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.
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
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.
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.