It would be easy to dismiss the all-new Skoda Karoq as just another SUV. However, the reality is quite different.
This new kid on the block more than holds its own against the formidable Nissan Qashqai and other rivals including the Kia Sportage, Peugeot 3008 and Seat Ateca, which is no mean feat.
It may have lost the quirkiness of the Yeti, the car it effectively replaces, but the Karoq comes to market as a grown-up SUV – a showcase for Skoda’s many virtues.
Sharing its platform and many basics with its VW Group cousins, the Volkswagen Tiguan and Seat Ateca, Skoda’s designers and engineers have produced a compelling all-rounder, offering value for money, comfort, space and build quality.
In time we’d also expect it to reflect the other cars in the Skoda range which have a solid reputation for reliability.
Looking not unlike the Ateca – or a scaled down (but better proportioned) version of its big brother, the Kodiaq seven-seater – the Karoq is priced from £20,875 to £31,690.
Available in four trim levels – SE, SE L, Edition, plus SE Technology (aimed at fleet buyers), there are four engine options – two TSI petrol units (113bhp 1.0-litre and 148bhp 1.5-litre) and two TDI diesels (113bhp 1.6-litre and 148bhp 2.0-litre).
All four are available with a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission as an option, while the most powerful diesel model – the 2.0 TDI – can be specified with four-wheel drive.
Entry-level SE models feature 17-inch alloy wheels, 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, rear privacy glass, LED rear lights, dual-zone climate control, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and driver fatigue sensor as standard.
SE L models add 18-inch alloy wheels, Amundsen satellite navigation with 8.0-inch touchscreen display, rear view camera, Smartlink+, keyless entry and start/stop, full LED headlights with adaptive front light system, heated front seats and Alcantara upholstery, plus front and rear parking sensors.
Highlights of the range-topping launch ‘Edition’ include 19-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, metallic paint and leather upholstery as standard. Columbus satellite navigation with 9.2-inch touchscreen, display and gesture control, electrically operated boot, LED and extra driver aids including blind spot protection with rear
Skoda predicts that the top-selling spec will be mid-range SE L, while the best-selling engine will be the 1.5-litre TSI mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
I tested the 1.5 TSI 150PS DSG petrol and 1.6 TDI 115PS diesel. The former is the fastest car in the range with a 0-60mph time of 8.1 seconds, top speed of 126mph, while duel economy is 52.3mpg and CO2 emissions are 123g/km.
The diesel reaches 60mph from standstill in 10.4 seconds and goes on to 116mph, while fuel economy jumps to 61.4mpg (64.2mpg with DSG box) and CO2 emissions are 120g/km (117g/km DSG).
Both engines are good options, but the 1.6 diesel mated to the six-speed manual just gets my vote. Eager and smooth, it works well with the slick gearbox and feels faster than the figures suggest. The 1.5-litre petrol has to work harder, while the DSG box isn’t always as responsive as one would like.
Whichever you choose, thanks to Skoda’s excellent build quality, plus the Karoq’s solid feel and superb sound proofing, both engines are refined.
I have tried the 1.0-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel elsewhere in the Skoda range and both are well worth considering too. The thrummy three-cylinder is an excellent engine and surprisingly sprightly around town, while the big diesel may be the one to go for if you travel long distances with a packed car, you tow or you need the extra peace of mind of a 4×4.
Ultimately it will come down to whether you spend your time munching miles on the motorway or nipping around town.
The Karoq is easy to drive with light steering and it feels safe, secure and comfortable. As you’d expect from an SUV with raised ride height, there’s a little body roll, but it’s well controlled. The ride is excellent on smoother surfaces, but can get a little bouncy on more challenging roads, where more noise makes it through to the cabin.
Inside, the Karoq has a quality feel with plenty of soft-touch plastics, while the driving position is commanding. The seats are comfy, visibility is excellent and the dashboard, switchgear and centre console are well laid out and will be familiar to Skoda buyers.
There’s plenty of room up front and in the rear for adults and there are loads of storage spaces. Thoughtful touches include an ice scraper housed inside the fuel filler cap, an umbrella under the front passenger seat, folding rear tables and a removable LED torch in the boot.
As you’d expect from Skoda, the boot is generous. Luggage capacity ranges from 521 litres and the boot that expands to 1,630 litres with the rear seats folded down. Thanks to Skoda’s Varioflex seating system (standard on SE L and Edition models, optional on SE), the three separate rear seats can be individually adjusted or completely removed to create a maximum load volume of 1,810 litres.
However, if personalisation is high up on your list of priorities, the Karoq may not be for you. The colours available are fairly conservative and you won’t find contrasting roof colours and exciting options inside.
Finally, the Karoq’s safe, gaining five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. A sturdy cabin, driver safety aids and seven standard airbags helped it along to the maximum
Verdict: The new Skoda Karoq will shake up the medium SUV sector. While it’s not flash, it’s a solid, safe, spacious, comfortable and practical choice, backed up by a good engine range and Skoda’s reputation for dependability.