We test drove two of Volkswagen’s newest SUVs through the birthplace of Cinco de Mayo.
Puebla is a large city a few hours south and east of Mexico City, and it’s where the yearly celebration on May 5 sprang to life, recognizing a historic and pivotal event that took place on local streets.
This year, Volkswagen invited select media out to witness the May 5 celebration firsthand — on the 160th anniversary of Puebla’s fight for survival — and test drive the locally manufactured Volkswagen Taos and Tiguan SUVs throughout the city and nearby areas.
Here’s our take on these two SUVs.
2022 Volkswagen Taos First Drive Review
Puebla’s Volkswagen plant manufactures three of Volkswagen’s top-volume selling automobiles in the US, including the Taos and Tiguan sport utility vehicles.
The SUV segment has grown for the brand. In 2016, only 14% of Volkswagen customers opted for the company’s two SUV offerings. However, 5 years later, VW boasts five different SUV models, which now account for 70% of its customer base.
Since its launch in the spring of 2021, the compact Volkswagen Taos SUV sold over 46,000 units. With an MSRP starting just below $24,000, the Taos offers a wide variety of features at an affordable cost.
Our 2022 all-wheel-drive VW Taos 1.5T SEL tester donned an eye-popping Cornflower Blue color. It showcased a seven-speed DSG (direct-shift gearbox) automated manual transmission with dual clutches mated to a turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder TSI engine, generating 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.
Overall, it was fine for around-town endeavors and city-to-city jaunts. Although we didn’t fuel it up during our time with it, federal EPA ratings confirm 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and a combined rating of 28 mpg.
The Taos’s sleek exterior and flashy 19-inch alloy wheels greeted parade passersby as occupants rode in comfort with front seats offering both heated and ventilated accouterments.
Simple-to-use center stack controls gave way to quick adjustments in heavy Cinco de Mayo traffic, too. An optional power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof created an expansive open-air experience while a BeatsAudio sound system and subwoofer kicked out Tejano tunes — although our attention was closely paid to Mexico’s traffic versus Mexican-influenced music.
Gobs of technology, convenience, and safety items were offered in our 2022 all-wheel-drive 1.5T SEL Taos.
From the standard Volkswagen Digital Cockpit Pro and remote engine start to an adaptive front lighting system with dynamic cornering lights and available IQ.DRIVE driver-assistance package, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos is a sure-fire bet for city-dwelling escapades.
Our all-wheel-drive tester topped out at $36,040 USD, including the $1,195 destination charge.
2022 Volkswagen Tiguan First Drive Review
One step bigger, the Volkswagen Tiguan is the bestselling VW in the world. The Tiguan pumps out 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, boosted by a 2.0L four-cylinder TSI engine.
Whereas the Taos has a DSG transmission, the Tiguan boasts an eight-speed Tiptronic-equipped automatic transmission, letting drivers override the automatic mode to create a clutchless, fun driving experience. The Tiptronic transmission also allows for more driver control than a traditional automatic gearbox.
Larger than the Taos, our 2022 Tiguan 2.0T SEL R-Line tester included the same technology, convenience, and safety items as the Taos, but switched out the BeatsAudio sound system in favor of Fender’s premium sound. Also on board was a hands-free remote power liftgate and a rearview camera system that showcased area and overhead views.
The Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line stepped up overall enhancements by including a plethora of sporty upgrades. From subtle Vienna leather seating surfaces and illuminated R-Line front door sill scuff plates to an R-Line accented front grille and exterior trim, the top-of-the-line R-Line showcased luxury and R-Line-specific features for just under $40,000 USD. (The exact pricing of our tester was $38,515 including a $1,195 destination charge. Base Tiguan SUVs start at $26,490.)
The Tiguan’s interior featured a neatly laid-out mix of materials. However, the piano black surface flowed into the vehicle’s centrally located climate control system. Gone were quick-adjusting knobs in favor of swipeable slick surfaces to adjust fan speed and other controls.
Average fuel economy was noted as 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg for highway jaunts, with a combined rating of 24 mpg — each 4 mpg less than the smaller Taos.
VW Taos vs. Tigua: Test Driving During Cinco de Mayo
Our Taos tester had supportive seats with side-hugging bolstering. The Taos was entertaining to drive and made inner-city driving a breeze with a quick-to-respond demeanor when the manual mode was used. The interior lived large though its exterior seemed small.
On the other hand, our Tiguan demo model was extremely comfortable to drive, though it felt bigger and wider in size — especially when navigating tight tracks in Puebla’s historic downtown.
It would make an ideal road-trip car. Driving dynamics were refined and suspension dialed over the city’s rough roads, although the Taos’ ride was firmer. Both Taos and Tiguan were easy to see out of, including their rear C-pillars.
When comparing both powerplants against rush-hour traffic and quick judgment calls, the Taos felt quicker and nimbler with its dual-clutch DSG transmission. Although the Tiguan had nearly 30 more horsepower, its heavier stature and standard eight-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission hesitated at points when quickly adjusting speeds to accommodate local traffic.
However, driving the Tiguan in manual mode helped its overall response.
“I can’t make a weight ratio comparison [between the Volkswagen Taos and Tiguan] since the Tiguan motor has been around for a while,” said Jerohn Anderson, product communications specialist of Volkswagen of America, Inc. “Taos shares the same motor with the Jetta and they have identical torque and horsepower numbers, but Taos (AWD) is 500 pounds heavier.”
Anderson mentioned the engine choice for the Taos came down to power versus efficiency. “The all-wheel-drive Taos has a seven-speed DSG (eight-speed auto for FWD) and the Tiguan has an eight-speed automatic across the board.”
Savoring Cinco de Mayo the VW Way
We spent the first half of the day with the Volkswagen Taos. It led us from Puebla’s Cinco de Mayo parade through nearby streets where the Cinco de Mayo battle was fought. As we toured through the city of more than 3.2 million people, we made a driver switch at the front gate of the local Volkswagen factory.
A short time later, we climbed the Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as Pirámide Tepanapa, or in the indigenous Nahuatl language, Tlachihualtepetl. Originally constructed over 2,000 years ago, this pyramid was partially masked by a hill but boasted a larger volume than any other ancient, manmade structure — including the famous Egyptian pyramids.
The grounds are still used today, as a Spanish church is built atop it. This makes the Great Pyramid of Cholula not only the largest pyramid in the world, but it’s also the oldest continually occupied building in North America.
Next to the Great Pyramid of Cholula, a nearby market offered colorful wares as Volkswagen Tiguan SUVs neatly lined up to start the next part of the journey: visiting the famed pottery studio, Talavera Santa Catarina.
Talavera Santa Catrina got its start in 1996, preserving an ancient tradition of Spanish Talavera pot-making using foot-kneaded clay and old-school kick wheels. Colorful glazed tiles are seen all throughout Puebla, paying homage to this historical craft, with artisans carefully carrying this style of pottery forward for generations to come.
Mexico has a colorful and deep history, much like Volkswagen. Volkswagen has five plants in North America, with VW Puebla manufacturing vehicles, engines, axles, and various components.
Volkswagen de Mexico, including Puebla and Silao plants, employs 13,000 workers and manufactures the Taos, Tiguan, and Jetta. It was only fitting to tour Puebla and its surrounding areas in locally made Volkswagens during the city’s Cinco de Mayo day of celebration.