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A faster shifting transmission and independent rear suspension come with the optional all-wheel-drive.

COURTESY PHOTO: VOLKWAGEN - The handsome all-new 2022 Volkswagen Taos is improved by adding the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system that includes an uprgraded transmission and independent rear suspension.Living in the wet Pacific Northwest, I always tell new car buyers to get all-wheel-drive if it's an option. Not only does it provide better traction on paved streets in rain and snow, AWD makes it easier to reach favorite outdoor recreation spots on unpaved trails.

But adding 4Motion to Volkswagen's impressive all-new subcompact Taos crossover SUV pays additional benefits — a dual clutch automatic transmission and an improved rear suspension. Having previously tested and been please with the front-drive version, I was surprised by the better performance of the AWD model. It is definitely worth the additional cost.

COURTESY PHOTO: VOLKWAGEN - The boxy design of the all-new Volkwagen Taos maximizes interior space.

The fact that Volkswagen has even introduced the 2022 Taos is something of a surprise. Like other manufacturers under government pressure to improve mileage, it has promised to shift to electric vehicles in coming years and has already introduced its first all-electric crossover, the ID.4. But most buyers aren't ready to swap their gas or hybrid vehicles for those that run only on electricity yet for a variety of reasons, including no place to recharge them regularly and range anxiety on long trips.

So, like most competitors, Volkswagen is hedging its bets by continuing to introduce new and redesigned gas-powered vehicles. The 2022 Taos competes in a relatively new market niche of subcompact crossover SUVs that offer more interior room and cargo space than expected, thanks to manufacturing advances. It also provides excellent mileage, with EPA ratings of 28/36 for front-drive versions to 25/32 for those with AWD.

COURTESY VOLKSWAGEN - The interior of the 2022 Toas is classic Volkswagen with a clean design and high quality materials for a small crossover SUV.

All versions come with a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline four that produces 158 horsepower and 184 foot pounds of torque. Front-drive versions are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission while the AWD versions come with a dual clutch seven-speed automatic. Although some competitors offer more powerful engines, in my experience, both versions of the Taos pull strongly off the line and are able to handle steep hills and freeway passing with ease. This is especially true in the Sport mode, and manual shifting is also available for those who want even more control.

As noted before, front-drive versions come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a torsion-beam rear suspension setup. Those with 4Motion include a seven-speed dual clutch DSG automatic and a multilink rear suspension. I knew this when I tested the front-drive version and wondered what how much better the AWD version could be because it drove very well. But the AWD version felt sportier. Although I didn't time them, the dual clutch automatic impressed me as shifting quicker. And having a fully independent suspension improved the ride and made corning more fun.

COURTESY VOLKSWAGEN - The rear seats are surprisingly roomy in the 2022 Volkswagen Taos for such a small crossover.

Aside from that, everything else is the same between the front-drive and AWD versions, which was alright with me. The Taos is a handsome crossover that is slightly smaller than the redesigned compact Tiguan. Both a styled like the midsize Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport, meaning they are boxy with blunt front ends that give the whole line a purposeful look.

Inside the Taos is similar to all other Vokkwagens, which is to say, simple and functional, with a mix of mostly durable materials and only a little hard plastic. My test SE version had a full leatherette interior that looked and felt very close to natural look. It also had an enormous amount of interior space, especially in the rear seats, thanks in large part to its boxy design.

COURTESY VOLKSWAGEN - Rear cargo space in the 2022 Volkswagen Taos  is very reasonable for such a small SUV.

The Taos comes in three trim levels: S, SE, and SEL. Pricing starts at just $22,995 for the base FWD version, which comes well equipped with a full suite of modern safety features. Base models get an 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster and a 6.5-inch center touchscreen, with the displays in higher trims increasing to 10.3 and 8.0 inches, respectively. Practically every modern feature is available on the higher trim levels, including a full leather interior and panoramic sun roof.

Surprisingly, the 4Motion-equipped Taos SE cost slightly less than the front-drive SEL. Frankly, I couldn't remember anything the SEL had that wasn't also included on the SE, or at least I didn't miss what the additional upgrades were. So that's another reason to make sure you consider the 2022 Taos with 4Motion if you're in the market for a small Crossover SUV these days.

COURTESY PHOTO: VOLKSWAGEN - A digital gauge packavge is available for the 2022 Volkwagen Taos.

A Pamplin Media Group review of the front-drive 2022 Taos can be found here.

2022 Volkswagen Taos 4Motion

Base price: $23,495 (S)

Price as tested: $32,775 (SE)

Type: Subcompact crossover

Engine: Turbocharged 1.5-liter (158 hp, 184 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic; 8-speed automatic

Drive modes: On-road, Off-road, Off-road custom, Snow

EPA estimated mileage: 25/32 to 28/36

Overall length: 176 inches

Curb weight: 3,175 to 3,430 pounds

Final assembly: Puebla, Mexico.

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