Skoda’s Karoq has been a bit of an unsung hero since its arrival in mid-2018, selling slowly against predominantly Asian rivals despite boasting a quality build, commendable size and a superb driving experience. However, while it launched with an attractive sub-$30K price tag, that value-oriented FWD manual offering has since been deleted to make the $32,290 dual-clutch auto the entry point.
Does that diminish the Czech’s showroom pull? On the other side of the ring, Renault’s Captur is another small SUV that suffers from a lack of attention – but for different reasons. It doesn’t quite align perfectly with the Karoq, given it’s actually a size class below (the Renault Kadjar that’ll arrive in late 2019 will be the true rival), but a recent update now sees power, torque and equipment run very close. Also, the Captur Intens’s $29,990 retail isn’t all that far from the Skoda, making these two oft-overlooked Europeans a reasonably close match.
Equipment and value
The Captur naturally carries a value advantage courtesy of its sub-$30K price tag, and packs in a healthy standard equipment list that includes a seven-inch touchscreen, built-in sat-nav, a panoramic glass sunroof, keyless entry, single-zone climate control and leather upholstery. It’s a box-ticking exercise, however, with the infotainment feeling anything but modern, the upholstery looking, feeling and smelling very synthetic, and the overall build quality being below what we’d consider average at this price point.
The Skoda’s standard spec is more bare-bones, with smartphone mirroring your only way of getting a map to appear on the (otherwise very slick) centre screen, but boasts things like frontal collision warning, AEB, active cruise and dual-zone climate – stuff the Captur simply doesn’t have. You can pile even more equipment on top too – equipment the Captur isn’t available with – however, that can quickly see the price explode into $40K-plus territory.
Space and comfort
Though both are priced similarly, the Renault and Skoda differ greatly when it comes to what’s underneath. The Captur sits on jacked-up Clio underpinnings, while the Karoq is built on VW Golf-based architecture. Although the wheelbases are within cooee of each other, the Captur measures significantly smaller for overall length and width. But sit in the Captur’s second row and you’ll find similar leg, foot and knee room to the Skoda – something of a surprise given its smaller footprint.
A double-decker boot floor and sliding rear bench adds some utility to the Captur, but Skoda goes further with rail-mounted bag hooks, additional side storage trays and completely removable rear seats that transform it into a quasi-van. Versatility, thy name is Karoq. Not only that, but the Karoq provides a taller vantage point from its driver’s seat, and boasts superior over-the-shoulder vision compared to the Captur. Size matters.
Read next: 2018 Skoda Karoq priced from $29,990
How they drive
Both cars produce an identical 110kW and 250Nm of peak outputs, but the differences in their on-road behaviour couldn’t be more stark.
The Captur suffers from an unusual combo of a floaty ride at high speed and steering that’s overly sensitive around dead centre, making for a car that never feels settled nor stable on the highway. It’s not helped by a six-speed dual clutch auto that’s indecisive and snatchy at low speeds, and though it’s lighter than the Skoda it doesn’t have the gearing to keep up with it. The Czech rival, despite its inferior power-to-weight ratio, is more than half a second faster to 100km/h thanks to its slicker-shifting seven-speed and more generous low-end torque.
The Karoq also feels secure and comfortable no matter the road or speed, and though its dual-clutch auto isn’t perfect, it’s nowhere near as unrefined as the Renault’s box. The Skoda’s engine is more relaxed in nature too, versus the often frenetic Captur.
The Captur’s age is its main undoing. Dowdy design on the inside coupled with in-car electronics that are woefully dated (just look at those nav graphics) instantly cost it showroom appeal, and its bouncy ride and ho-hum transmission fail to make up for that lost ground. Conversely the Karoq is a far more mature thing, and while it may not flaunt as much glitter on its spec sheet, the core offering is leagues ahead of the Captur.