Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI SE L Yeti replacement rated
Does the Czechs’ new SUV pick up where its quirky predecessor, the Yeti, left off?
The Volkswagen Group’s modular approach to car design – in which a huge number of different models across a handful of separate brands use the same platforms, engines, transmissions and technologies – is a masterstroke of industrial manufacturing, but it hardly encourages individuality. The impression you get is of groups of engineers walking through some great warehouse along enormous aisles, the VW badge or Seat logo emblazoned on their jackets, cherrypicking all the bits and pieces they’d like to use for their next product.
Despite that, though, a number of years ago, the good people at Skoda managed to combine those shared components to create a genuinely characterful and intriguing car. The Yeti, launched in 2009, might not be to all tastes, but it certainly can’t be accused of being dull. Now, though, the time has come for Skoda to wave farewell to the Yeti and introduce its replacement. Is the new Karoq another quirky Skoda, or is it just 4.4m of bland VW Group SUV?
Based on the MQB platform that underpins great swathes of the empire’s hatchbacks, saloons and SUVS, the Karoq is bigger in all dimensions than the Yeti. The latter’s chunky, distinctive styling has gone, but the new model is at least reasonably handsome, with its sharp creases and narrow, predator-eyed headlights.
The cabin design is pretty strong, too, but it’s the quality that really impresses. There’s an overall sense of solidity and the materials themselves feel premium. The soft-touch, rubberised dashboard is particularly good. The upgraded Canton infotainment system, which was fitted to our test car and includes a vast high-resolution display, is perhaps the most impressive element of the entire cabin. The Varioflex seating system that proved so popular on the Yeti – it allows you to remove, slide and recline the rear
seats individually – wasn’t fitted to our car but it will be available as an option on the Karoq.
Naturally, there’s bundles of interior space and a very generous boot. The lofty seating position gives the elevated view of the road that seems so popular these days but, helpfully, the car never feels especially big when driving around town. Skoda likes to shout about the various ‘simply clever’ trinkets that are dotted around the cabin – the little sealed rubbish bin in the driver’s door pocket, the rear-facing tablet holders that can be fitted to the front headrests and so on – and with good reason: they really are very handy in everyday use.
In this car’s SE L trim, the Karoq comes very well equipped. Heated seats, a powered tailgate, LED lights, a rear-view camera and mobile phone connectivity are included. That seems generous, given the £24,515 asking price. Skoda expects the best-selling engine to be the 1.5 TSI, tested here. It’s a turbocharged 1498cc petrol engine that develops maximum outputs of 148bhp and 184lb ft. There is a smaller petrol engine and a couple of diesel options, too, but this 1.5-litre four-pot is refined and impressively responsive for a turbo unit. With 0-62mph dispatched in 8.4sec, performance is adequate, although the car certainly never feels quick. This engine is so much quieter and sweeter than a diesel lump would be. Skoda claims 52.3mpg on the combined cycle, too, so it’s hardly thirsty.
The six-speed manual gearbox is basically very good, but the shift action on our test car was notchier than expected, feeling a little obstructive at times where other VW Group transmissions are oily-slick. A dual-clutch automatic is an option, too, and although this particular car is front-wheel drive only, there are four-wheel-drive models available.
This is a vehicle that majors on comfort, refinement and convenience. With lots of wheel travel and plush suspension, along with meaty tyre sidewalls, the Karoq rides very well indeed. It’s settled, calm and composed, even on reasonably broken tarmac. At motorway speeds, the cabin is calm and serene, tyre noise kept to a minimum and engine noise totally absent, and the only real wind noise seems to be created by those chunky door mirrors.
Even the steering is rather good. The weighting is natural, as is the rate of response, which means you guide the Karoq along without really having to think about it. Given the tall ride height, it’s no surprise that the car rolls a fair amount in spirited cornering, but there’s enough control, grip and stability that the car will hold on gamely if you fling it into a few bends.
The Karoq isn’t exactly fun to drive, but that probably doesn’t really matter. The Yeti could be amusing to pedal along, though. It also had a personality, whereas the Karoq is just a little short of any individuality of its own. Still, that shouldn’t detract too much from what is a very capable family car. @thedanprosser
It isn’t the appeal of four-wheel drive that makes small SUVS popular: its uptake on the outgoing Yeti was less than 10%. DP
Karoq is propelled smoothly, briskly enough and frugally by a 1.5 turbo petrol
Steering has a natural weighting and response; this is an easy car to drive, as well as a comfortable and refined one
There’s lots of space, premium materials and, in our test car, optional and excellent Canton infotainment; spec levels are high