Skoda Karoq

Fol­low­ing its big­ger sib­ling’s lead, Karoq of­fers the SUV mar­ket clever en­gines, clever pack­ag­ing, Euro­pean styling and sharp pric­ing Mark Baker takes a closer look.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

Ki­wis do love their SUVS, and they do love hav­ing the lat­est or trendi­est – the ‘it’ SUV, the ‘now’ SUV. Can’t blame us re­ally – while back in the day liv­ing with an SUV meant com­pro­mis­ing on in­te­rior space or on-road man­ners – or off-road ca­pa­bil­ity – the SUVS of to­day are im­mensely ca­pa­ble and de­sir­able ve­hi­cles. So much so that it’s not an ‘SUV mar­ket’ any more, it’s be­come seg­mented into com­pact, medium, large. Skoda New Zealand has high hopes for its new Karoq, which brings Euro­pean styling and panache to an al­ready crowded class and fits into that first seg­ment. The five-seat Karoq drops into the white­hot com­pact SUV cat­e­gory where it starts with the mid-spec Am­bi­tion at $38,990 and must com­pete with some very pop­u­lar prod­ucts in­clud­ing Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tuc­son, Ford Es­cape, Toy­ota RAV, Kia Sportage and/or Niro, Mazda CX-5, Nis­san Qashqai and Re­nault Cap­tur. Most, if not all, warmly wel­come buy­ers with $38,000 - $40,000 dol­lars to spend. At Karoq’s launch there are two mod­els, the front wheel drive TSI (1.5-litre petrol turbo en­gine) and the 2.0 tur­bod­iesel 4WD. The for­mer pro­duces 110 kw at a rel­a­tively high 5000-6000 rpm with peak torque of 250 Nm oc­cur­ring be­tween 1500 and 3500 rpm. Its fuel ef­fi­ciency fig­ures of 5.6 litres/100km is helped by smart en­gine man­age­ment that will shut off two of its four cylin­ders. The diesel makes the same power but at 3500-4000 rpm. Torque for the diesel is 340 Nm at 1750-3000 rpm, which seems less im­pres­sive than the petrol but is as usual with tur­bod­iesels more a plateau of torque than a curve to a peak num­ber. The diesel re­turns of­fi­cial fig­ures of 5.2 litres/100km. The petrol ver­sions are lighter, fea­tur­ing a sim­ple beam-style rear sus­pen­sion and weigh­ing in at around 1320 kg; the diesel is around 1480 kg thanks to all-wheel drive, mul­ti­link rear sus­pen­sion de­sign and the heav­ier en­gine. Both petrol and diesel ver­sions use a seven speed DSG trans­mis­sion. The com­pany plans a rapid range ex­pan­sion in early 2019 and aims to launch a new SUV ev­ery year, cul­mi­nat­ing in an EV ver­sion in 2020. Karoq joins the larger Ko­diaq and could be con­sid­ered a re­place­ment for the charis­matic Yeti (the “lit­tle SUV that could”), though in its con­ser­va­tive styling it looks more akin to big brother Ko­diaq. Longer, wider but lower than Yeti, the Karoq prom­ises more fo­cus on tar­mac road man­ners; its re­duced ground clear­ance im­proves on-road han­dling but re­stricts its

off-road ca­pa­bil­ity slightly. Karoq is ap­par­ently a blend­ing of Amer­i­can First Na­tion (In­dian) words for ‘car’ and ‘ar­row’ to sug­gest pur­pose and deter­mi­na­tion. Cre­at­ing a new fam­ily styling/nomen­cla­ture dy­nasty around the Ko­diaq seems a savvy move and fits with the par­ent VW Group’s over­all de­sign and styling strat­egy. Skoda’s mar­ket re­search sug­gests Kiwi small SUV buy­ers pri­ori­tise de­sir­able traits in or­der as: Price Ex­te­rior de­sign. Fuel econ­omy. In­te­rior func­tion­al­ity. Re­li­a­bil­ity. Comfort. Safety. The low rank­ing for safety, they say, is sim­ply be­cause Ki­wis now ex­pect ex­cel­lent safety of a new car. Fea­tures like au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing are note­wor­thy but ex­pected as part of the stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion. The week af­ter Karoq launched, there were calls for AEB to be­come stan­dard across all new cars in New Zealand. Two lev­els of trim/spec are of­fered: Am­bi­tion+ is the in­tro-level – but hardly bare bones – spec, while Style raises the ante some­what with a pre­mium-end stan­dard fea­ture list. Stan­dard on all mod­els, and of course key to the five star NCAP rat­ing, is a very com­pre­hen­sive ar­ray of pas­sive and ac­tive safety mea­sures. Emer­gency brake as­sist – in­clud­ing front as­sist with pedes­trian pro­tec­tion; lane as­sist, blind spot de­tec­tion, LED run­ning lights – and front, side, cur­tain and driver’s knee airbags are fit­ted. There are two 18-inch al­loy wheels for the Am­bi­tion and a 19-inch de­sign for the Style ver­sions. In­fo­tain­ment links work through Skoda’s pro­pri­etary Myskoda app, with an 8.0-inch touch­screen flipping be­tween menus; and the sys­tem sup­ports both Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto. In re­cent years, Skoda has been mak­ing a name for clever stor­age so­lu­tions, and this is one of the most in­trigu­ing party tricks of­fered by Karoq. On the op­tions list, Karoq of­fers mo­torists the clev­er­ness of Skoda’s Var­i­oflex in­te­rior, which can be con­fig­ured many ways to suit many needs. Cost­ing $1750 on the Am­bi­tion+ or $2500 as part of a ‘plus pack­age’ on Style mod­els, Var­i­oflex al­lows the three in­di­vid­ual rear seats to slide back and forward, tip up against the front seats, or be re­moved com­pletely to max­imise lug­gage space. With all three seats in place there’s 521 litres of lug­gage space. The two-seat lay­out cre­ates a gap for long nar­row items like skis, for which there is a be­spoke ski bag avail­able. Tip­ping and fas­ten­ing the rears against the front seats pro­vides 1605 litres, while re­mov­ing the rear seats en­tirely bumps that to an im­pres­sive 1810 litres of space. With such keen in­tro pric­ing there is lit­tle to choose be­tween petrol and diesel ver­sions, and given the clever Var­i­oflex sys­tem can be op­tioned on either model per­haps it comes down to how much of an early adopter you are, what en­gine you pre­fer and per­haps what the ve­hi­cle is go­ing to be mostly used for. New Karoq own­ers can ‘go Euro­pean’ and be as­sured they have bought one of the bet­ter equipped and most user-friendly among the cur­rent crop of SUVS.

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