis components — springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, suspension components, bushings, and so on.”
— Gerold Bremer, Technical Development Director
Just in the U.S., roads vary from the smooth blacktop in the southern states to surfaces rippled by earthquakes in California to midwestern roads with the heaves of freeze-thaw conditions. Add then dirt roads add another complexity.
“To get to a balanced chassis for these markets takes a huge amount of work,” Gerold Bremer, Director, Technical Development, Volkswagen de México, said in a release.
“For the front-wheel-drive [U.S.] Taos, we went through 77 iterations of the various chassis components — springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, suspension components, bushings, and so on,” said Bremer.
The VW Taos uses a strut-type front suspension, but it has different rear suspensions. All-wheel-drive models have a rear multilink layout while front-drive versions get a torsion beam. The multilink rear suspension helps extend wheel travel and maintain traction when off-roading.
And there are slight body size variations between front-drive and AWD. The front-wheel-drive Taos has a wheelbase of 105.9 inches and is 64.4 inches tall. The all-wheel-drive Taos has a wheelbase of 105.6 inches and is 64.6 inches tall. Both versions are 72.5 inches wide.
Front-drive models have a fuel tank of 13.2 gallons but 14.5 gallons for AWD. I’ll bet some buyers of the front-drive Taos would like the option for the larger fuel tank for fewer stops in the week’s commute.
And the FWD models shift gears via an eight-speed automatic transmission with a Sport mode. Taos 4Motion AWD models have a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
All versions of the VW Taos are powered by a 158-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder engine (the EA211 TSI). The engine has a peak torque rating of 184 foot-pounds at 1,750 rpm.
The engine is an updated and more powerful version of the 1.5-liter used in the Jetta sedan. But the Taos engine is more efficient in fuel usage, VW says. It features Volkswagen’s modified version of the Miller cycle . In the Miller cycle, the intake valves are closed early in the induction stroke to help with fuel economy. For a turbocharged engine, the Taos 1.5 has a very high compression ratio of up to 11.5 to one.
Among the engine’s key features is Variable Turbine Geometry. VW says VTG is more efficient, provides higher boost pressure, and avoids wastegate mass flow. The high-pressure injection system also produces better atomization of the fuel/air mixture. And this injection system also has a shorter injection time, optimized mixture formation, and lower particulate emissions.
Performance around town is calibrated for maximum fuel economy, and it can feel unsteady as it metes out mileage. But pull the floor-shift lever into Sport mode for the fun zone. It brings much quicker and more satisfying, acceleration —without being nervously aggressive.
The 2022 VW Taos is sold in trim levels of S, SE, and SEL, in front- or all-wheel drive. Starting prices range from $24,690 to $33,285; pricing includes the $1,195 freight charge from Puebla, Mexico. (Pricing is up about $600 from 2021.)
Today’s front-drive SEL tester was $34,880 with and options for Kings Red metallic paint ($395) and a power tilt and sliding panoramic sunroof ($1,200). AWD would add $1,555.
The SEL list of standard equipment has some sophisticated features and technologies. Among them: the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit Pro (digital gauge display), keyless entry with push-button start, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rear traffic alert, parking distance alerts, pedestrian monitoring, Travel Assist (semi-automatic driving assist with lane assist and emergency assist), Discover Media 8-inch color touchscreen navigation system, dynamic road-sign display, wireless smartphone charger, two front USB-C data ports and one rear USB-C charging port.
On the outside are 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive turning headlights, illuminated grille, LED lighting (headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights (with low-speed corner illuminating), power and heated side mirrors.
The interior features leather-trimmed upholstery, a rearview camera, an eight-way power driver’s seat with power-adjustable lumbar support, a front center armrest with a storage compartment, and heated and ventilated front seats.
Less can be plenty in a Taos
Sometimes, however, less is plenty, as in the base VW Taos S.
If you can live with a basic gray and black interior with fabric seats, you can drive home a fun SUV for $25,685. And that includes the $995 IQ.DRIVE Package & S Convenience Package. AWD would add $2,045, for a total of $27,730.
Standard S model features include the configurable Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, 17-inch alloy wheels, six-way manually adjustable front seats, a multi-function steering wheel, automatic headlights with a coming-and-leaving home feature, power side mirrors, and LED headlights with LED daytime running lights and taillights.
Digital extras for the Taos S include a rearview camera system, two front USB-C data ports, App-Connect, Bluetooth phone and audio, and a color 6.5-inch touchscreen sound system.
Also standard is the next-generation Volkswagen Car-Net telematics system. And it includes five years of remote-access services and in-car Wi-Fi capability with a data-plan subscription.
Find current VW Taos incentives and discounts here.
German-driving DNA is built into the gasoline-powered Volkswagens. The Taos is a mighty mite of keen handling — with handfuls of grip and grin. The front-drive suspension smooths out rough road, and the torsion-beam rear suspension has none of the clunks that are commonly felt in some of these setups.
