With the might of the VW parts bin and Skoda’s quirky her­itage be­hind it, the Skoda Karoq is en­ter­ing a very crowded com­pact cross­over mar­ket. Tom Wiltshire puts it to the test.

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - BY TOM WILTSHIRE

WHAT IS IT? We’re get­ting pretty bored of in­tro­duc­ing yet an­other com­pact cross­over, but if any­thing has the po­ten­tial to be a bit dif­fer­ent, it’s the Skoda Karoq.

It’s the re­place­ment for the Czech brand’s quirky but bril­liant Yeti, and in­cor­po­rates the best the VW Group has to of­fer, pep­pered with ‘Sim­ply Clever’ touches.

It has all the in­gre­di­ents for suc­cess – a prac­ti­cal and com­fort­able in­te­rior, sharp but dis­creet styling, and a wide range of Vw-sourced petrol and diesel en­gines. Can it mir­ror the suc­cess of its big­ger Ko­diaq brother? WHAT’S NEW? The Karoq is an all-new car for Skoda, ditch­ing the old Yeti’s be­spoke plat­form for the ubiq­ui­tous MQB un­der­pin­nings that can be found un­der so many VW Group ve­hi­cles.

That does mean the oily bits are all very well-proven, though, with the ma­jor­ity al­ready rack­ing up hun­dreds of thou­sands of miles un­der­neath nu­mer­ous VW Tiguans, Seat Ate­cas and Audi Q3s.

In­side is a sim­i­lar story, with the re­freshed cabin new to Skoda – but fa­mil­iar to any­body who’s sat in a mod­ern car from the Ger­man brand.

WHAT’S UN­DER THE BON­NET? Buy­ers can choose from a num­ber of petrol or diesel en­gines, start­ing from an en­try-level 1.0-litre three-cylin­der petrol to a

range-top­ping 2.0-litre diesel in a va­ri­ety of power out­puts.

We spent a week with what’s ex­pected to be a real vol­ume-seller – the 2.0 TDI tuned to pro­duce 148bhp. It comes mated as stan­dard to a six-speed man­ual gear­box, but our car had the op­tional seven-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic.

We’re fa­mil­iar with this com­bi­na­tion, and the en­gine is de­cent – smooth and re­fined, with enough power for easy over­tak­ing.

The DSG ‘ box is less suc­cess­ful. It’s great on the open road, of­fer­ing su­per-quick shifts, but it’s laggy at slow speeds and hangs when set­ting off from a stand­still. It quickly be­comes ir­ri­tat­ing in stop-start city traf­fic.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Karoq feels like al­most ev­ery­thing based on the MQB plat­form – it’s clearly a qual­ity prod­uct, and there’s a re­as­sur­ing so­lid­ity to all the con­trols.

Skoda has tuned the Karoq dif­fer­ently to its Seat Ateca sib­ling though, aim­ing for com­fort rather than dy­namic abil­ity.

Our model was equipped with four-wheel drive, and of­fered safe and steady han­dling. Push the Karoq a bit too fast into a bend and it does un­der­steer, but stick within nor­mal lim­its and it re­mains safe and in­ert, with body roll well con­trolled.

There’s no fun to be had though, no mat­ter how hard you push it. Where this pays off is in the Karoq’s ride, which is com­pli­ant around town and cush­ioned at a cruise. With good re­fine­ment else­where, it’s a re­lax­ing car to do long dis­tances in.

HOW DOES IT LOOK? The old Yeti’s looks were a real talk­ing point, but the Karoq won’t at­tract nearly so much con­tro­versy. Where the old car stood out, the new one blends in, with a generic sil­hou­ette only bro­ken up by Skoda’s now-trade­mark sharp styling lines.

It’s far from ugly though, and looks every bit the Ko­diaq’s smaller brother. As for the Skoda badge, any per­cep­tion that it’s just Volk­swa­gen’s poor sib­ling has been washed away. No, it doesn’t bring ad­mir­ing glances in the same way an Audi Q3 would – but it’s cer­tainly a cut above a Nis­san Qashqai.

WHAT’S IT LIKE IN­SIDE? The in­te­rior is a real suc­cess story of the Ko­diaq. It’s the ideal com­bi­na­tion of roomy, pre­mium and clever, and is likely to be a hit with fam­ily buy­ers.

There’s a com­fort­able amount of room for four 6ft adults, and if you spec the op­tional Var­i­oflex sys­tem the rear seats slide and re­cline in­di­vid­u­ally to help bal­ance boot space and legroom.

Best of all are the ‘Sim­ply Clever’ touches Skoda hides. There’s an op­tional wire­less phone-charg­ing mat ahead of the gear­lever, while lit­tle ad­di­tions such as the sealed bin in the door pocket and tablet hold­ers mounted on the front head­rests are well-thought out – though these are op­tions.

How­ever, it’s lost the Yeti’s sense of sheer prac­ti­cal­ity, los­ing the boxy roofline for one more fash­ion­able.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE? All mod­els come de­cently equipped, with en­try-level SE mod­els of­fer­ing 17 inch al­loy wheels, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, au­to­matic lights and wipers, rear park­ing sen­sors and cruise con­trol, while in­side dual-zone cli­mate con­trol and a raft of touch­screen con­nec­tiv­ity come as stan­dard.

‘Our’ Karoq came in Edi­tion trim, which tops the cur­rent range. It’s fit­ted with LED lights, 19-inch al­loy wheels, leather up­hol­stery, and those ex­cel­lent Var­i­oflex seats as stan­dard. You’ll want for very lit­tle, but the £30k+ price tag of our test car isn’t such a bar­gain as mod­els lower in the range.

VER­DICT The Karoq is an­other strong show­ing from Skoda, fol­low­ing the launch of the Ko­diaq last year, and it’s a clear in­di­ca­tor of the path the man­u­fac­turer wants to do down.

It’s de­cent to drive, welle­quipped and has a great in­te­rior. It’s not as quirky (i.e. boxy) as the Yeti; some peo­ple will find that a mas­sive bonus, oth­ers will hark back to the Yeti’s dis­tinc­tive­ness.

Over­all, how­ever, even though it may not stand out from the crowd as much as its pre­de­ces­sor, it is much more in tune with the de­mands of the mod­ern SUV mar­ket.

“The in­te­rior is a real suc­cess story of the Ko­diaq. It’s the ideal com­bi­na­tion of roomy, pre­mium and clever, and is likely to be a hit with fam­ily buy­ers. There’s a com­fort­able amount of room for four 6ft adults.”

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