Think of Skoda Karoq as a baby bear

If you want to com­pare the Karoq with the larger Ko­diaq, that’s fine with Skoda NZ, writes David Lin­klater.

Taranaki Daily News - - Motoring -

The new Skoda Karoq: it’s ba­si­cally just a baby ver­sion of the Ko­diaq, right? Well, Skoda New Zealand is hop­ing you’ll see a bit more in it than that. But if not... that’s okay.

‘‘The Karoq is that sec­ond phase to our SUV fam­ily,’’ says Greg Leet, gen­eral man­ager of Skoda New Zealand. ‘‘Ko­diaq has put Skoda on the map with the New Zealand pub­lic and Karoq is an ex­ten­sion of that SUV strat­egy.

In fact, Ko­diaq helped make Skoda the most awarded brand in New Zealand last year – in­clud­ing our own Stuff Mo­tor­ing Top Car prize, as well as the NZ Mo­tor­ing Writ­ers Guild/AA Car of the Year award.

‘‘How can our [new] car stand out in a seg­ment that is very, very busy?’’ says Leet. ‘‘Well, we come back to lever­ag­ing a car like the Ko­diaq. It put us in that space.’’

Karoq is a mid-sized SUV that os­ten­si­bly re­places Yeti. But whereas Yeti was a bit quirky look­ing and pretty niche, Karoq is in­tended to be very much a main­stream player.

There’s an ele­phant in the room, of course. Skoda is part of the Volk­swa­gen Group, which is ex­pert at shar­ing plat­forms and tech­nol­ogy across dif­fer­ent brands. A Karoq is pretty much a Seat Ateca is pretty much a VW Tiguan. They’re all made from the same box of bits.

‘‘I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to re­mind our­selves that Skoda is a main­stream brand com­pet­ing in a main­stream mar­ket,’’ says Leet. ‘‘It’s easy to com­pare it with our brother and sis­ter brands, but ac­tu­ally, that’s not where we fo­cus.’’

Skoda NZ sees Karoq as a ri­val to mod­els like the Kia Sportage, Nis­san Qashqai and Mit­subishi ASX. Fair enough. But to highly in­formed buy­ers (that’s most of you these days), it’ll still no doubt be sized up against its Group sib­lings in terms of tech­nol­ogy and equip­ment.

Good news then: it’s been a long-stand­ing tra­di­tion for Skoda to de­but new VW Group tech­nol­ogy and Karoq car­ries that on with the 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylin­der en­gine that pow­ers the en­try $38,990 TSI Am­bi­tion+ and $42,990 TSI Style mod­els.

Karoq is the first Group prod­uct to use this en­gine, which makes

110kW/250Nm. It has a party trick: in smooth run­ning or on a light throt­tle it can run on two cylin­ders, which helps it achieve a diesel-like Com­bined fuel con­sump­tion of 5.6 litres per

100km (0-100kmh 8.6 sec­onds). The TSI en­gine is matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion (DSG), but only comes in a front-drive con­fig­u­ra­tion.

The sole all-wheel drive model is the $48,490 TDI Style, with a

110kW/340Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel re­turn­ing 5.2 l/100km (0-100kmh

9.3sec).

Even the en­try Am­bi­tion+ is fit­ted with au­tonomous brak­ing in­clud­ing pedes­trian recog­ni­tion, cruise con­trol, Lane As­sist, Blind Spot De­tect, Rear Traf­fic Alert, front/rear park­ing sen­sors with cam­era, key­less en­try/start, LED head­lights and touch-screen with phone pro­jec­tion.

Karoq also picks up Sko­daApp, which runs through your mo­bile and can mon­i­tor a range of driv­ing data.

The Style (TSI and TDI) picks up adap­tive cruise, drive-mode se­lect, power tail­gate with Vir­tual Pedal, three-key per­son­al­i­sa­tion, dual-zone air con­di­tion­ing and more com­pre­hen­sive cargo com­part­ment fitout, in­clud­ing par­ti­tion net screen and Vel­cro cargo el­e­ments as in the larger Ko­diaq.

A fur­ther op­tion to­wards the end of the year will be a com­pletely dig­i­tal in­stru­ment panel – es­sen­tially Skoda’s ver­sion of the Audi Vir­tual Cock­pit, but tai­lored specif­i­cally for the Czech brand with hard-points like coolant and fuel read­outs at each side re­gard­less of the mode cho­sen.

A must-have fea­ture for many buy­ers will be the Var­i­oflex rear seats, which cost $1765 on Am­bi­tion+ or come as part of the $2500 Plus Pack­age on Style, bun­dled with leather, sports steer­ing wheel with pad­dles and sports ped­als.

The Var­i­oflex op­tion car­ries over what was stan­dard on Yeti: 40/20/40-split rear seats that in­di­vid­u­ally slide, fold away or can be com­pletely re­moved. They make the most of a stand­out fea­ture of Karoq: vast car­go­car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity. It ranges from an al­ready -gen­er­ous 479 litres to 581 through the slid­ing func­tion, ris­ing in in­cre­ments all the way to a stag­ger­ing 1810 litres once you re­move all rear seats (the Ko­diaq is 2005 litres, by way of com­par­i­son).

But is it any good to drive? We had very brief spins in both TSI and TDI mod­els. You wouldn’t know the 1.5-litre is switch­ing be­tween four and two-cylin­der run­ning, save an in­di­ca­tor on the dash­board. It’s a sweet en­gine with a torque de­liv­ery that be­lies its hum­ble ca­pac­ity.

Ex­pect to see much more of it in other VW Group prod­ucts.

The thrummy TDI is strong and there’s no deny­ing the ap­peal of proper all-wheel drive in a func­tional SUV like this. VW Group diesels might have some im­age is­sues, but Skoda NZ reck­ons 30-40 per cent of Karoq buy­ers will go this route, of the 500 cars it can get from the fac­tory this year.

Karoq is sharper and more nim­ble than the Ko­diaq, al­though de­lib­er­ately more com­for­to­ri­ented than a Seat Ateca. It looks sub­stan­tial on the road and feels it from be­hind the wheel, al­though we’ll save a fi­nal ver­dict un­til we get more time with a road test car. Thus far, we’ve only cov­ered around 50km each in the TSI and TDI mod­els.

By the way, if you’re won­der­ing how to spot a Karoq from a Ko­diaq com­ing to­wards you - well, it’s not easy. The Karoq has slightly sharper lines, but the most ob­vi­ous dis­tinc­tion is the day­time run­ning light con­fig­u­ra­tion: in Karoq it’s sim­ply a straight line un­der the head­light, whereas in Ko­diaq it wraps around and flicks up­wards.

PHO­TOS: DAVID LIN­KLATER/STUFF

The medium-sized Karoq looks like the larger Ko­diaq. It’s the ‘‘sec­ond phase’’ of SUVs, says Skoda NZ.

The in­te­rior is neat and func­tional. And, the new Sko­daApp con­nec­tion can keep track of your driv­ing on your mo­bile.

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