- Unexpectedly spacious interior
- Comfy, easy driving manners
- Great highway fuel economy
- Insultingly overpriced
- Slow acceleration
- Lacks standard driver aids
As the workaday Volkswagen Golf is now sold only in overseas markets, there’s been a hatchback-shaped hole in Volkswagen’s United States lineup. (Fortunately, we still get the Golf GTI and Golf R.) Meanwhile, the subcompact SUV segment has exploded, eventually encompassing more than 20 wee SUVs—but none made by Volkswagen. That changed with the introduction of the Taos, which aims to fill VW’s hatchback-y void in price and practicality while elbowing its way into contention in a hot segment.
The single Taos made available for SUV of the Year evaluation was loaded with nearly every feature—which ultimately led to it being unanimously nixed in the first round. We say “nearly every feature” because a recall on all-wheel-drive models meant that only a front-drive example was available. It came in range-topping SEL trim, equipped with niceties like a larger digital gauge display, premium audio, and leather seating upholstery. The SEL is also the sole trim that comes with adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist—standard tech on every Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-30, and automatic-transmission Subaru Crosstrek.
So we all blinked in amazement at the Taos’ window sticker, which carried a bottom line of $34,280. For a small front-wheel-drive crossover. With 158 hp. And no power liftgate. Or standard sunroof.
So the Taos flopped in the value portion of our criteria. “I looked at this price and nearly had a heart attack,” Mexico editor Miguel Cortina said. “How could Volkswagen expect people to pay so much for this?”
We couldn’t figure it out. The Taos’ interior is filled with hard, cheap plastics, and an 8.5-second 0-60-mph time makes it among the slowest vehicles in this year’s competition. In addition, an all-wheel-drive model might not have gotten stuck in the sandpit as this front-driver did.
This isn’t to say the Taos doesn’t have commendable attributes—far from it. Its packaging is brilliant, and it feels more spacious than its exterior proportions suggest. Even this author, our tallest editor (6-foot-10), could squeeze into the second row behind the driver’s seat adjusted for himself. Additionally, its cargo capacity rivals some crossovers a size up. At 36 mpg, it’s tied with the Nissan Kicks for best-in-segment highway fuel economy.
Although the Taos’ driving dynamics don’t provide enthusiast thrills, they will suffice for drivers seeking a spacious, straightforward, and confident-handling vehicle. “The cushy ride, light steering, and punchy four-pot would make for a compelling combination at the right price,” Detroit editor Alisa Priddle said. Editorial director Ed Loh noted it has “a certain sporty-in-a-no-frills-rental-car vibe” and equated its “grippy, planted” sensation to that of the iconic GTI.
Thing is, at $30,540 to start, the GTI can be had for even less than the Taos we evaluated. This is an instance where we wished for a lower-spec example to try. “Drop the price to the basic S trim’s $24,190, and I can make a case for this crossover,” senior editor Greg Fink said. “It’d be a charming little thing if its cost was more in line with its competitors.”
But the MSRP of the Taos we tried simply wasn’t. Decent as it may be, Volkswagen’s subcompact SUV would need to be great to justify the outlay.
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