Just as with the Suzuki Swift Hybrid I ran last summer for Diesel Car and Eco Car, I had very little experience of ‘modern’ Skodas before the arrival of the Karoq. A Citigo and Fabia had both impressed in the not so recent past, but that was about as broad as my experience of the Czech Republic brand went. But the fact that Skoda enjoys the quality, drivetrain and platform-sharing benefits of the VW Group meant that when I learned I was going to be spending some time with a Karoq, there was much to look forward to.
Replacing the much-loved and slightly oddball Yeti with a more conventional crossover was always going to upset some, and it’s a shame that the Karoq sacrifices some of the Yeti’s quirkiness and off-beat style with more straightforward looks. But, with the SUV market booming in popularity, a more mainstream appearance should lead to more sales, so it’s a sensible move. Taking cues from its larger Kodiaq sibling, the Karoq looks smart, if a little too close to its SEAT Ateca cousin in profile. And while I wouldn’t normally advocate spending £975 on ‘exclusive’ paint, the Velvet Red metallic has a flip in it, which does look great in the sun.
Inside, the Karoq uses minimalistic Skoda design accents, but also incorporates features worthy of its ‘Simply Clever’ tag. The dashboard places the highly useful (and high quality) eight-inch ‘Amundsen’ colour touchscreen infotainment system at its centre. Just underneath is a ‘ledge’ which is useful to rest your hand on when programming in destinations for the standard navigation system, which includes Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The rear camera is astonishingly accurate, and the driving and safety packages optionally fitted to KV68 VXA were extremely useful. Elsewhere, the leather seats fitted to our car can be chosen for a very agreeable £250. And don’t forget the umbrella under the passenger seat or the flippable tray and drinks holder in the centre cubby, other inventive Skoda touches.
SE L sits above entry-level SE in the Karoq specification ladder, and our car was specified with the Volkswagen Group’s 114bhp 1.6-litre TDI engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox. I’ve traditionally been a fan of the self-shifter, but I found it less impressive here. Hesitant when leaving junctions after the car’s stop-start system had restarted, this was rectified by turning the emissions-saving system off, which wasn’t ideal. But, on the flip-side, the DSG ‘box made motorway cruising a doddle thanks to its selectable driving modes. A week with the fuel-cell Hyundai Nexo SUV recently made the internal combustion engine (ICE) technology seem a little dated, but that would have happened with any ICE car. The South Korean car was also more than twice the price of the Skoda.
Other trump cards in the Karoq’s hand are its comfort and space. When I first took over custodianship, I clocked up numerous three to four-hour journeys and emerged fresh and relaxed from them. The seats are supremely comfortable and the car’s relaxed demeanour on long schleps is to be admired. Refinement was, to refer to one of its relatives, superb, and the way the Karoq gobbled up the miles was remarkable. And although it rarely carried more than two people, there was acres of space when there were more bodies and luggage – the seats-up 479 to 588 litres of boot space – depending on where the sliding rear seat is positioned – was easily enough for two very large suitcases.
All in all, the Skoda earned lots of points on its scorecard. The fuss-free personality was a big draw, and an accommodating (not just in size) and relaxing nature were bonus benefits. One thesaurus definition of ‘comfortable’ is ‘good feeling’ and that’s just what the Skoda imparts. You can’t say fairer than that.
Date arrived 12th November 2018
Fuel economy 58.9mpg (combined) 50.5mpg (on test)
Comfort and space are two of the Karoq’s most impressive strengths. Long journeys can be swallowed up with very little effort.
The DSG automatic gearbox was a mixed bag: relaxing and smooth when cruising on the motorway, but hesitant in town traffic.