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?

Auto Car (UK) - - CONTENTS - DAN PROSSER

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

TESTER’S NOTE

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

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