Pros: Huge back seat and cargo area for the segment; strong fuel economy; quality interior; functional roof rails
Cons: Bland to drive with numb steering and mushy throttle response; so-so safety scores
“Compact” SUVs have gotten awfully big. They’ve also gotten awfully expensive, with the Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s of the world quickly approaching $40,000. For families or those simply looking for an ample amount of space and utility, that might mean going the used route, but before you do, there is a smart alternative: the 2024 Volkswagen Taos. Technically, it’s a subcompact SUV, but it has a genuinely family-friendly back seat and a cargo area that can fit more inside it than plenty of SUVs one price category above.
That size alone equates to strong value for the VW Taos, with most trim levels costing just over $30,000. It doesn’t stop there. Feature content is ample, interior quality is well above-average and you should be able to get 30 mpg. We also think the Taos looks pretty cool, too, with its of-the-moment body cladding, black wheels and available contrast roof.
All of this adds up to one of our top-recommended small SUVs along with the Buick Envista, Chevy Trax and Kia’s Seltos and Niro hybrid. The Ford Bronco Sport and Subaru Crosstrek should also be considered by those attracted to the Taos’ extra utility and quasi-rugged vibe.
What’s new for 2024?
The IQ.Drive driver assistance package is now standard on every Taos, bringing adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist to even the base Taos S. That trim level also picks up a standard heated leatherette steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers. The SE trim level picks up dual-zone automatic climate control. A new SE Black package adds a black contrast roof, black wheels and other black exterior styling elements. Prices also went down a bit for 2024.
What are the Taos interior and in-car technology like?
The Taos pulls heavily from the Volkswagen parts bin, which is just fine. The same high-quality switchgear and user-friendly touchscreen interfaces you’ll find in the Tiguan are also found in the lower-priced Taos. VW’s Digital Cockpit instrument panel is also standard equipment (8 inches for S and SE, 10 inches for SEL), allowing drivers a wide array of customization options to provide as little or as much information directly in front of you as you desire. Materials quality is comparable to everything in the segment save the Mazda CX-30 and Honda HR-V – expect plenty of hard plastics but with a few strategically placed pieces of painted trim and padded leatherette to spruce up the joint. We also like that every trim has some variation of a two-tone color scheme.
There are two infotainment systems available. The base S has a 6.5-inch touchscreen with a more basic interface, but it does include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The SE and SEL gain an 8-inch touchscreen (see above), with enhanced functionality plus wireless charging and connectivity for Apple/Android. Both systems are easy to see and reach, and unlike VW’s newer system in the ID.4, GTI and 2024 Atlas, are actually user-friendly. In this cast, older is definitely better.
How big is the Taos?
The Taos is a few inches longer than other subcompact SUVs like the Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30, but is still closer to those than compact models like the Toyota RAV4. You don’t really notice this extra size while driving, but in addition to some smart interior packaging, you absolutely notice it when trying to fit people into the back seat or load up the cargo area.
The back seat is particularly impressive. We were able to fit a giant rear-facing Britax Boulevard car seat and still have plenty of space for a 6-foot-3 passenger up front. That’s rare for any compact SUV, let alone this smaller segment. It also translates into genuine adult-friendly space regardless of who’s up front. The back doors are also quite large.
Cargo space differs slightly depending on whether you get all-wheel drive: it’s 27.9 cubic-feet without it and 24.9 with it due to a higher load floor. With front-wheel drive, the Taos managed to hold more stuff in our luggage test than anything in the segment save for the Bronco Sport. In fact, it was more voluminous than several compact SUVs. We also like that the Taos has raised roof rails, making it easier to swap aftermarket roof racks between cars.
What are the Taos fuel economy and performance specs?
Unlike many competitors, the Taos offers only one engine, but it effectively splits the performance difference between those rivals’ respective choices. Its 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four produces 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.
Front-wheel drive is standard and is paired with a traditional eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual (aka DSG). Though you may notice some slight differences in their behavior, they’re basically just automatics that shift smoothly as expected. Fuel economy with FWD is 28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. With AWD those drop to 24/32/27, but the Taos is nevertheless one of the most efficient midcompact SUVs. It’s also worth noting that its total range is around 400 miles.
What’s the Taos like to drive?
Despite the front- and all-wheel drive Taos models having different transmissions and rear suspensions, we’ve found their handling, ride quality and powertrain response to be similar from behind the wheel. Both versions of the Taos we drove erred on the side of comfort over performance, demonstrating well-controlled responses to bigger bumps and sopping up smaller pavement imperfections with a sophistication expected of a German brand. Its chassis is more than capable of keeping its poise when hustling along a winding road, but Volkswagen’s steering — particularly in the FWD model — prevents you from actually feeling the experience, let alone enjoy it. It’s Novocaine-numb on center, then feels like you’re turning elastic bands thereafter. Opting for the AWD model adds drive modes, one of which includes a Sport mode for notably better steering. That said, if you’re looking for a more involving drive, almost anything is a better choice, especially the Chevy Trax and Mazda CX-30.
Also like other Volkswagens, the Taos doesn’t have the sharpest response to throttle inputs. Whether it’s throttle tuning or turbo lag from the small-displacement engine, the result is a car that likes to make sure you really mean it. Similarly, neither transmission is particularly quick about downshifting as needed. Like the steering, this isn’t really a deal breaker, but it does speak to VW’s subcompact SUV being more like the Jetta than a GTI.
What other VW Taos reviews can I read?
2022 Volkswagen Taos First Drive Review
Read this more in-depth comparisons between the FWD and AWD Taos versions, as well as the SE and SEL trim levels. We also include more info about its design and engineering.
Volkswagen Taos Luggage Test
We take a close look into the Taos cargo area, which actually differs in size depending on whether you get FWD or AWD. We had the FWD one and found that it’s second to only the Bronco Sport in its segment.
What is the 2024 Taos price?
Buying a Taos couldn’t be simpler. There are only three trim levels, two of which are available with front- or all-wheel drive. The SEL is all-wheel-drive only. Pricing is very competitive despite its size, and the fact many assume German cars are pricier than those from other brands. Its starting price of $25,420, including the $1,425 destination charge, is basically the same as a Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona and Honda HR-V. Opting for the SE jumps the price beyond the mid-grade trims of those competitors, but it also has more standard power and space. The range-topping SEL goes well beyond them and the Taos’ strong value proposition very much evaporates.
Unlike some competitors, there aren’t any special sporty or more off-road-oriented trim levels available. The trim levels really just represent a gradual increase in equipment.
All prices below include the $1,425 destination charge.
S FWD: $25,420
S AWD: $27,760
SE FWD: $29,590
SE AWD: $31,040
SEL AWD: $34,940
What are the Taos safety ratings and driver assistance features?
Every Taos now comes standard with forward collision warning (with pedestrian detection), automatic emergency braking, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability. The performance of these systems is average for the industry.
NHTSA gave the Taos four out of five stars for overall crash protection, including a four-star frontal rating and five-star side rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it mixed results. It received the best-possible rating of “Good” in most crash tests, but a second-best “Average” in the “small overlap front: passenger side” test and for its head restraints and seats. Its forward collision prevention system got top marks for vehicle-to-vehicle performance, but vehicle-to-pedestrian performance was deemed merely “basic” (a score of 1 on a 0-3 scale). The base headlights were also given a “Marginal” score (Average or Good is needed to be considered for an IIHS Top Safety Pick award), though the SEL’s upgraded lights got a “Good.”