Skoda has a new family car, the Karoq. It says it is designed around what matters to us – mentioning the gym or heading off on a cross-country adventure. Nailing this activity label, it adds “it’s a self-assured compact SUV with a big sense of adventure… a spacious home from home, whatever you’re packing into your day”.
Perfect marketing speak. You could say much the same about any of several rivals – including the SEAT Ateca, which uses the same VW Group base as the Karoq and has a cheaper starting price at well under £20,000.
Skoda decided to drop its entry model specification for Karoq which means paying £20,875 for the three-cylinder, one litre 113bhp SE. Pending another model, the Karoq is the nearest Skoda to the late, loved Skoda Yeti but it’s a size bigger and a price range higher. If you want a Yeti-sized car from the VW circus that will be the SEAT Arona or the Volkswagen T-Roc.
The Karoq is a downscaled Skoda Kodiaq, with the same sharp body lines now found in all VW’s mainstream SUVs. It is a five-seater and gains over its peers by offering sliding and removable rear seats. Each can be taken out on its own, giving a loading option not matched by anything in its class. With all the seats out, you have the equivalent of a half-ton van, but with lots more refinement.
In the luggage area you’ll find useful side hooks for suspending shopping bags, gym kit etc. The demo car had a spacesaver spare wheel which for £150 is a useful extra.
The engines and gearboxes are VW units. Petrol power is the 113bhp mentioned, or a 1.5 litre four-cylinder with 148bhp – with a two-cylinder economy mode when cruising. Diesel is a 1.6 litre with 113bhp or a 2 litre with 148bhp. All are front drive with six-speed manual gearboxes or a seven-speed DSG automatic. Four-wheel drive is offered with the 2.0-litre diesel engine.
Karoq SE has 17-inch alloys, power folding wing mirrors, height adjustment for both front seats, rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate control. SE Technology has navigation and adaptive cruise control. SE L (tested here) brings 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, the switchable rear seats, and a reversing camera. Oddly, this rear picture includes a diagram of the car showing its sensor rays. It confuses and obstructs the view and is not necessary. Just as confusing, the white-on-gold speedometer markings which in the wrong light are hard to read.
With the 1.5 petrol engine and DSG gears it cost £25,815. It’s enough, but there is a Karoq Edition with 19-inch wheels and most of the options from £27,110 with the 1.5 engine. Top price is £31,960 for the 2 litre diesel, 4x4 and DSG gears.
The test car performed well, with no trouble on bends at higher speeds. The pace is more than you might expect from 148bhp in this class. Skoda quotes 0-62 mph in 8.6 seconds, with 50.4mpg and 127g on the combined average. My return motorway trip recorded 44mpg, dropping to 38mpg on a hilly 40-miler.
The cabin has all the storage ideas you’d expect, plus on this model rear “picnic” trays.
I have read praise for the Karoq’s suspension comfort. Mine was firmly sprung and caused too much thud in the rear, as if the spare wheel or load floor were loose. They weren’t. There was also a bit too much tyre noise. The car was on Bridgestone’s Turanza T001, which is being replaced by the improved T005. Verdict: a solid contender and the flexible rear seats appeal.
If you need more space then Skoda’s answer is the Superb, which most critics agree lives up to its name. It is sold as a hatchback which looks like a saloon and, as tested here, an elegant estate. The 190-inch long car borrows from the Volkswagen Group kit bag and has become so good that it stands comparison with an Audi A6 or Mercedes E-Class.
Prices start at £22,015 for the petrol engined 123bhp 1.4S with front-wheel-drive. All-wheel-drive is available from £26,945 with the 148bhp 2-litre diesel SE. Top book is £38,440 for the 276bhp 2-litre petrol very posh Laurin & Klement with AWD and DSG automatic gears. My demo car was the AWD automatic with the 187bhp diesel engine, at £35,505 in SportLine trim, which includes firmer suspension. Eco ratings are 54.3mpg and 137g CO2, with a 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds. Fully loaded, my mpg reading was 40mpg on a demanding cross country route, improving to 45mpg, unloaded, on gentler terrain. These figures are better than those from the smaller, petrol-engined Karoq. Its braked towing limit is 2200kg.
Useful features were the hanging hooks in the luggage area, an automatic parking brake at halts, and an accurate navigation system with only one phonetic stumble.
Verdict: Both are built at Kvasiny, Czech Republic. The more refined and larger Superb makes the Karoq look pricey.