Review: Skoda Kamiq

Fancy a degree course in Volkswagen Group Cars. We shall learn about model development in the last 50 years. There will be seminars on acquisitions, from Audi to Bentley to Lamborghini to Porsche to SEAT to Skoda and perhaps more to come.
The differences between the Kamiq and its Volkswagen and SEAT peers are cosmeticThe differences between the Kamiq and its Volkswagen and SEAT peers are cosmetic
The differences between the Kamiq and its Volkswagen and SEAT peers are cosmetic

We will be expected to know the similarities and synergies between models and marques, such as what components are shared by a Bentley Flying Spur and a Volkswagen up! At the moment I don’t know if the mighty and the minnow share anything but it wouldn’t surprise if some widgety thing is found in both models.

I jest about the university course – although maybe one exists in a business college. The complexities of the Volkswagen empire are indeed complex. There’s also a fair amount of smoke and mirrors to separate the marques in the public eye and purse.

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In its bread and butter cars you may as well choose whichever Volkswagen, SEAT or Skoda appeals, because in most important judgments they are the same, often made in the same factory. Audi, too, shares much of the hidden bits but is elevated in price by its cosmetic superiority and the option of very high-performance engines – which get headlines but are not much practical use in everyday life.

A look inside the KamiqA look inside the Kamiq
A look inside the Kamiq

Not long ago I think I knew the model match between Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT, but they keep breeding. One of the latest is the Skoda Kamiq. It is a five-door estate car, family-sized and no doubt practical for the typical household. Ours took it to the seaside where it was submerged among its peers in the Pay & Display.

The Kamiq is a modern Skoda which means it is not bad looking. It is larger than the Scala, smaller than the Karoq and the Kodiaq. The familiar and distinctive C-shaped rear lights don’t fit with the tailgate so the signature at night is blander. The front display is bespoke to the Kamiq. There is a horizontal show of three LED running lights and an indicator pod which is level with the top of a wide grille. Underneath the LEDs sit the compact projector headlamps, which are excellent.

This light display may look familiar. Citroën’s C3 Aircross and the Hyundai Kona have a similar upside-down layout. Such discussions are worthy of a cheery night in The Smallbore & Gillie Lounge.

Skoda calls the Kamiq a compact SUV which is stretching the definition of a sports utility vehicle. Skoda’s cute naming policy quickly got it the 2020 best small SUV under £20,000 from What Car? Well, they should know, even though 2020 had only just started when the gong was dropped. This award is gratefully attributed on the Skoda website, which shows the Kamiq in the dunes, raising dust on a gravel surface, on a track with grass down the centre and then some urban settings. Another respected mag, Autocar, was more lukewarm, including the words “pleasant… deeply ordinary family car” which I couldn’t find quoted by Skoda.

The Kamiq S is also called a crossover whereas the SE becomes a “tough compact SUV” and the SE L is a “new class of crossover”. In Kamiq’s defence, it has a smidgeon more ground clearance.

Bottom line: the Kamiq is a five-door estate car. It is made at Skoda HQ in Mlada Boleslav and is close kin to the SEAT Arona and the Volkswagen T-Roc. There is just so much outside competition in this sector, including Ford’s new Puma, which is here right now.

The entry grade should be fine for the money but it limits you to one engine, the 94bhp one-litre petrol three-cylinder with manual gears. Move to the SE and there’s also a choice of a 113bhp one-litre engine, a 148bhp 1.5 petrol or a 113bhp 1.6 diesel, all of which are offered with a DSG automatic gearbox.

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I have read that the Kamiq has a canny knack of smothering potholes and ridges. My road test SE had an equally canny knack of clouting them hard. One ridge on the motorway woke me up (I was a passenger). I never quite got used to this chassis refinement. The engine was the 94bhp unit which had a three-pot’s rumbling manner on starting off but gave decent performance and excellent fuel economy.

Its shape follows the current Skoda fixation with lookalike models beginning with K. That’s Kodiaq, the large bear, Karoq, the middle bear, and now Kamiq, a smaller sibling. Its other close relative is the Scala hatchback, which is longer and rides a bit lower and is cheaper. So, how much value do you place on the Kamiq’s SUV status? Well, Kamiq means “something with a perfect fit” in the Inuit language. Right, innit?