Skoda’s mantra and tagline has long been ‘Simply Clever’ – but in the case of the 2018 Skoda Karoq 110TSI that may well have to swap out for ‘Simply Cheeky’.
You see the Karoq replaces the quirky, lovable Yeti small SUV, keeping its best feature – three separate removable rear seats – but not its pricetag. True, the new replacement is now a medium SUV, but dimensionally it’s not even as long as the Nissan Qashqai long considered to straddle the divide from small-to-mid SUV.
Where the Yeti kicked off from between $500 and $1500 beneath the $25,000 mark between 2013 and 2017, this year’s Karoq starts at $29,990 plus on-road costs with a manual transmission and $32,290 (plus orc) for the optional dual-clutch automatic.
Skoda claims this larger replacement is now also better equipped, as opposed to just being cheap, and despite its smaller exterior it is clever enough inside to closely rival dimensionally larger competitors. Clever enough? Or is that just a bit too cheeky?
The Karoq 110TSI comes with a single 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine, in a single model grade, only with a choice of either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The latter is tested here with an $8900 Launch Pack (see Options Fitted below) totalling $41,290 (plus orc).
That limited-time-only option package simply bundles together the three available option packs, and then adds three years’ servicing (see Warranty And Servicing), but otherwise several of the features it offers may not be required for all buyers.
Standard equipment mirrors most other circa-$32K medium SUVs, with 17-inch alloy wheels, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), full cloth trim and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology. However, it also adds keyless auto-entry with push-button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, adaptive cruise and dual-zone climate controls, plus an auto-dimming rear-view mirror that are mostly unique at this budget price point.
A $3600 Premium Pack then further includes adaptive LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, leather trim and front parking sensors. A $3200 Tech Pack adds auto reverse-park assist, a 9.2in touchscreen with satellite navigation and digital radio, wireless phone charging, 10-speaker Canton audio and electric tailgate. And the $1700 Travel Pack is needed for front heated seats, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assistance.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 4.0/5
There is plenty of value in the standard Karoq 110TSI, certainly, but at $40K-plus it does seem strained. For example, this Launch Edition still lacks an electrically adjustable passenger seat and panoramic sunroof, the latter adding another $1900.
Ultimately, we would just tick the Tech Pack that brings the total to $35,390 (plus orc), as that pricetag best reflects the Karoq’s tidy but hardly premium interior design while lifting it with a brilliantly big and bright screen.
The plastics are mostly a soft-touch affair, which is nice, however the unrelenting greyness of the door trims aren’t relieved by cloth or leather at any cost. The driver sits lower than in many SUVs, but the view forward and to the side is still fine.
The ergonomics are excellent, too, the only exception being that the optional screen’s touch-sensitive volume tabs are positioned to the far left, perfect for left-hand drive markets but quite a stretch for a driver positioned on the right. Thankfully the graphics, intuition and all-round usability and features make up for this quirk.
It’s only further back that the Karoq feels like a half-size smaller than some rivals. This new model is 4382mm long, compared with 4475mm for a Hyundai Tucson and 4550mm for a Mazda CX-5 that lead the medium SUV segment. Commendably, Skoda claims its contender offers greater rear-seat width and broadly equal headroom to those contenders, but legroom is most rather inferior to its Asian rivals.
Even so the 110TSI is a brilliantly packaged vehicle. And we’d say ‘car’ rather than SUV, because this front-wheel drive model feels far less bloated than most others that snare the term, cleverly – or cheekily – feeling more like an enlarged hatchback.
Rear accommodation includes rear air vents, and smartphone holders on the backrests as standard, while the Varioflex seating means each 40:20:40-split portion can individually slide, recline or be removed at the pull of a lever and tug of a clip.
It really is stunningly simple, suddenly switching from pumped hatch to miniature van. Where a Tucson and CX-5 claim 488 litres and 442L of boot space, respectively, the Karoq claims a 479L minimum, but 588L with rear seats forward, 1605L with rear seats folded and a staggering 1810L with rear seats removed.
