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The New Karoq from the relentlessly practical Skoda came to COTY with a reputation to live up to. Last year the VW Group-owned Czech brand’s big seven-seat Kodiaq SUV was COTY’s quiet achiever. It made it to the final round of voting, where, with the Alfa Romeo Giulia, it was beaten by the capable and captivating Volvo XC60.
At first it seemed Skoda’s medium-size SUV might be able to repeat what its large SUV had done one year earlier. In COTY’s opening static-inspection phase, the judges found a lot to like inside the Karoq.
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Interior practicality is truly outstanding. The Karoq’s rear seat features Skoda’s brilliant VarioFlex system, seen in earlier models like the Roomster, that allows each of the seat’s three sections to be slid forward and backwards. And each section can be folded, flipped, or completely removed.
Many smaller touches demonstrate the brand’s abiding commitment to usefulness. There are sliding ‘curry hooks’ on sturdy bars above and behind the rear wheel arches, a reversible cargo compartment floor cover, and the boot light doubles as a removeable torch.
Karoq’s instrument panel is a fine piece of design. It doesn’t attempt to look expensive, aiming instead for modest elegance and quality. It’s user-friendly, too. The portrait-oriented centre touch screen is classy, and the infotainment system supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Skoda’s standard equipment list is fairly lavish, including AEB, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and more. There are no glaring omissions in its safety or infotainment spec. Starting at $29,990 for the manual or $32,290 for the dual-clutch, it makes a solid value case.
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Like many VW Group models launched in the last six years, the Karoq is based on the MQB component matrix. But the Skoda is powered by the German giant’s freshest small four. The front-drive Karoq 110 TSI, currently the only model on sale in Australia (a more powerful variant will join it some time in 2019), has exactly the same turbo 1.5-litre engine as the new Audi Q3 35 TFSI, which will reach Australia mid year. As in the Audi, it’s mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. This is sure to be chosen by the vast majority of buyers and was the version selected for COTY.
The new 1.5 gains an aluminium engine block, long-stroke crank and new fuel-injection system, compared to VW Group’s old 1.4, but power and torque maximums remain unchanged. Better efficiency was the primary aim, and the Karoq has delivered low consumption in Wheels comparison testing through 2018.
The Skoda’s rolling acceleration is eager enough, but most judges noted the launch hesitation also evident in other VW Group products where a small-ish engine is teamed with a dual-clutch transmission.
While the Karoq steers with rare neatness for an SUV, its inexpensive torsion-beam rear suspension impacts both handling finesse and ride comfort in a negative way.
Unlike the Kodiaq, the Karoq lacks dynamic polish. Inevitably, this meant an early exit from COTY.