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Small crossover SUVs are more popular than ever. Now that the 2022 models are out, consumers have more options than ever. And two of the best in the class are the Mazda CX-30 and Volkswagen Taos. So, which subcompact crossover is better?

We’ll give you a hint: One costs $1,000 less than the other. Incidentally, it’s also the classier choice.

The Mazda CX-30 and Volkswagen Taos are Car and Driver 2022 Editors’ Choice picks

2022 Mazda CX-30 and 2022 Volkswagen Taos subcompact crossover SUVs
2022 Mazda CX-30 and 2022 Volkswagen Taos | Mazda North American Operations; Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Car shopping is much easier thanks to industry experts like Car and Driver. Each year, the site publishes its Editors’ Choice roundup of the best new cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans.  

The Car and Driver Editors’ Choice designation goes to top-ranking models in each segment. With almost 400 models to choose from, the 116 on this year’s list represent the best each class offers. If C/D’s editors wouldn’t want these vehicles in their garages, they don’t go on the list.

Four subcompact SUVs appear in this year’s roundup. They include the 2022 Mazda CX-30, which earned an overall score of 9.5/10, and the 2022 Volkswagen Taos, receiving 8.5/10. With a one-point advantage, the CX-30 is the smarter pick thanks to its lower sticker price and classier design. But the Taos is no slouch.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

2022 Mazda CX-30 vs. 2022 Volkswagen Taos: Economy, exterior, and performance

The 2022 Mazda CX-30 starts at $23,425. For that modest amount, you get an excellent subcompact SUV. The latest CX-30 looks like a taller, tougher version of the Mazda3 but with SUV benefits. Its exterior is elegant enough to hang with luxury SUVs but comes at a far more attractive price. Its maximum curb weight is just over 3,500 pounds.

The Mazda CX-30 base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, paired with an automatic eight-speed transmission. Its performance isn’t exactly stunning, with an output of 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. And it gets a decent 26 mpg combined.

But the available turbo version provides a far more exciting driving experience. This engine gets 25 mpg overall in fuel economy. Its agile handling is the icing on the cake.

The 2022 Volkswagen Taos starts at $24,490. That’s $1,000 more than the CX-30. From the outside, it doesn’t stand out from the crowd and looks more or less like other small SUVs. The Taos is slightly larger than the CX-30, and its maximum curb weight is just over 3,400 pounds.

The Taos packs a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a somewhat clumsy dual-clutch automatic transmission. When it comes to acceleration, it doesn’t pack the same punch as some rivals, with 158 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. However, it gets 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg and the highway, making the Taos more fuel-efficient than the CX-30.

Comparing interiors and amenities of these 2 subcompact SUVs


How Much Does a Fully Loaded 2022 Mazda CX-30 Cost?

Pleasantly posh and crafted with quality materials, the 2022 Mazda CX-30 borrows its cabin from the Mazda3. The infotainment system strikes a nice balance between user-friendly physical controls and voice prompts. Buyers can choose the standard eight-speaker audio system or upgrade to a 12-speaker Bose system. Heated front seats are also available, as are numerous other upgrades.

The CX-30’s range-topping Premium trim provides a power rear liftgate, leather upholstery, and other luxurious features. It doesn’t lead the class in cargo space, but it’s average for the segment. 

As for advanced safety features, the new CX-30 has plenty. Every trim level comes with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. Upgrading to the i-Activesense safety suite on the Premium trim adds sophisticated driver’s aids such as traffic jam assist, front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree exterior camera system, and rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking.

By contrast, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos isn’t as luxurious, and some of its materials make this small crossover SUV look cheaper than the CX-30.

Across all 2022 Taos trim levels is a fully digital gauge display on the dashboard. The base model gets dual-tone cloth seats, but leatherette and leather upholstery are available. Buyers can add plenty of options, including a panoramic sunroof and heated and ventilated front seats. 

In addition, the Taos offers generous cargo space, beating the CX-30 in that category. But it can’t match Mazda’s standard safety features. Blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and rear cross-traffic alert are available but not standard on the Taos.

The 2022 Mazda CX-30 wins the battle of the subcompact SUVs here. Not only does it cost less, but it also looks sharper, inside and out. It offers a better driving experience, especially with the turbo engine, and boasts an impressive slate of standard safety features. It nearly perfectly balances everything a consumer would want in a small SUV, making it the one to beat in its class.