Skoda lobs Karoq into the fray

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Words: Peter Louisson
13 Apr 2018

Into what must be considered one of the busiest new vehicle sectors drops the Karoq, Skoda’s smaller sib to the Kodiaq.

Naturally you’d guessed that given the name’s slightly shorter, begins with a K and ends with a q. Guess their next offering, a truly compact SUV, will be called Kwarq? If so, you heard it here first.

Like Yeti, Karoq enters an SUV class that’s not quite medium sized but bigger than compact. Not that that matters especially, but it’s chocka full of competitors already, including Qashqai, Sportage, Tucson, Ateca, and many more besides. The name, by the by, is an amalgam of RUQ and KARAAQ, words that respectively mean arrow and car. Anyhow, it’s appropriate that the name is slightly shorter than that of Kodiaq, Skoda’s biggest bear. Karoq, a five-seater, is over 300mm shorter.

Mention of Ateca as a competitor is relevant for it bears a startling resemblance to the newly launched Seat. Like that vehicle it gets both diesel and petrol engine options. There’s little difference in fuel economy between the 1.5-litre petrol and the 2.0-litre diesel, both turbocharged.The petrol being lighter is faster in acceleration (8.6 vs 9.3sec to 100km/h). If you want 4WD with your Karoq, diesel it has to be, at least until 2019 when the four-paw TSI-powered Karoq comes on stream.

The Karoq effectively replaces Yeti. It’s 159mm longer and 48mm wider but shorter (not as tall) by 41mm. It is on sale now, kicking off in Ambition+ specification. Powering it is a new 1.5-litre turbopetrol engine from the VW group, delivering 250Nm of torque and 110kW (no different from the company’s 1.4L TSI).

This new four-cylinder mill features cylinder deactivation technology, running on two pots when not under load. Skoda NZ reckons you can save upwards of $3000 in fuel costs over 60,000km versus its rivals, if you can match the claimed fuel consumption figure that is. And that number is a quoted 5.6L/100km, which is only just shy of the 5.2L/100km that the 2.0 turbodiesel can evidently deliver.

List price starts at $38,990 plus ORCs for the Ambition+ variant, just $90 more than base Ateca Style. Add $4k if you want the mechanically identical but better equipped Karoq Style model which adds active cruise control, a powered driver’s seat, sat nav, electric tailgate and 19-inch wheels.

The base machine is hardly wanting though, featuring LED headlights, seven airbags, AEB, lane assist, blind spot monitoring, parking sensors both ends with reversing camera, 18-inch alloys, window tints, tech for both phone tribes and a 20cm touch screen. All models get an umbrella under the front seat, and removable LED light in the luggage bay.

The diesel comes in Style specification only, costing $5500 more than the top petrol variant ($48,490). All can be had with a Plus Package which costs $2500 and includes a flexible seat system (sliding, removable), leather trim, a sports steering wheel with shift paddles, and sports pedals.

If you optioned these items individually it would add $6k to the price. The Varioflex seating arrangement enhances luggage space, but there’s already a fair amount without (521-1630L vs 588-1810L).

As a drive it reminds of Ateca, using the same platform. We only got a shot in the petrol variant but it steers quickly, precisely and is hard to unsettle in corners. Yet it rides extremely well too, and is quiet on the go. On rural roads it prefers a few revs but sure gets along apace. Skoda reckons it outruns its mainly atmo 2.0-litre opposition and also promises to use less fuel.

Skoda sold 1300 vehicles here last year, and is set to move 1800 this year, thanks in big part to its duo of K branded machines. The launch of the unnamed compact SUV next year should bolster Skoda numbers to 2000 locally, and in 2020 an electric SUV launches so for a brand that sold 129 units in 2003, this European is now a bona fide mainstream player.

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