Four-wheel disc brakes have vented 12.7-inch front rotors and solid 10.7-inch rear discs. Left-foot braking, however, can confuse the electronic safety system. In an abundance of caution, the power is reduced in the event of unintended acceleration.
The 18-inch grand-touring Bridgestone Turanza tires (215/50) have good grip in enthusiastic driving and a meaty sidewall to help resist curb rash. The tires have a fairly high (hard) treadwear rating of 560. Such a high rating typically translates to a hard ride, but not so on this Taos, which speaks well of the suspension and its mounting points.
A turning circle of 37.6 feet is tight for easy U-turns and easy maneuverability in tight parking situations.
Volkswagen’s semi-automatic Travel Assist is a valuable asset. The system can be used with or without cruise controls. In the crush of commuting traffic, it is an all-seeing system to guard against distractions or an unintended meeting with a driver in the next lane.
The IQ.DRIVE package is a suite of technologies. Integrated into the safety systems are adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rear traffic alert, pedestrian monitoring with front assist, travel assist, lane assist, and emergency assist.
With both hands on the wheel, the drive guidance gives steady lane centering, but can still be prone to shutoffs in shaded situations. Culprits include a shaded highway overpass or low-angle sunlight into the front grille sensor.
The sturdy upright exterior design benefits the interior with tall headroom (40.7 inches) and extremely roomy back-seat legroom, 37.9 inches.
The compact but not cramped driver’s space has smart integration of controls, switches, and dials. Gauge graphics in blue on black are easily viewed in all conditions of lighting. Sightlines are open at the side mirrors and over the shoulder.
The $1,200 optional panoramic sunroof trims an inch or so from the front headroom, but it is a compelling picture window for those in the back seat.
The SEL interior design is durable with a variety of plastics, piano black trim, and stitched leather inserts. The eight-way power driver’s seat includes seat-bottom tilt, which is sometimes uncommon in smaller vehicles. However, I would have appreciated a seat-side driver’s armrest. The padded console armrest isn’t one-size-fits-all and it does not slide, as in some VWs.
The Taos back seat is no penalty box for children. The boxy space is open and airy with headroom of 39.8 inches. The smallish exhaust-AWD tunnel benefits footroom for occasional three-across seating.
There is no recline to the seatback, but it has a comfortable angle.
Back-seat features include a fold-down, ski-passthrough center armrest with can holders. There also are bottle holders in the door panels and a C-type charging USB.
Cargo space is neatly square with a 42-inch wide opening and about 3 feet in length to the seatback. Fold the 60/40 seatback for a maximum of almost 6 feet in length. The temporary spare tire is stored below the cargo floor.
The Taos is a good starter family SUV that won’t be easy to send down the road, if and when it gets outgrown. Fortunate will be the teen driver who inherits the trusty family Taos.
Body style: subcompact, front- or all-wheel drive, 5-seat, 5-door SUV crossover
Engine: 158-hp, turbocharged and direct-injected DOHC 1.5-liter 4-cylinder; 184 lb.-ft. torque at 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 28/36/32 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane recommended
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 13.2 gallons
Cargo space: 27.9 to 65.9 cubic feet
Front head/leg room: 40.7/40.1 inches
Rear head/leg room: 39.8/37.9 inches
Length/wheelbase: 175.8/105.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,175 pounds
Turning circle: 37.6 feet
Standard equipment includes: Smartkey entry and locking with push-button ignition, leather-trimmed upholstery, rearview camera, eight-way power driver’s seat with power-adjustable lumbar support, front center armrest with storage compartment, heated and ventilated front seats. VW Digital Cockpit Pro (configurable digital gauge display), adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rear traffic alert, parking distance alerts, pedestrian monitoring, Travel Assist (semi-automatic driving assist with lane assist, emergency assist, 8-inch color touchscreen navigation and media system, dynamic road-sign display, wireless smartphone charger, two front USB-C data ports and one rear USB-C charging port, 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive front-lighting (turning headlights), illuminated grille, LED lighting (headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights (with low-speed corner illuminating), power and heated side mirrors.
Safety features include: 6 air bags, Intelligent Crash Response System, electronic stability control, anti-slip regulation, electronic differential lock, engine brake assist, ABS with brake-force distribution, and hydraulic brake assist
Base price: $33,285, including $1,195 freight charge; price as tested $34,880
Options on test vehicle: King’s Red metallic paint $395; power panoramic sunroof $1,200
Where assembled: Puebla, Mexico
Warranties: 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper, including powertrain; 2-years/20,000-miles free scheduled maintenance (includes vehicle checks at 10,000 and 20,000 miles with oil change, but not a tire rotation; roadside assistance for 3-years/36,000-miles