A couple months ago I took delivery of my 2022 VW Taos, replacing a 2021 Kia Forte GT. Ordinarily that would be a bad move, but the used car market right now is so insane that I got $200 more on the trade than I paid for it new. I had been in Germany and had a VW T-Cross rental, and I loved it, so when I came home I took a look at the new Taos. Interestingly the Taos isn't a new car, it's been sold as the Skoda Karoq and SEAT Ateca in Europe for several years now, and as the VW Tharu in China.
Mine is a cornflower blue, SE FWD with the IQ convenience package and panoramic sunroof. I explicitly went out of my way to get the FWD model, one because I've had enough of DCTs over the years, and two the DSG programming in the AWD variant is oddly bad. The T-Cross I had in Germany was a 1.0T with the 7 speed DSG and it was a fantastic powertrain. Extremely torquey around town, quiet and refined, and the DSG was programmed to perfection. For some reason they screwed up the DSG on the AWD Taos. Also, AWD drops the highway rating from 36 to 32, and I'd rather put that money into snow tires (also going to be posting a review of the Nexen Winguard Sport 2s later on).
Looks: I personally think the Taos is one of the best looking SUVs in the segment, and VW SUVs in general look nicer and more mature looking (some might call that boring) than most of the competition. This is entirely subjective but I also think the cornflower blue is the best color for this car, it looks simply fantastic. It also doesn't look very big, which as pro reviewers have pointed out is in stark contrast to how roomy it is inside.
Driving Experience: Powertrain- The 1.5T, like all EA211 engines is a gem. Torquey at low RPMs, has enough power at the top end, is incredibly smooth and refined, and is insanely efficient. The best highway fuel economy I ever got in my Forte GT (1.6T, 7 speed DCT) was 34mpg highway (rated at 35) at 75mph. The Taos weighs basically the same, and is slightly shorter, but the best so far I've managed is 40mpg at 75, and not in ideal conditions. For those who aren't aware, the 1.5T is a newer variant of the 1.4TSI found in the Jetta for years, part of the EA211 Evo family introduced in Europe in 2016. In the 158HP (NA) and 148HP (Europe) guise it has variable geometry turbo vanes, atmospheric plasma spray coated cylinder walls (instead of cast-in liners), as well as Budack cycle (modified miller cycle) and active cylinder technology (it can shut off cylinders 2 and 3 under low-moderate loads). All of the torque is found between 1500 and 3,000RPM, and the 8 speed Aisin auto will happily keep you under 2,000 in easy city driving, and there's plenty of torque to make that happen. It sounds just OK though, nice growl down low but typical 4 cylinder whine at high RPMs. It still has plenty of power at the top end, but unlike say the Hyundai 1.6T, it doesn't "feel" fast. But you give it it throttle and it just accelerates. It's hard to explain, but while it doesn't feel quick its definitely not slow. There's no drama, it just goes. Here's a 0-60 video I took, sport mode with brake torquing.
A lot of reviewers have noticed some issues with turbo lag/delay on these from a stop. I can't say I've noticed any, even before I used Carista to change the throttle behavior. It feels similar to me to driving a lot of DCTs, expect a small delay while the clutch engages when burying it. After using Carista to change the throttle response from time based to direct, its even better. It feels plenty responsive to me. The transmission is also great, as it is in pretty much every application (of which there are many). Smooth, fast shifts, plenty of gears to keep the engine in the torque band, and a tall OD and final drive (75mph is something like 2100RPM or less). The AWD variant though has that weirdly programmed DSG, and with the fuel economy loss I can't really recommend it.
Driving experience- Driving feel, suspension, steering- This is where, in my opinion the Taos shines. Its not a Golf, but when you drive it you can tell it shares the same DNA. There's a lot of to-do about the FWD model having a rear torsion beam instead of full IRS like the AWD model, but honestly having test driven the two I am unable to tell the difference. VW has torsion beams down pat, the spring and damping rates are just right, and its extremely comfortable on the highway, with just a little bit of firmness over bigger bumps. Its much, much more compliant than the Forte GT was. At the same time the handling is still admirable, it is competent in the twisties and has plenty of grip, and not much body roll, and the steering is very VW. Light yet precise, and just enough feedback (though not anywhere close to GTI/GLI levels). All in all, it's an extremely comfortable highway cruiser yet still tossable on back roads. Its also pretty quiet, far quieter than the CRV or HRV, but not as quiet as the Kona, though that could depend a lot on tires. Wind noise is hushed, and road and tire noise is subdued though present depending on the road surface.