For context, the Hyundai and Mazda can only flop their rear backrests over the bench, and they claim 1478L and 1342L respectively. That’s right, the Skoda fits another 468L in its rear versus CX-5, more than that model’s seats-up capacity…
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 4.0/5
Unquestionably the Karoq takes the popular medium SUV where it needs to go – becoming lighter and more efficient than most.
This 110TSI has a kerb weight of 1353kg, making it almost exactly 200kg lighter than the 1500kg-plus front-wheel drive flagship versions of the aforementioned Tucson and CX-5. It therefore only needs a little 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder, with 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque, to deliver an 8.6-second 0-100km/h claim.
Around town it feels lively and spritely, punctuated only quite literally with an occasionally hesitant and lurchy seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) at really low speeds. And on the open road this ‘medium SUV’ – wink, wink, nudge, nudge – feels just like a big hatch or little wagon, with superb agility and terrific poise.
The fact it achieves this using a torsion bar rear suspension, rather than the more sophisticated but less space-efficient independent rear suspension (IRS) adopted by rivals, merely proves that a simple setup can actually be used if the package is lighter and well-tuned. Roads in the Czech Republic must be similar to Australia’s given how well Skoda manage to make most of its vehicles feel right at home here.
Indeed there are only a few minor downsides.
Coarse chip road noise isn’t a burden in the Karoq, but nor is this the quietest medium SUV around, and the optional 18-inch rims do create ever so slight amounts of ‘bump thump’ over potholes and corrugations. The sharp and immediate steering needs to be in Normal for around town, where it feels nicely light, but through corners at speed Sport is required to plump up a slight vagueness in the rack with weight.
Despite its weight advantage, the 1.5-litre does have to work hard when overtaking or even just over freeway hills, and that made for touring consumption of 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres, more than the 5.8L/100km claim. Conversely, around town the 110TSI used only 9.3L/100km, where most petrol medium SUVs would exceed ‘10’.
And finally for outright suspension sophistication and cornering prowess, the Mazda does put its extra weight to good use. A CX-5 remains the ride-and-handling benchmark because its chassis encourages the driver to explore a mountain pass in a spirited fashion. The Karoq is light, nimble, agile, but its basic set-up can be exposed right at the point where the Japanese rival uses its hardware to step up.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety Features: Seven airbags, ABS and ESC, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), rear parking sensors and reverse-view camera. A blind-spot monitor and lane-keep assistance form part of a $1700 Travel Pack option.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited km
Servicing: With annual or 15,000km intervals, Skoda includes three years’ free servicing with every Karoq optioned with the Launch Pack. Otherwise the first six check-ups cost $288/$363/$427/$583/$427/$433 respectively, which is average.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A Tucson offers leather-lined luxury for $37,850 (plus orc), but its 2.0-litre non-turbo four-cylinder is slower and thirstier by comparison.
The same is true for the engine underneath a CX-5 Maxx Sport, although for not an all-wheel drive CX-5 GT offers a plusher cabin and greater dynamic sophistication for $43,590 (plus orc), not much more than this Karoq with Launch Pack.
Meanwhile Skoda’s Tiguan 132TSI Comfortline cousin asks $45K-plus for a similarly equipped model grade, but with all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine – it’s a slight step up in space, but no real leap ahead for driving enjoyment.
- Hyundai Tucson Elite FWD
- Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport FWD/GT AWD
- Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI Comfortline AWD
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4.0/5
For a maximum of about $35,000 (plus orc) there isn’t a smarter entry-level medium SUV than the Karoq 110TSI.
Some of the options do creep up, however, especially with this Launch Pack that takes the pricetag to beyond $40K and with a couple of features missing still. Even so, choose the extra-cost packages judiciously, and overall value remains strong.
Although pricier than its Yeti predecessor even sans options, a lengthy equipment list is still the most convincing in the class, even before considering smarts and space.
The new Skoda has plenty of those, for sure, and indeed it broadens the breed considerably – looking like an SUV, being a light as a car, driving like a hatch and having minivan room. It’s cheeky, but also clever.
- Interested in buying SKODA Karoq? Visit our SKODA Karoq showroom for more information.