Competes with: Chevrolet Trailblazer, Jeep Compass, Mazda CX-30, Subaru Crosstrek
Looks like: A shrink-wrapped Volkswagen Atlas
Drivetrain: Turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 158 horsepower and front- or all-wheel drive; eight-speed automatic transmission (FWD) or seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic (AWD)
Hits dealerships: Mid-2021
Volkswagen doesn’t think the Tiguan is cutting it for SUV shoppers on an entry-level budget, and officials say a short-wheelbase version of the SUV that’s sold overseas would be too costly to offer here. So instead we get the Taos, a new SUV with a length and a wheelbase landing part way between the Tiguan and micro-SUVs like the Ford EcoSport or Chevrolet Trax.
Related: Volkswagen Is Taking Us to Taos With New Compact SUV
Officials characterize the Taos as more of an entry-level compact SUV, akin to a Jeep Compass or Subaru Crosstrek, than a true subcompact. Whatever it is, the Taos hits dealerships around mid-2021 as a 2022 model. Pricing will come closer to launch, but it’s a safe bet the Taos will start notably below the Tiguan, which runs at least $26,440 with destination. That would put it among the slew of subcompact and entry-compact SUVs, however you want to split hairs between them.
Up front, the Taos borrows styling from the Atlas Cross Sport and refreshed Atlas, with similar piped headlight accents continuing visually into the grille’s horizontal bars. Below that is something more unique: a tricolor bumper, with a black center portion and silver lower trim offsetting the body-colored elements. It’s an aggressive statement — especially considering that’s the look on most trim levels, not something reserved for a sportier R-Line variant.
In back, the Taos looks the part of a softer-edged Tiguan. Volkswagen curiously chose to mount the SUV’s all-caps name between the license plate and the lower bumper, a location spokespeople said the brand might do for other SUVs down the road. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard on the Taos, with 18s and 19s optional. Overall length is 9.3 inches short of the Tiguan, with a wheelbase down 3.9 inches — dimensions that put the SUV roughly in company with the Subaru Crosstrek, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage.
Cabin styling follows that of Volkswagen’s Jetta sedan, with a shelflike dashboard that houses a digital gauge cluster and central touchscreen. A band of stitched vinyl spans the dash, an upscale flair you seldom see from the VW brand. Elsewhere, traditional cues remain: It’s nice to see Volkswagen keep to mostly physical dashboard and steering-wheel controls, plus a traditional gear selector — sensibilities that appear on the outs in other recent introductions (see the ID.4, the next-generation Golf and, to a lesser extent, the refreshed Tiguan).
An 8-inch virtual gauge cluster and 6.5-inch touchscreen are standard; higher trim levels can upsize to an 8-inch touchscreen with Volkswagen’s latest MIB3 multimedia system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both wireless, come with the optional MIB3 system. Two-tone seats come in cloth, vinyl or leather upholstery, depending on trim level. Top trims can also have a panoramic moonroof, keyless access system, a premium Beats Audio system, wireless phone charging, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated and ventilated front seats.
Engine and Transmission
The Taos gets an upsized version of the Jetta’s EA211 four-cylinder, displacing 1.5 liters versus the Jetta’s 1.4 liters. It makes 158 horsepower, up 11 hp versus the 1.4-liter, with an identical 184 pounds-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard; optional all-wheel drive pairs with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic. FWD models employ a torsion-beam rear suspension. AWD models upgrade to a more sophisticated, multilink setup, but results matter more than formula: The Jetta, for example, rides fine with a torsion beam. Stay tuned for our driving impressions.
Automatic emergency braking, an important safety feature that’s increasingly standard among mass-market cars, remains optional on the Taos. It’s part of a package on lower trims called IQ.Drive, which also packages forward collision warning and a few driver-assist features. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that AEB will all but certainly become standard one model year from now. Volkswagen is among the vast majority of automakers that agreed in 2016 to make automatic braking standard by September 2022 — which is to say the 2023 model year, in all likelihood; the Taos is new for 2022.
More From Cars.com:
- Volkswagen Teases More Taos
- 2021 Volkswagen ID.4: GTI Power in a Tiguan Package With Beetle Spirit
- 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Video: VW’s First Long-Range Electric Car in U.S. Is (Shocker!) an SUV
- What Is the Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line, And Is It Worth It?
- 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan Refresh Updates Looks, Tech
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