Playing the quirky cousin to Volkswagen wasn't always good fun for Skoda.
The Czech sister brand ahs rebooted itself recently with a range of stylish, yet still cleverly packaged, machines like the Skodiaq and latest-generation Surberb.
That sensible approach has continued with its latest offering, the smaller Karoq SUV that lines-up against the likes of the Tiguan, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota Rav4.
Pronounced Kar-ock (as opposed to kay-rock or something rhyming with baroque), the odd moniker is a portmanteau of Alaskan tribal terms for car (Karaaq) and arrow (Ruq) – and the only element of the car which will leave you scratching your head. Everything else is simple. And clever.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: from $29,900 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 110kW/250Nm 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder | seven-speed dual clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.8 l/100km
Eschewing a trend for ever-widening model ranges in the SUV segment, Skoda officially offers the crossover in a single petrol-powered, front-wheel-drive Karoq 110TSI specification priced from $29,900 plus on-road costs in six-speed manual form, or $32,290 with a self-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Standard kit includes 17-inch wheels, an 8-inch touchscreen hooked up to a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (but not sat nav), halogen headlights, an electronic parking brake, smart keys and dual-zone climate control.
Safety gear amounts to seven airbags, stability control and forward collision warning systems augmented by adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection features.
Customers looking for more can choose from four packs to flesh out their acquisition.
A $3600 Premium Pack adds leather trim, front parking sensors, a powered tailgate and 18-inch wheels, along with full LED headlights. Skoda’s Tech Pack brings a 9.2-inch glass touchscreen, multiple driving modes, self-parking, wireless charging and a 10-speaker stereo for $3200, while a Travel Pack features lane keeping assistance, blind spot detection and an electric driver’s memory seat with heated chairs in the front row. Buyers who want one with the lot can grab a limited-volume launch pack with all of the above (except the 10-speaker Canton Stereo) plus three years of servicing for $8900.
Unlike VW, Skoda supports its cars with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Capped price servicing for the first six years costs an average of $420 per year.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 4.0/5
Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry with push-button start, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, power windows and mirrors, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter.
Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, digital radio, satellite navigation, voice control and six speakers.
Cargo Volume: 479 litres
As ever with Skoda, some of the most innovative touches come at no extra cost.
There are bins in the door cards, a parking ticket holder on the A-pillar, a double-sided boot floor with carpet and Velcro cargo dividers on one side and waterproof rubber on the other. You will find an umbrella tucked under the front passenger seat, a choice of three cargo nets, hooks for shopping bags in the cargo area and a boot-mounted convenience light which can be removed for use as a rechargeable torch.
The best touch is the back seat – a “VarioFlex” system which can be split into three distinct arrangements with separate fore-aft adjustment, reclining or even removal – you can use the car with a two, three, four or five-seat layout. Cargo space is appropriately cavernous, ranging from 479 to 588 litres depending on where you position the second row. Pull them out and you’ve got a baby van with a whopping 1810 litres of room.
Practical and thoughtful, the Karoq also presents well, with clear instruments, clever touchscreens, comfortable seats and a well-sorted driving position.
A cousin of Volkswagen’s Tiguan crossover (and by extension, the Golf), the Czech machine rides on a platform shared with its German cousins, bringing similarly crisp steering which feels more engaging than many rivals. Smaller on the outside but seemingly more spacious on the inside than the likes of Honda’s CR-V, the Karoq serves up polished dynamics with better composure, roll resistance and balance than you will find from most small SUVs.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 4.0/5
Engine: 110kW/250Nm 1.5-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, FWD
Suspension: Independent front and rear
Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
Our brief drive of the machine revealed no major issues with its dynamics, and that Skoda’s machine meets expectations.
Under the bonnet you’ll find a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 110kW and 250Nm outputs – an engine which has not made its way into VW cousins. Using clever cylinder on demand technology to minimise fuel consumption under light load, the powertrain uses a claimed 5.8L/100km in mixed running.
Were it not for a message on the driver’s digital readout, we may not have been able to pick when it dropped from four to two cylinders. As is often the case with the VW Group, the Karoq’s relatively unimpressive on-paper statics translate to surprisingly spry real-world performance thanks to strong torque at low engine speeds. Push the throttle all the way to the carpet and you’ll reach 100km/h in 8.6 seconds.
A more powerful model with all-wheel-drive arrives next year.
TMR Verdict | Overall Rating: 4.0/5
With a smaller footprint than its rivals which will be welcomed by urban couples and families who don’t want to drive a tank, the Karoq’s clever approach to packaging doesn’t ask you to compromise practicality when selecting a reasonably compact SUV. It even blends in with the crowd.
- Interested in buying SKODA Karoq? Visit our SKODA showroom for more information.