Last week, I had my first proper meeting with the brand new Skoda Karoq. I say “proper meeting” because I’ve actually met this car before at the IAA show in Frankfurt, but sadly I didn’t get to drive the car. Then, a few months ago, I got the chance to review the car at its international launch, but other commitments meant that I couldn’t make that. So, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been looking forward to actually driving this car!
Finally, I got to drive the 2018 Skoda Karoq at its national launch in Navan, Co Meath. My test model for that day was a 2.0 litre TDI 4×4 with a 7-speed DSG transmission. It very much impressed me, and I felt the DSG was about as fluid as you will find. Last week, Skoda Ireland gave me a 1.5-litre TSI model to try for the week. In terms of power delivery, this 150hp machine does not disappoint. It gets up to desired speeds with ease, and once you get to that speed, you start to notice that this is a pretty intelligent engine. Often while cruising I noticed a little comment pop up in the small TFT screen in the instrument binnacle that tells you that the Karoq is operating off two-cylinders. This is cool, it has Cylinder on Demand, which is great for making what you’re driving more efficient. Now, this does not mean that the Karoq is the most efficient car in the world, but I’ll cover the fuel economy a little later on.
On the road, the Skoda Karoq feels more agile than the outgoing Yeti. The handling is improved and body role feels minimal. Despite the fact that the Karoq is a larger car than the Yeti, the technology within makes it more dynamic. The steering is sharper and the overall feel of the car on the road is better. Of course, the Yeti did not benefit from the 1.5-litre engine, but I found the Karoq more dynamic in even the 2.0-litre version. In saying that, I’m not slagging off the Yeti in any way. Even though the Yeti was not the most attractive-looking car, I have to say that I adored it. It was a quirky machine that was very capable. Personally, I used to love its 1.2-litre TSI engine. Unfortunately, the 1.5-litre engine does not come with the 7-speed DSG box. The laziness in me really wanted one, and after seeing how nicely it performed in the 2.0 TDI model, I really liked its smoothness. My model for the week had a 6-speed manual box – which by the way is smooth too, but not as nice as the DSG. My favourite thing about the 1.5-litre engine is just how unobtrusive and quiet it is.
The Karoq is a nice looking car too. Far more attractive than the Yeti. The exterior looks like a smaller version of the Kodiaq. It’s also not dissimilar to the likes of the SEAT Ateca in terms of style. What’s on offer from Volkswagen Group is certainly becoming more similar across each of their brands, and this is especially obvious when it comes to SUVs. Personally, I think the Kodiaq is among their most unique models on offer. The Karoq’s dimensions make it maybe a little too like the Ateca. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but some buyers may want for something that’s a little different.
So far, this has been a warm review. Where this particular engine falls down in my view is in its fuel economy. You see, the 1.5-litre engine in the Karoq may offer good things like Cylinder on Demand, but for some reason I was not returning a good fuel economy. Over a nearly 300km distance on motorways, city roads and smaller roads, I managed to return a fuel economy of 8.4-litres per 100km (the spec sheet says 5.5 l/100km). This is not great, and it’s a bit surprising considering that this is not a massive car, and it does have clever tech which should make my journeying a little more economical. Now, I wasn’t trying too hard to be overly economical, but that’s the way I am in other petrol cars too and my return has been better in those.
The interior of the new Skoda Karoq is typically Skoda. It offers a lot, and it’s very impressive. I’ll start off with the VarioFlex seats. These remind me somewhat of the Magic Seats which are available from Honda. These VarioFlex seats can manoeuvre to various positions to aid space for passengers, but to also make room for items that need extra boot space. Now, if that’s not enough, the seats can be completely taken out, and this turns the Karoq into a van. That’s clever and good for people who have occasional needs for this much space from a small SUV.
Moving on to the front cabin. Space up front is excellent and the quality of material in our higher-end “Style” model is pretty good. Of course, the lower you go, the cheaper the plastics feel, but what’s in front of the driver’s line of sight is great quality. My instrument binnacle held a small TFT display, however, I believe that the Karoq will be the first Skoda to hold a fully digital display. I’m yet to see this, but I do look forward to it. The standard display is pretty much the same as what you’d see in all other new Skoda cars.
Our infotainment system was good too. Skoda Connect is the most advanced system that Skoda has made and I first met it in the new Kodiaq. Our “Columbus” system had a large 9.2″ screen and was full colour. Apart from having normal functionality like Bluetooth, USB port, CD and radio – it is also connectable to the internet. When online you get access to some excellent online features like, news updates, real time weather forecasts for where you are and for the destination you are going to. You also get live updates on parking spaces and fuel prices for the area you are in. Skoda Connect also comes equipped with an SOS button and another button which allows you to call through to a Skoda Ireland call centre if anything goes wrong with your car’s tech. However, they don’t offer a concierge service like in Opel’s OnStar – maybe this is something that would be nice to see in the future. Below is a video which shows how the system works in the Kodiaq (pretty much the same thing). Unfortunately, I could only find one USB port in the car, and two 12v charge points. The glass on the touch screen looks great, but it smudges very easily – which can be annoying because it looks really messy after a while. On the plus side, there is an app that be downloaded for the car. This Skoda Connect app allows you to remotely get all types of details about the car like, fuel economy, location of vehicles, whether it’s locked or unlocked, etc. I’ve tried it in the Kodiaq and I am a fan.
The “Style” version of the Karoq is peppered with some very good ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems). My car had Lane Departure Warning, Front Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Traffic Alert. All of this type of stuff should be standard on every car, and as I’ve said in a lot of other reviews, the Government needs to stop charging extra taxes on safety equipment. If you agree, let us know.
Next up is price. Initially, when I read the price of the new Karoq, I thought that Skoda Ireland may be losing their marbles. They’ve priced it as just above €27,000. I thought they were going a little mad, because you can sit into an entry-level Skoda Kodiaq for €28,000. Why would anyone in their right mind go for a Karoq when they can get the bigger and better Kodiaq for a grand more? Well, the devil is in the detail. Skoda opted to not sell the entry-level “Active” trim in Ireland, which means that only the top two levels are available. So, no matter what, you’re sitting into a well-trimmed model if you buy it in Ireland. However, I still think people might go for the Kodiaq because of the price, and I guess this is a win-win for Skoda! My test model came in at a little over €32,900, but I had extras like; panoramic sun roof, electric tailgate and rear-seat tablet holders.
All in, I definitely like the Karoq. I’m yet to drive the 1.0-litre TSI 3-pot version. I love this engine in everything I’ve driven it in so far, and I believe that it’s a peach in the Karoq (I’ll let you know after I drive it!). As a descendant of the Yeti, the Skoda Karoq is ticking all of the right boxes. Well done Skoda.