A Compact CUV with larger than expected range and efficiency. Cliff Leppke – CleanMPG – Sept. 22, 2022 VW’s Taos slots below the compact American Tiguan in the brand’s lineup. Let’s triangulate its size by comparing its size with the competition. It’s 9.3 inches shorter than the Tiguan, making it just a skosh shorter than Toyota’s RAV4–a mainstream compact SUV—Toyota 180.9 inches vs VW’s 175.8 inches. The wheelbase is 105.6 inches for the FWD VW but 104.7 on RAV4. As such, the Taos’ people-sitting area is roomier than the Toyota RAV4. Taos cargo bay, alas, is smaller. Thus, the Taos’ dimensions are closer to compact than subcompact. Larger than Pint Size It’s a stretch, however, for VW to plaster the Taos moniker on the rump of this SUV and then have us believe it has the panache of New Mexico’s artsy high desert enclave. But if one must live in a dot on VW’s atlas (or Atlas), near Hyunda’s Santa Fe and Tucson why not borrow yet another Southwestern nameplate? It’s less troublesome to the lips than Tiny Touareg II. The FWD Taos’ virtues are decent fuel mileage and front/rear seating. You sit atop suede/mesh swathed thrones with contrasting stitching. This seems peachy as there’s plenty of legroom front and rear. Add a comfortable ride and tidy size and you’ve got VW’s replacement for its Golf wagon. The rear seatbacks easily fold expanding your hauling vista. Aesthetically, the Taos' body borrows heavily from VW’s gene pool—chiseled shoulder lines and rear side-window kinks. Add a Subaru-like generous window greenhouse and you’ve got good sightlines and modest blind spots. My tester included an array of sensors meant to aid maneuvers. While the Taos is likeable, this Dub has faux exterior embellishments. Honesty isn’t its forte. The bumpers have grey metal-like skid plates that aren't, chrome exhaust trim that isn’t for exhaust and a black wedge on the A pillar meant to make the roofline look sleeker. Regardless, after a week of driving it, I focused on the Taos’ easy-going nature. Inside, the Taos’ plastic-shell dash pad and imitation blued-metal dashboard fascia scream cheap. It’s not a total loss. Under this you’ll find a soft-touch ridge. VW wrapped the heated D-shaped steering wheel in leatherette, covered the A pillars in cloth, hemmed the headliner and lent an upscale click to the dashboard’s switchgear. VW incorporated the shifter’s lighted quadrant into the shift knob. The center front armrest is too small and too short for elbow support. The easy-fold split rear seat with pass through, faces vents and USB-C ports. Due to this chair’s upright stance, there’s adult-sized room under the panoramic roof. When that seat is configured for cargo hauling, it rests higher than the load floor. Ahead, the “tuning” knob for the infotainment system often doesn’t tweak channels. Instead, it scrolls through menus. You must press the touchscreen’s arrows to alter frequencies. It’s possible, if you split the satellite radio station menu, to add a terrestrial radio tuning scale. Then, you can roll through the megacycles. Press the start button and VW’s 158-hp 1.5-liter turbo EA211 engine lights up. This alloy-block mill has a slew of efficiency tricks. It’s as if VW’s powertrain specialists speed shopped an automotive Kroger’s aisles for economy-sized devices. VW claims the new 1.5-liter mill has low-friction cylinder liners, a “B” cycle engine induction efficiency scheme and a turbo charger with variable vanes. Real world driving delivers more miles per gallon than expected. VW’s computer said my highway trip nabbed a solid 37 mpg with 29 mpg overall using regular fuel. The EPA’s numbers: 28/36/31 mpgUS city/highway/combined. This VW has an engine start/stop scheme to reduce idling emissions. VW downspeeded the engine. Thus, it does most of its work between 1,000 rpm and 2000 rpm aided by a sudsy Aisin eight-speed automatic transmission. Just a light touch of the go pedal keeps you rolling along. Despite the low engine rpm treatment, engine thrumming is muted. Someone did their homework as the engine/tranny combo is polished. You don’t need the sport mode as a salve for a laboring engine. Urgency, however, isn’t its forte. There are moments such as climbing, say, Milwaukee’s Hoan Bridge where a firm jab of the throttle gets a lazy one, potato, two potato, three potato rest until the engine wakes up. Ride and Handling VW tuned this rig for comfort. Ingress and egress are easy. You’ll notice body roll. Noise is usually well suppressed although some road textures intrude. Yet, I’d rate the cabin as perfect for the not-loud family driving as road chop is smothered and the powertrain doesn't protest. Steering is light but accurate. I’d prefer more steering effort off center. There’s some road sense but you’ve got to twist the tiller with a light touch in order to know what’s up. You must opt for AWD to get a sport-mode steering setting plus an independent rear suspension. Some might find dialing directions fun; you can twist too much arc. Frisky. Brakes work effectively. VW’s eight-inch Digital Cockpit provides driver info. You can tweak the display, but it doesn't let you simultaneously see a simulated tachometer and speedometer. The slow-to-boot MIB3 eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with voice control resides above the center console. My Android phone wirelessly paired with it via Bluetooth. But I found it difficult to find Android Auto with the phone plugged into the USB port. Instead, I saw the menu for a previous driver’s Apple Player or Rambler, both for IOS devices. Also, this system wouldn’t let me hear voice directions to a location it didn’t like. It, moreover, sometimes refused destination addresses not attached to “houses.” Sometimes you enter the address for a location’s parking lot rather than its front door. Just saying. If you double punch the channel logo, you get a time-slip recording of that station. VW doesn’t coat the cargo bay’s metal bits with much of the optional ($395) King’s Red Metallic color coat. Items such as cargo hooks look like primer. There’s a spare tire and toolkit. The liftgate has only one interior pull down handle. Closing it requires muscles. The SE in red-over-black Cloud Tex and cloth interior lists for $28,440. Add $1,200 for panoramic sunroof, $895 for IQ Drive with semi-automated driving extras including adaptive cruise control with start/stop, Lane Assist and Active Blind Spot Monitor. Add another $395 for 18-inch black alloy wheels. The bottom line is $31,325. Front and rear traffic alert with pedestrian detection is standard as is a non-active blind spot monitor—flashes icon on side-view mirror. The active part is steering correction should you veer into trouble after signaling a lane change. You can override this, but you’ll feel steering wheel vibration. Just press the end of the turn signal stalk to pull up the driver assist menu—the first option lets you turn off the lane assist by pressing the steering wheel’s ok button. The Taos in its FWD form seems perfectly well suited to ramble the paved and unpaved roads in New Mexico or other environs. One wishes, however, that VW channeled some of the Audi’s Q3’s (size of the Euro Tiguan) interior finery into the Taos. The price and equipment proposition are difficult for this reviewer to cipher. VW’s Taos is enchanting, offering comfort, space and fuel efficiency. It’s like reserving a room at the El Monte Sagrado luxury resort and not getting the whole enchilada. The view’s great but you must pay extra for full driver-assist peace and tranquility.