Interior: A pleasant place to spend time. The dash does have a lot of hard plastics, though they all feel durable and much better than the bad years of the Jetta. The design is also typical VW, easy to use and understand, simple yet mature. There's one thing a lot of reviews don't touch upon, but the interior trim color changes depending on the trim level. The S has a glossy black trim on the dash and doors, the SE like mine has a matte dark blue (which I love) and the SEL has a glossy gray. The seats are hands down some of the most comfortable modern seats I've ever sat in. They are well cushioned, well appointed with an alcantara-esque leather in the middle of the seats and cloth side bolsters. These are seats that make it easy to soak up the miles on long drives. I'm also a huge fan of VWs new steering wheel design (though thank god they skipped the capacitive touch buttons on the Taos or this would be a different discussion). The seating position is good, high and comfortable but not TOO high, finding a comfortable position is easy. The digital dash is nice, though I can't say I wouldn't have preferred old-school analog gauges. The SEL has the bigger more advanced version that's fully configurable, the SE and down have the smaller model with only 3 layouts (analog speedo w/digital speed, analog tach with digital speed, and digital speed with 2 other options you can configure, average mpg/average speed/distance since start, etc). I usually use the one in the picture, the tach with digital speedometer. The carista/ODBEleven/VAGCOM stuff opens up some additional customization, for instance mine by default was not configured to show oil temp as an option, I was able to enable that. All reviewers have already talked about this but the interior space is incredible considering the size, I don't know what magic VW used but the packaging is great, there is more than enough front and rear space for passengers. I'm almost 6 foot and I can comfortably sit behind myself with room to spare, and plenty of headroom. And it still has a massive hatch/trunk space behind the seats. If you need to haul adults and their stuff comfortably, nobody else does it better in the segment. There is 1 12V outlet under the dash, 2 USB-C ports in front, and 1 USB-C port in back for the rear passengers, as well as rear climate vents (in the SE and SEL anyway). All I can say is this is a fantastic all around interior, well done Volkswagen.
The IQ drive system includes the usual suspects, active lane keep assist (if enabled), adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and "travel assist". These are all well done technologies, though I wish I could set it to default the Adaptive cruise to off, I only use it on long highway trips, but it defaults to on and I haven't been able to find a way to change that. Fortunately I was able to change the default following distance however. Travel assist is pretty close to full self driving on the highway, though you still of course need to keep your hands on the wheel, but it can handle the acceleration/braking/steering for you to a large degree. This package also includes heated seats, heated steering wheel (!!!) and heated side mirrors. These are important features to have for a Northeast car, and automatically turn on when you use remote-start.
This sounds awfully positive so far- and that's because I can't really think of much to complain about. I wouldn't complain about a sport model with the EA888 2.0T as an option for more power, and the programming on the DSG needs fixing. Other than that though, not much. Fit and finish and general quality is great. Built in Puebla Mexico with a lot of European parts (lots of stuff under the hood and under the car stamped Made in Slovakia/Made in France/Made in Germany etc. Which makes sense, since they can use the parts bit from the SEAT Ateca and Skoda Karoq for that stuff which are all built in Europe, mainly Slovakia I believe. The base radio is just fine, and personally I wouldn't upgrade to the SEL for the beats one, too bass-heavy for me. Not rated to tow, but towing 2000lb ish in Europe is allowed, so I may add a hitch down the road for small trailers. So far in 3,000 miles I haven't had any quality issues, and haven't had to go back to the dealer since I picked it up.
All in all, I think the Taos is a great entry by VW into the segment, they leaned heavily on their European models for this, and I'm not too concerned about reliability since these engines and transmissions have proven reliable. Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer in case I forgot anything.
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