Do you miss the Skoda Yeti? Sadly, the Czech brand’s quirky and characterful small SUV is long gone, but Skoda has a newer and slightly bigger option for those shopping for a five-seat high-riding wagon – the Karoq.
All-new and designed to sit beneath the Kodiaq seven-seater in Skoda’s modern range, the Karoq competes in the ultra-competitive small-to-medium SUV segment against cars like the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Qashqai, thus making it an attractive proposition to young families and downsizers. Being so new, though, it's something of an unknown quantity. How does it stack up?
The Karoq starts at $29,990 in manual form and is only available in one ‘grade’, and opting for the seven-speed automatic brings that up to $32,290. The car we have on test here also boasts the $1700 Travel Pack, the $3600 Premium Pack, and metallic paint, which takes the total as-tested retail price to $38,290.
That puts it in the upper end of the medium SUV bracket if you get busy with the option list, but considering its European origins it still stacks up as reasonable value - especially if you keep it closer to its 'standard' specification.
Fuel bills won’t hurt you much either, with Skoda claiming an average consumption of 5.8L/100km, though it requires more expensive 95-octane fuel at a minimum.
In its base form, the Karoq comes with the basics well catered for. An 8-inch colour touchscreen is the primary infotainment interface, while standard kit includes keyless entry and ignition, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensing headlamps.
With the Travel and Premium packages our car had, the equipment list swells further with a powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, LED headlamps, leather-appointed upholstery, a powered tailgate and front parking sensors.
With this level of features, the only thing that’s notably absent is a built-in satellite navigation system – though the standard smartphone mirroring capability offers a workaround via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
At 4382mm long and 1841mm wide, the Karoq is actually on the small end of the scale for a medium SUV. Conversely, it’s at the large end of the spectrum for a small SUV, and as such compares most directly with other segment-splitters like the Jeep Compass.
It feels bigger on the inside though, thanks to a large glasshouse and versatility-boosting features like its removable second row of seats. That’s right: not only do the rear backrests fold down to enlarge cargo capacity, but the seats themselves can be folded forward against the front seats or even removed altogether.
That effectively transforms the Karoq from a five-seat wagon into a two-seat van. Moving house? A Karoq might be all you need. Seats-up it offers an already-generous 479-litre capacity, with that figure exploding to 1810 litres with the second row removed entirely.
All Karoqs come equipped with a strong safety suite. A frontal collision warning is a potential life-saver and so is autonomous emergency braking, while stability control, traction control and ABS round out the rest of its standard electronic safety aids. The optional Travel pack adds lane keep assist and blind spot detection.
Occupants are protected by seven airbags and three-point seatbelts on all seats, along with anti-whiplash headrests on the front seats. A rear view camera and reverse parking sensors are also standard on the Karoq
The Karoq is a winner as far as in-cabin comfort goes. The front seats offer excellent support and comfort, while the outboard rear seats are contoured to allow a relaxed posture and good under-thigh support. The rear backrests are also individually adjustable for recline, and big rear doors ease entry and exit.
But most importantly, it feels commendably spacious thanks to plenty of headroom and a big ‘glasshouse’. Face-level air vents for the back seat are another plus too, and the overall ambience borders on premium thanks to clean, minimalist design, solid build quality and high-grade materials.
It’s quiet when travelling at speed, even in the back seats, and the Skoda’s ride quality is generally firm but with a compliance that sees it knock the harsher edges off of bumps and potholes.
ON THE ROAD
The Karoq only comes with one engine, but the 110kW/250Nm turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder is not wanting for mechanical grunt. Its maximum torque figure is available from 1500-3500rpm, which translates to strong acceleration from just off idle that doesn’t taper off until quite high in the rev range – perfect for getting around town smartly without having to work the engine hard.
With seven speeds, the Karoq’s dual-clutch automatic is fast-shifting when in motion but can occasionally execute a jerky shift when in heavy traffic. There are few complaints about how it handles or rides, however, thanks to light but authoritative steering and a suspension tune that balances grip and cornering capability with comfort quite admirably.
The Skoda Karoq is a surprise package, one that feels tailor-made for the needs of the average Australian motorist. Its cabin versatility is impressive and unique within its segment, while it’s easy to drive, fuel-efficient, well-built and well-equipped.
Couple those attributes with its five-seater SUV form factor – which is fast becoming the go-to choice for Aussie car buyers – and Skoda is onto a winning formula with its Karoq.
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