Skoda Karoq

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

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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.

Driv­ing

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.

Prac­ti­cal­ity

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.

Own­er­ship

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.

Run­ning costs

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

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