The Skoda Karoq condenses the appeal of the seven-seat Kodiaq into a smaller crossover package
Skoda scored an instant hit worldwide with the Yeti, so when it came to replace the crossover, it was a surprise to many that the name was dropped and replaced with Karoq. The reason for the change was to bring the mid-sized crossover into line with the larger Kodiaq, while the Karoq name has the same Inuit Eskimo roots as the Kodiaq’s.
The Karoq’s design is also heavily influenced by the Kodiaq. The shape of the lights front and rear are similar to the larger car, and Skoda’s familiar grille shape is present and correct.
Engine choice in the Karoq range consists of 1.4 and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrols. The 1.4 TSI 110kW is a four-cylinder unit that is surprisingly capable of pulling this crossover around, courtesy of the Karoq’s relatively lightweight build. The 140kW 2.0-litre petrol engine is reserved for the expensive if smart-looking Sportline variant, though.
Offered in two- and four-wheel-drive, an automatic transmission is standard across the range.
The Karoq model range kicks off with front-wheel drive 110TSI trim, but this entry point to the range is still decently equipped. There are 17-inch alloys, 8.0-inch touchscreen, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and dual-zone climate control. Upgrades include 19-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and upgraded Microsuede upholstery.
If you’re looking for a bit more luxury, there’s also a panoramic sunroof, an electrically-operated driver’s seat with memory function, leather-trimmed seats and an electric tailgate.
Under the skin, the Skoda Karoq uses a tried-and-tested recipe, combining the VW Group’s MQB underpinnings (with MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear axle on 2WD versions, while 4×4 cars have a multilink set-up) that also forms the basis of the Kodiaq and many other models in the Czech brand’s line-up, highlighting its versatility.
On the move, the Skoda feels sharper than most rivals. The steering is nicely weighted and more responsive – and it’s more agile, with less roll when changing direction. This stems from the Karoq’s firmer suspension, but the downside is that you’ll feel more body and wheel movements a little more.
The faster you go, the more the Karoq’s body control comes to the fore, though, giving plenty of security and confidence. The more energy you put through the springs and dampers, the more the ride quality calms down, but because these SUVs are likely to spend lots of time in town, the lumpier feeling from the Skoda’s suspension over broken surfaces just takes the edge off the car’s otherwise impressive refinement.
It’s worth noting the ride takes a turn for the worse if you add the 19-inch alloys to what is a fairly compliant family SUV, causing it to develop unwelcome jiggliness over uneven roads, and some annoying harmonics to present themselves over concrete sections of motorway. There’s no denying it looks the part, though, and it’s also fair to say the Karoq is not alone in having its ride adversely affected by larger alloys.
The 1.4-litre TSI has 110kW and offers punch for overtaking. But opt for the 2.0-litre and you have 140kW at hand – the most powerful in the Karoq range – and while a $39,990 plus on-roads list price means this configuration is by no means cheap compared to the $32,990 entry 110TSI, a 7.3-second 0-100km/h time means it certainly shifts.
Aside from the relative practicality, one of the Karoq’s great attractions is the combination of fashionable SUV style with manageable running costs. Apart from a small fuel economy penalty, these cars shouldn’t cost more to run than a comparable hatchback.
The Karoq’s engines aren’t class-leading for economy, but they’re still among the most efficient in the sector. The 1.4 TSI can return up to a claimed 6.6L/100km combined, while emitting the 2.0-litre turbo returns a claimed 6.9L/100km combined.
While the Yeti design was arguably more characterful than the Karoq, this model has a broader range of talents. It’s a mature design, and while it lacks any flashes of stylistic flair it does have a solid, almost premium appeal.
At a glance, there’s not much to separate it from the bigger seven-seat Kodiaq, with a very similar grille and headlamp design, the same ridge up the centre of the bonnet, and a similar side profile set with chunky wheelarches. The rear lights are the biggest difference at the rear, and despite variations in details such as intake shapes in the lower bumpers, even car enthusiasts could be forgiven for a little difficulty in telling the two models apart. Park them side-by-side, and the Kodiaq’s extra length stands out, but it’s wider and taller too.There’s only one five-door body variant for the Karoq, as with the Kodiaq, and while the Karoq only offers five seats it can be specified with the same VarioFlex adjustable rear bench as the Kodiaq that allows you to alter the amount of passenger legroom or boot space depending on your needs.
Inside, the Karoq cabin design is identical to that of the bigger Kodiaq, which means it’s conservative with no flashy or fashionable design highlights. But it’s also incredibly functional, with great ergonomics, plenty of space and a sense of quality. It feels well built, while it’s also stacked with tech features.
Built-in sat-nav isn’t as big a deal as it used to be in this class, especially when all Karoq models get a good level of smartphone connectivity, offering navigation through your phone on the standard eight-inch screen.
The level of connection is improved with the 9.2-inch optional Columbus system, which is standard on the Tech pack. While this adds gesture control, the standard Amundsen system gets the same WiFi hotspot, voice control and a one-year subscription to Skoda’s online services.
The tech pack also adds features such as wireless phone charging to improve the technology on offer with the Karoq, but they’re not really necessary because the core of the system is what makes the Skoda’s unit so capable.
A bright screen, sharp graphics and simple menu layout mean it’s easy to use. The glossy screen picks up fingerprints, but with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto it looks crisp with glossy graphics.
On the road, a hushed cabin that’s marred only a little by wind noise around the door pillars at higher speeds and a little too much engine noise under hard acceleration in entry level cars goes hand-in-hand with a supple ride to make the Karoq a comfortable SUV. Throw in the supportive seats, roomy cabin, well laid out controls and high quality fit and finish, not to mention plenty of gadgets and toys on top versions, and it’s an impressive effort.
The large interior with its voluminous boot is well suited to family use, and there are a range of options you can add that will make life a little easier. Cabin features include a large Jumbo Box for gadgets and drinks that sits between the front seats, and there are plenty of storage spaces dotted around, plus foldable tables in the backs of both front seats.
Things like a space-saver spare, rough road package with engine and chassis guards, a reversing camera and adaptive cruise control are all either standard or available optionally to improve how easy the Karoq is to live with.
The Karoq is noticeably bigger than its predecessor, the Yeti, and measures 4382mm long, 1841mm wide and 1603mm tall. That compares with the 4447mm length of the Peugeot 3008, or 4394mm of the Nissan Qashqai, so it’s pretty much on par with its rivals.
There’s good leg and headroom in any of the seats in the Skoda Karoq – in fact the rear-seat passengers do slightly better for headroom than those in back of the larger Kodiaq. Taller rear seat passengers may find their knees brushing on the seat backs though.
Depending on spec, the Karoq’s tailgate raises electrically, and there’s a ‘virtual pedal’ that allows you to open it with the waggle of a foot under the rear bumper if your hands are full. Once it’s open you’re greeted by an impressive load area, that’s practically shaped and roomy. In standard form, it will swallow 521 litres with the rear seats in place, or a huge 1810 litres when they’re folded.
As it’s based on the VW Group MQB platform the Skoda Karoq shares its underpinnings with a huge number of cars from the Audi, Skoda and VW stables.
There’s a full range of the latest safety measures available as you would expect. It comes with traffic sign recognition, lane assistance, cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring, as well as autonomous braking that’s standard across the range.