|Positives: Easy driving manners, feels spritely in traffic, Tiguan looks for less money, more space than you expect, clean interior layout, great fuel economy.
|Negatives: A lot of cheap plastic inside, front-wheel drive's torsion beam rear suspension is less refined than the AWD's multi-link setup.
|Bottom Line: The Taos is perhaps the most impressive crossover in the VW lineup, mostly because of what you get for your money, which is attractive styling, more space than you expected, and easy driving manners. It's a win for the brand.
We were pretty impressed with just about everything in the Taos's driving experience. In AWD guise, it's even better. The Taos is actually quite adept at handling and highway cruising, and it feels comfortable and balanced.
Ride Quality: Although the Taos rides on the firm side, the MQB platform provides a composed and comfortable ride that doesn't feel harsh.
Acceleration: 0-60 comes in about 7.4 seconds, and the 8-speed transmission does a good job of managing shifts. The Taos feels quicker than it is, and we're certainly glad there's no CVT.
Braking: The top of the pedal has a tiny bit of mushiness, but the rest of the travel is smooth and progressive.
Steering: The steering isn't as good as the Jetta or GTI's, but turn-in is relatively quick, and it's on center at highway speeds. Feedback through the steering wheel is largely absent.
Handling: The handling is respectable with some body roll. Oversteer isn't as noticeable with 4Motion AWD as it is with the FWD model.
VW infotainment has come a long way in terms of looks and operation, but it remains pretty utilitarian. We're thankful that the menu icons are big and easy to read. The optional digital cockpit gives the interior a more premium look, and the various viewing options and information are both attractive and helpful.
Infotainment System: The 8" touchscreen has a sensor that detects your hand as it approaches and also allows pinch/zoom/swipe control. There's also Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless charging. We're just thrilled the system from the new Golf GTI/Golf R/ID.4 isn't in this one.
Controls: The climate control knobs are easy to operate but look and feel cheap. The audio knobs are on the small side. We're not sure why since there's ample space on the infotainment screen frame for larger units.
When it comes to styling, the Taos doesn't deviate much from its bigger siblings, the three-row Atlas and the smaller three-row Tiguan. The creased and squared-off look of the Taos is handsome and well-proportioned.
Front: The front is a bit busier than the larger VW crossovers, but it's still attractive. The large black mesh upper grille and the mate well with the square headlights. The mesh on the lower grille is largely faux and a bit overdone for our liking.
Rear: The taillight signature is complex, but the overall shape and style isn't as refined as the Atlas or Tiguan's, but the back end is still handsome.
Profile: With the exception of the totally unnecessary faux fender badge, we really like the side view of the Taos. The short front and rear overhangs keep the dimensions tight, and the black wheels and fender trim gave our Taos SE a truly sporty look.
Cabin: Like most VW's, there's a lot of grey and black plastic in there. Some surfaces are hard and uncomfortable to the touch, but the overall look is clean and sporty.
The Taos is surprisingly roomy inside, especially in row two. The spaciousness it brings is tremendous in this segment where smaller competitors like the Mazda CX-30 and the Hyundai Kona can't compare.
Front Seats: We drove hundreds of miles with no problem at all thanks to the right amount of cushioning and bolstering.
Rear Seats: We were shocked at how room it is in back. Row two in the Taos actually has 0.3 inches more legroom than the three-row Atlas (37.9 vs 37.6 inches). The seatbacks and cushions are on the flat side, but we didn't notice any discomfort.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The engine is on the noisy side when pushed, and there is a modicum of wind noise, but the Taos feels solid and exhibited no errant noises during our test drive.
Visibility: Visibility is good all around thanks to decently-narrow pillars and a good seating position.
Climate: The heat worked pretty well during the colder days we drove the Taos. Its AC isn't quite as good, unfortunately, as we experienced on our last Taos tester during the summer.
The Taos nails the safety scores and ranks at the front of the small crossover pack when it comes to peace of mind. It earned excellent marks from both testing bodies and also comes with a good set of standard safety features. It does not, however, come with an automatic emergency braking feature.
IIHS Rating: Not tested.
NHTSA Rating: Not tested.
Standard Tech: The SEL trimmed Taos comes with an Intelligent Crash Response System, Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Front Assist Forward Collision Warning & Autonomous Emergency Braking w/ Pedestrian Monitoring, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Cruise Control, Hill Hold Control, and a Rearview Camera.
Optional Tech: Our tester came outfitted with a Travel Assist Semi-Automated Driving Assistance, Adaptive Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go, Lane Keeping Assist, Emergency Assist Semi-Automated Vehicle Assistance in a Medical Emergency, Active Blind Spot Monitor, and Front Assist & Rear Traffic Alert.
The Taos is remarkably practical for smaller families due to its very usable interior. The cargo area behind row two is well-sized, and the overall space in with the seats folded flat is cavernous for this segment.
Storage Space: There are some good, medium-sized spaces in the front row, including the angled compartment for wireless phone charging, the deep armrest, and good door pockets.
Cargo Room: The Taos has 27.9 cubes behind the second row and a very large 65.9 cubes with row two seats folded flat. It's bigger than the Mazda CX-5 and almost as large as the Toyota RAV4, an overall bigger vehicle than the Taos.
The 1.6T engine strikes the right balance between performance and fuel economy. Our AWD tester didn't hit the combined number, but we drove it in a spirited fashion most of the time. The FWD version does better, but it's not as good to drive as the 4Motion trimmed model.
Observed: 29.3 mpg.
Distance Driven: 144 miles.
Our tester came with the upgraded BeatsAudio premium system with subwoofer. It's standard equipment on the SEL trim, which is a welcomed addition. Sound was clear, full, and had decent bass. It's a very good system.