Golf replacement is a serious small SUV
Volkswagen has unleashed its fifth SUV with the launch of the 2022 Taos. The new compact SUV replaces the venerable Golf TSI hatchback in the North American market.
Although VW came to the SUV game later than most manufacturers, it is working to catch up. "We resisted for a long time," said Volkswagen Canada's public relations manger Thomas Tetzlaff at a recent launch event for the Taos. Now, with the launch in the past year of the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport mid-size products, and more recently the ID.4 EV joining the Tiguan in the line-up, VW says 60 percent of its sales are SUVs.
The Taos is a "smaller" compact SUV, not a sub-compact, said VW Canada product planning director Patrick Danielson. The end of the line for the Golf meant an opportunity to enter the small SUV market, he said. And it's a potentially big opportunity for a small vehicle at that, with more than 600,000 units in the segment sold every year.
Taos is 23.6 cm shorter than the Tiguan, and most closely matches the footprint of a Kia Sportage. Danielson said the Taos will compete with the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota Rav 4, for example.
Pricing starts at $26,695 for the Trendline trim. It is equipped with front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic. Moving to all-wheel drive gives you a seven-speed dual clutch unit and bumps the price to $29,195.
The mid-level Comfortline starts at $29,895 in FWD and $32,395 for AWD. This is where VW has packaged some of its Level 2 autonomy features, adding autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection. This trim also adds wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an eight-inch touchscreen display and rearview camera.
The top of the line Highline model starts at $36,695 and is only available in AWD. It tops out at $38,195 with 19-inch alloy rims ($500) and the advanced driver assistance package ($1,000), which includes road sign recognition, lane keeping, traffic jam and emergency assist, adaptive cruise control and remote start.
All models are powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine that is an updated Jetta powerplant. It delivers 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Front Fuel economy in the FWD models is 8.4./6.6/7.6 (litres per 100 km, city/hwy/combined). In the AWD version VW says it is 9.5/7.4/8.5. The fuel tank has a 55-litre capacity.
The Taos can comfortably accommodate four adults. Rear legroom is exceptionally good, with space for even those with very long legs. The back seats are also surprisingly cushy and comfortable. A centre armrest folds down, and reveals a pass-through for long items.
Heated front seats are standard equipment, but ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel are only available on the top trim. Nonetheless, the cockpit is well designed and very comfortable. The design is clean and unadorned, making it a restful environment.
Controls are thoughtfully located and easy to figure out, for the most part. The multi-function steering wheel, which is standard on all trims allows one-button access to the cruise control and autonomy functions, as well as volume and voice control.
Cargo capacity is generous, and well proportioned for a vehicle in the smaller compact class. The Taos's upright rear door makes for an almost cubic cargo compartment that has a removable cover for security. With the rear seats in use volume is 790 litres, and with the seats folded down it is 1,866. The rear seat also has a 60:40 fold-down configuration.
The Taos looks bigger than it really is, and has a rather serious, plain exterior. It borrows from its big brother Atlas, and adds plastic trim on the wheel arches and rocker panels for a more rugged appearance. LED lighting is standard, as are roof rails. There is no power tailgate offered on any trim.
The Taos drives in a predictably Volkswagen fashion, meaning it has extremely good road manners and just enough power. Handling is smooth and direct, and the AWD can negotiate rough roads and slippery conditions easily. Disc bakes all around deliver great stopping power.
The Taos is backed by a seven-year corrosion, five-year powertrain, and four-year/80,000-km vehicle warranties, and comes with four years or 80,000 km of roadside assistance.
For a fleet looking for a small SUV, the Taos could be a worthy choice. It's a serious, no-frills package with decent fuel economy and enough space to make it a versatile people mover or service vehicle. All-wheel drive makes it suitable for most parts of Canada.
Price: $26,695 - $38,195
Powertrain: 1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder
Fuel Economy: FWD models: 8.4./6.6/7.6 (litres per 100 km, city/hwy/combined). AWD: 9.5/7.4/8.5.
Passenger Capacity: two rows, five passengers.
Cargo Capacity: Behind 1st row: 1,866L; Behind 2nd row: 790L