Volkswagen’s New Taos:
If you thought EV brands were multiplying like proverbial rabbits, take a look at the compact crossovers already on dealer showrooms – or soon to be headed our way. Even if those showrooms are currently packed with all shapes and most crossover sizes, OEMs continue to find holes to fill in those lineups. Evidence of just that is the debut of Toyota’s Corolla Cross, coming in beneath the RAV4 and (perhaps) adjacent to the C-HR, while Kia fits its Seltos above the Soul and below the Sportage. And for purposes of this, we welcome the arrival of Volkswagen’s Taos, the company’s new entry portal into the People’s Car lineup.
Slotting below Volkswagen’s compact Tiguan, logic would suggest the new Taos debut as a subcompact crossover, aimed at Honda’s HR-V or Nissan’s Rogue Sport. But dimensionally and conceptually VW provides a just-this-much-smaller variant of its own Tiguan, with a wheelbase but four inches shorter, and an overall length of 176 inches, compared to the Tiguan’s 186 inches. And in its sheetmetal the Taos is almost indistinguishable from the Tiguan, unless parked side-by-side. We did this at a stoplight, and I wanted to get out and step it off…but I had a passenger. And it was a stoplight.
Inside, Tiguan-like width (both are just over six feet across) and ample rear legroom allow the Taos to serve as a credible cubicle for five, something most in the subcompact crossover category can’t do. And the interior design – bowing to its Teutonic roots – is clean and uncluttered, adding to the spacious perception. Hard plastics on the dash are a concession to its $24K (with destination) base price, and work well enough at that price point, but don’t work at all if you go higher spec and spend over $30K. And while trying to adapt to our digital age, the lighting and graphics of the ‘dials’ and infotainment impress (or don’t) as little more than Radio Shack and not – as I’d spec – Blaupunkt or Becker.
With generous room for four or five, you’d hope the Taos would provide adequate room for their stuff – and it does. Total interior volume is 99.5 cubic feet, just a couple shy of the larger Tiguan. And with the second row folded, you’ll enjoy 60 cubic feet of cargo, which should swallow most of a mountain bike, or – as older VW ads suggest – an upholstered chair found by two guys at a curb. Airport runs won’t be a challenge, while skipping the airport for the drive to West Texas would be completely appropriate.
In its ride and handling the Taos veers most significantly – literally and figuratively – from its larger stablemate. In our time with the Tiguan over the last couple of years I found its responsiveness adequate, but nothing close to what you might describe as recreational. And that’s fine, because there’s little in the segment where you can have genuine fun behind the wheel.
Despite a smaller, 1.5-liter powerplant producing just 158 horsepower (almost 30 short of the Tiguan’s 184 hp), the Taos offers what seems to be genuine responsiveness, with good tip-in at the throttle and relaxed cruising at highway speeds. It was – in a word – fun, although test reports of its all-wheel-drive stablemate suggest muted fun, given the all-wheel drive’s 250-pound weight penalty. And in front-wheel-drive form, the EPA estimates 28 City/36 Highway and 31 Combined; that’s almost hybrid territory, without the complexity of a hybrid.
With all the Taos has going for it, the one disconnect from this desk is its price point. The base MSRP (with destination) is just over $24K, which is about the same as the base Golf, before that car’s discontinuation. Add all-wheel drive and a couple of trim levels and you can quickly surpass $30K, at which point you can find any number of alternatives, including VW’s own Tiguan, as well as a base GTI! Given that the Taos is assembled in Mexico (Señor Golf), this consumer thinks there should be savings on the showroom appropriate to the savings found in that Mexican assembly. I had suggested the same when Fiat moved production of its 500 to Mexico; the car should have sold in the U.S. for well under $15K, and instead it sold for between $15K and $20K. And it didn’t sell.
Put a base, well-equipped Taos on showrooms at just under $20K (plus destination) and you’d again have a real People’s Car. And given its efficiency, if the U.S. government would look into once again getting clunkers off the road and their owners into something clean and efficient, federal and state incentives could put the on-the-road cost of a Taos closer to $15K. That’s Señor Savings!