Close on the bumper of its compact all-electric SUV the ID.4, Volkswagen has unveiled yet another small utility vehicle. The brand-new Taos is the manufacturer’s latest entry in the burgeoning category.
With its internal combustion engine, the Taos fits in the VW lineup just below the Tiguan. It is just a little shorter and less powerful than its slightly bigger brother.
The addition of a second compact SUV to the lineup is part of a broader VW portfolio strategy to double up vehicles in a category. The Taos and Tiguan follow the launch of the Atlas and its companion Atlas Cross Sport in the mid-size category earlier this year. VW said it is following the strategy of its competitors such as Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru and Jeep, which have multiple vehicles in the same class.
VW is rapidly transforming itself into an “SUV brand,” said Duncan Movassaghi, executive vice-president for sales and marketing at Volkswagen of America. The ID.4, Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport, along with the Tiguan and now Taos, complete the company’s SUV offerings. Movassaghi added that the company expects to build 10 million SUVs by 2030. In this context, the Taos will be interesting to track in the Canadian market when the venerable Golf TSI hatchback is discontinued this year.
In spite of their similarities, the Taos aims to fill a different market niche than the Tiguan. It’s designed as an entry-level vehicle, with a lower cost of ownership and a “more youthful, vibrant personality,” said Hein Schafer, senior vice-president product marketing and strategy at Volkswagen of America. “The Tiguan is more mature, premium and upscale. We feel they can co-exist and complement each other very well.”
With compact SUVs expected to claim 28 per cent of the U.S. market by the end of this decade, VW deliberately designed – and named – the car to suit American tastes. Naming the Taos after a renowned American ski resort evokes outdoors adventure and wholesome fresh air – ideas that may well resonate in this pandemic-tinged marketplace.
Built on the VW MQB modular platform, the Taos will be about 236 mm shorter than the Tiguan, but thanks to a long wheelbase, it will have only 45 litres less passenger volume. It will also offer about 1,877 litres of cargo space with the rear seats folded down, standing out in a class where the average is only 1,416.
The engine is a new version of the 1.5-litre turbo used in the Jetta sedan, generating 158 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Base models will be front-wheel drive with an eight-speed automatic. Patrick Danielson, VW Canada’s director of product planning, said it’s expected that “the vast majority” of models sold in Canada will be equipped with VW’s all-wheel-drive 4-Motion and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
VW says it took pains in designing the Taos to be distinct from the Tiguan, since they will both compete in the same class. However, in both its interior and exterior appearance, the Taos is without question a Volkswagen. It prominently displays the automaker’s familiar round logo and new horizontal design features, such as the LED light bar on the grille and the double-L-shaped LED headlights. Likewise, the interior décor and seating share the same sleek, austere qualities that are familiar to VW owners.
The instrument cluster is digital and customizable, and the infotainment system is operated from an eight-inch touch screen with voice control. Wireless connectivity to driving apps is standard, while navigation, 10-colour LED mood lighting and an upgraded eight-speaker stereo are optional.
In building three trim levels – Trendline, Comfortline and Highline – the manufacturer aimed to ensure customers did not have to buy the top model in order to get critical safety equipment. Although trim details are not yet available, company representatives noted that the six safety technologies – forward-collision warning with autonomous braking, active blind-spot monitor, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go feature, high-beam control, adaptive front-lighting system and park-distance control – in the optional IQ.Drive package will also be available individually.
While Canadian pricing for the Taos will not be available until next year, Schafer suggested the U.S. MSRP would be in the US$23,000 range. It will be available in Canada during the summer of 2021 as a 2022 model.
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