Road test: Skoda Karoq
The Karoq appears a grown-up and capable addition to the SUV class.
What is it?
Karoq? It’s an odd name, that’s for sure, but more importantly this is Skoda’s new five-seat SUV to rival the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca.
How green is it?
Petrol CO2 emissions are as low as 119g/km, while diesel emissions start from 117g/km. However, the most frugal Qashqai emits just 99g/km.
Who should buy one?
With its high-up driving position, comfortable ride and practical interior, the Karoq should appeal to both families and couples.
Road test by David Motton, January 2018
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
From the driver’s seat the Karoq is a thoroughly likeable car, so long as you’re not expecting too much ‘sport’ from your ‘sports utility vehicle’. The Karoq doesn’t drive as sharply as a Seat Ateca, for example. The Karoq’s ride has been tuned with comfort in mind, and that’s no bad thing in our book. It handles straight roads with a relaxed and easygoing gait, absorbing most of what’s thrown its way. There’s not much wind or road noise either, so a long drive won’t be a chore.
Add some sharp bends into the mix and the Karoq leans heavily on its outside tyres if you corner with enthusiasm, but it handles neatly enough by SUV standards.
From launch (first deliveries are expected in mid-January), four engines are available. Petrol buyers can choose between a 115PS (113bhp) 1.0-litre TSI and a 150PS (148bhp) 1.5-litre TSI. The little 1.0-litre punches above its weight, with surprisingly lively acceleration. It’s quiet when cruising but barks like an excited terrier when you put your foot down. The 1.5 TSI sounds smoother under acceleration, and is just as quiet as the smaller petrol at a steady cruise.
If you prefer diesel there’s a 115PS (113bhp) 1.6-litre and a 150PS (148bhp) 2.0-litre. The 1.6 performs well enough in isolation, but there’s a definite step-up in punch with the 2.0. Karoqs powered by the larger diesel are the only ones with four-wheel drive. This doesn’t just help with traction on slippery roads, these versions also have more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension which is better controlled over bumpy surfaces.
Which engine should you choose? For urban driving there’s little need to look beyond the vim and verve of the 1.0 TSI. However, if you regularly travel long distances the 1.5 TSI is worth the £1350 price premium. If you live out in the sticks or sometimes tow a caravan or trailer, we’d choose the 2.0 TDI 4×4. A 190PS (187bhp) 2.0-litre diesel will join the range after a few months.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Compared with the Yeti, which the Karoq replaces in Skoda’s line-up, the new car is longer both overall and in its wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles). That frees up more room in an interior which feels considerably better finished than before. That’s just as well, when top-spec versions cost just over £30,000.
The driving position is comfy and the controls are clearly laid out. The touchscreen satnav – especially the premium version fitted to range-topping cars – has a crisp display and is easy to use.
Rear-seat space is impressive, with plenty of headroom and enough legroom for adults to avoid feeling cramped.
For what’s still a reasonably compact car, there’s enough luggage space to keep most ‘take-it-just-in-case’ holidaymakers happy. SE models have rear seats which split and fold in the conventional way, while SE L and Edition cars have Varioflex seating. The three individual rear seats slide back and forth and can be removed completely for extra luggage room.
There’s no official rating from Euro NCAP yet, but recent Skoda models have tended to score the maximum five stars so it will be a disappointment if the Karoq falls short. Skoda hasn’t skimped on safety kit, with all cars having driver, front passenger, front side, and curtain airbags, as well as autonomous emergency braking. There are more driver aids on top-spec models.
Choose the most affordable SE spec, and the car has 17-inch alloys, fabric upholstery, a DAB radio with eight speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, cruise control and more. Choose SE L for upgrades including 18-inch alloys, LED headlights, Alcantara upholstery, heated front seats and satellite navigation.
Surprisingly, the Karoq is more expensive than the mechanically very similar Seat Ateca, with prices starting from £20,875. However, it’s competitive in terms of most costs, with respectable but not class-leading fuel economy. According to the official figures the 1.6 TDI DSG is the most fuel-efficient, achieving 64.2mpg on the combined cycle. Among the petrols, the 1.0 TSI DSG returns 54.3mpg.
WE SAY The Karoq appears a grown-up and capable addition to the SUV class.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62 in 8.1 secs
Figures for the 1.5 TSI 150PS SE L