No disappointments in Skoda’s sharp new compact SUV
Smaller than Skodaâ€™s seven-seat Kodiaq, the Czech firmâ€™s new Karoq is a close relative to the Seat AtecaÂ andÂ Volkswagen T-Roc.
Itâ€™s not as jazzy looking as the T-Roc, but for some that will be a plus, especially as the Karoq brings Skodaâ€™s usual package of fine value for money and good standard equipment. Our test vehicle was in Euro â€˜Styleâ€™ trim, which bar the 18-inch wheels (UK cars will have 19s) is the same as the UKâ€™s top-spec â€˜Editionâ€™. That mean leather, a pano sunroof, powered tailgate, LED lights all round, an electrically-adjustable driverâ€™s seat and Skodaâ€™s full-house 9.0inÂ touchscreen Columbus infotainment system.
Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI Edition DSG
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Torque: 184lb ft
Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Kerb weight: 1318kg
Top speed: 126mph
Fuel economy: 50.4mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 127g/km
The VW Group mid-range 1.5Â TSI petrol engineÂ in this car should be the strongest seller in Britain. Our test car was front-wheel drive (4WD is available, but only on the range-topping diesel Karoq) with the optional seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The price for all this is a competitive Â£28,410.
Weâ€™re not so sure about the bogus grille-texture plastics front and back, but thatâ€™s an issue on the T-Roc too. Inside, materials are more about substance than style, but the use of black gloss trim lifts things a bit and the overall design is smart and well laid-out. The touchscreen display is sharp and responsive, and easy to use.
Thereâ€™s plenty of adult room in both seating rows, and we prefer the lower rear window line to the kid-unfriendly high line of â€˜coolerâ€™ coupÃ© crossovers. We also strongly recommend the adaptable Varioflex seating thatâ€™s standard in the Edition but available as an extra in other models. It allows you to fold, slide or even remove the rear seats. Pulling them out turns the Karoq into a small van with a huge 1810 litres of luggage space. Even when the back seats are up, the 588-litre figure is excellent.
If youâ€™re looking for a hair-raisingly exciting drive or in-your-face kerb appeal, youâ€™re in the wrong place, but the Karoq is a very accomplished all-rounder, offering a tidy drive with the odd burst of keenness. The 1.5-litre engine will run to the 6,000rpm redline, but making use of its lower-rpm torque will result in near-identical rates of progress with more relaxation for the passengers.
Youâ€™ll notice the odd chirp from the tyres when exiting junctions, a result of the good low-rpm power and the DSG gearboxâ€™s sharpish step-off. Once youâ€™re on the move the shifting is smooth and easy in either mode (auto or manual). Thereâ€™s just a little doortop wind noise to disturb the otherwise peaceful motorway cruise and there were few complaints about the ride quality on our Euro-carâ€™s 18-inch wheels. UK-spec 19-inchers might roughen that up a bit.
Having said that, Skoda has shown itself to be adept at judging suspension setups for UK roads and the Karoq confirms that with good poise and absorbency through its quite soft springs. The downside of course is more body roll when pressing on, but accurate steering and the likely driving habits of owners means that this shouldnâ€™t be too annoying in the real world, where the jiggliness of so-called â€˜sportyâ€™ crossovers can be a pain.
Many potential Karoq buyers will be seduced by the keen entry-level pricing â€“ the adequately-equipped 1.0 TSI SE is just Â£20,875 â€“Â but we think the strongest Karoq proposition is up atÂ the posher end of the range against the similarly-priced alternatives. Edition buyers could tick more options like our carâ€™s radar cruise control (Â£330) and Â£550 Canton speaker upgrade, but weâ€™d be perfectly happy with the spec of the straight 1.5 Edition. Few rivals beat it on value.