MODEL TESTED: Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI DSG Edition PRICE: £28,410 ENGINE: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 148bhp We see if our favourite compact SUV has what it takes to stay at the top
THE Skoda Karoq arrived last year and immediately went straight to the top of the class, defeating our previous family SUV favourite, the Peugeot 3008. In every sense then, this is the car the two new contenders have to beat, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. In £28,410 1.5 TSI DSG Edition spec (although our pictures show an SE L), can the Karoq carry its momentum to win here?
Design & engineering
THIS is the latest SUV to join Skoda’s line-up. There’ll be an even smaller model to complement the range, but for now the Karoq stands as the Czech company’s best-selling crossover.
It uses a tried-and-tested recipe, combining the VW Group’s MQB underpinnings (with Macpherson strut front suspension and, in two-wheel-drive form here, a torsion-beam rear axle) that also forms the basis of the Kodiaq SUV, highlighting its versatility.
It’s teamed with Skoda’s 1.5-litre TSI turbo petrol engine, delivering 148bhp and 250Nm of torque. This engine features some clever tech, because it can shut down two of its four cylinders under certain conditions on the move to improve efficiency.
This system works well and is smooth. There are no jerky cut outs or hesitations when you lift off or get back on the accelerator; all you’ll know of the tech doing its thing is an icon that flashes up on the dash.
Unlike its CVT rivals there’s a dual-clutch box here, but four-wheel drive isn’t offered on this 1.5 TSI petrol model. Still, at £28,410 in top-of-the-range Edition spec it’s well priced and offers loads of kit. Sat-nav, DAB, Bluetooth, LED headlights, climate and cruise control, heated seats, parking sensors and a reversing camera are all included.
You also get wireless phone charging alongside Apple Carplay and Android Auto, while the kit is integrated the best here. The interior has a higherquality and more upmarket feel, too, but the Skoda will also have to drive well to take another win.
THE 1.5 TSI engine is actually the least powerful of the three, but the sharp-shifting DSG gearbox helped the car sprint from 0-60mph in 8.8 seconds.
Although this was slower than its rivals, the unit delivers strong torque low down, and allied to that transmission, it makes the Karoq more flexible and more refined because the revs don’t rise abruptly when you ask for a burst of acceleration. The box changes smoothly in automatic mode, giving a nicer, stronger connection to the powertrain.
On the move the Skoda feels sharper than either of the Japanese cars. The steering is more responsive to your inputs, and it’s more agile because there’s less roll through changes of direction.
This stems from the Karoq’s fairly firm set-up for a family SUV, but the damping is better than in the Eclipse Cross, so it’s more comfortable over rutted road surfaces; it even shades the fairly fluidfeeling XV, despite the Skoda’s larger 19-inch alloys.
The faster you go the more the Karoq’s body control comes to the fore, giving plenty of security and confidence. The more energy you put through the springs and dampers, the more the ride calms down, but as these mid-size SUVS are likely to spend plenty of time in town, the relatively composed feeling from the Skoda’s suspension over broken surfaces means the Karoq has the edge over the Mitsubishi in particular here, too.
EDITION spec comes with Skoda’s Varioflex seats as standard, allowing you to slide the rear bench seat forward or back, as in the Eclipse, to either maximise boot space or room for passengers.
With the seats in their most rearward position there’s 479 litres of load space, as well as plenty of legroom. Slide the seats forward and the load volume grows to 588 litres; a power tailgate is included, too. While there’s obviously less space for rear passengers, it’s still acceptable for shorter journeys, but the Karoq’s tall, square roofline means there’s a decent amount of headroom in the rear.
The Karoq also offers Skoda’s Simply Clever touches, making the car easier to live with. Along with the flexible seating, there’s an ice scraper in the fuel-filler flap, an LED torch in the boot, a storage compartment underneath the passenger seat to complement the bins dotted around the cabin – including on top of the dash – and an umbrella.
SKODA finished second out of 27 brands in the makers’ chart of our Driver Power 2017 survey, while its garages came fifth in the dealer table. Neither rival ranked, but these results show the Karoq will be easy to live with.
Those results are bolstered by the car’s strong level of standard safety kit. It received a full five-star safety rating when tested by Euro NCAP thanks to its autonomous braking and pedestrian detection as part of Skoda’s Front Assist system, as well as seven airbags, lane assist, blind spot detection with cross traffic alert and traffic sign recognition.
THE Karoq proved the most efficient model on test, returning a respectable 34.2mpg. This means Skoda drivers will spend £1,914 on fuel over an average 12,000 miles per year, or £261 less than those running the thirstier Mitsubishi, which returned 30.1mpg.
Compared with its turbocharged rivals here, the naturally aspirated XV returned 32.7mpg, which means you’ll spend £2,002 on petrol based on the same average annual mileage.
Karoq’s rear seats slide and there’s lots of space
With seats down, 1,810-litre boot is biggest on test