First Drive: Škoda Kamiq
Is the new baby Škoda SUV too late to the party or the one we’ve been waiting for? Jonathan Musk finds out.
SECTOR Small SUV PRICE from £17,700 FUEL 48-53mpg (est.) CO2 110-117g/km (est.)
The new Kamiq sits on the bottom rung of Škoda’s SUV range, following in the footsteps of the larger Kodiaq and Karoq as well as offering something with more kerb appeal than the recently launched fleet-friendly Scala.
Sharing the Volkswagen Group MQB-A0 platform with Scala, Arona and T-Cross does, however, beg the question: what does the little Škoda SUV offer that the others don’t already?
Design is key on the agenda here, with the Kamiq exhibiting much of the class of the larger Karoq and Kodiaq but with a flair of its own thanks to new Š K O D A branding across the bootlid and an upside-down front-end that features daylight running lights (DRL) above the headlights rather than the other way around. It’s a subtle but effective look that accentuates its height.
And, although Kamiq is clearly styled to be an SUV (ground clearance is 39mm higher than Scala), like its counterparts, it is only available in front-wheel drive.
Kamiq will be offered with a familiar choice of three engines: 1.0-litre TSI with either 95 or 115hp, 1.5-litre TSI with 150hp and 1.6-litre TDI offering 115hp. Power is transferred to the wheels via either a five-speed manual (95hp 1.0-litre TSI only), six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic transmission, with the manual options likely the best for flexibility, although there’s no denying the appeal of the DSG’s lack of a third pedal. Škoda is yet to reveal specific fuel and emissions data, but it is probable they’ll be comparable to those of the T-Cross, which has identical powertrains.
UK-market trim details are also currently unknown, although the range should follow Škoda’s convention with S, SE, SE L and quite possibly a more sporting Monte Carlo option (which accounts for 20% of Fabia sales) in the future – to capitalise on the optional ‘sports chassis control’ that lowers the ride height by 10mm and promises improved handling. Škoda also hinted at a fleet-orientated SE Technology and/or SE Drive model that may be offered post launch.
Fortunately, the Kamiq is not a triumph of style over substance. Stepping inside the car for the first time it’s immediately evident the interior is cavernous (not something its competitors can claim), thanks to having the longest wheelbase and broadest width in the segment. This opens the interior for a combined total of 26 litres of stowage space, acres of rear legroom – even with six-foot drivers – and a sizeable 400-litre boot. Not only is it big, but Škoda has somehow managed to persuade its accountants that soft-touch materials make a difference to the dashtop and doorcards, unlike the hard plastics used on Kamiq’s Volkswagen T-Cross counterpart, for example.
Taking centre-stage in the cabin is Škoda’s latest infotainment system, which is available in three varieties with touchscreens ranging from 6.5 to 9.2-inches. Top of the line gets Škoda’s new ‘natural’ voice command assistant, sat nav, over-the-air (OTA) updates and Škoda’s wireless SmartLink, which pioneers cable-free Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although the latter will be released as an OTA upgrade. Besides this, the driver is treated to an optional 10.25-inch digital instrument display.
Other novel touches include a vast array of Škoda’s ‘Simply Clever’ features, of which we at Fleet World are big fans, such as an ice scraper housed in the fuel filler flap, removable boot light-cum-torch, cargo net beneath the parcel shelf, umbrella in the door, pop-out door protectors, and many more. Although these could be dismissed as gimmicks (and some are optional extras) they’re the icing on the already-very-appealing cake.
Driving the Kamiq was a surprising delight. First and foremost, the peppy little three-cylinder engine with 115hp provides all the power anyone will ever likely need, although the manual box needs to be worked a little when confronted by anything resembling an incline, but this is largely thanks to both fifth and sixth gears being overdrive. Suspension is blissfully supple and compliant and there’s very little tyre noise, which accentuates the car’s premium feel. The diesel option should offer better on-paper economy, but realistically you’d have to cover enormous mileages to warrant it over the petrols. As for driver aids, front assist with predictive pedestrian protection, lane assist and multi-collision brake are all standard. Overall, the lasting impression is one of refinement rather than entertainment, but that’s understandable for this type of car.
Third time’s the charm – Volkswagen Group’s third small SUV following Arona and T-Cross is easily its best. There’s nothing to dislike about the Kamiq. It’s good-looking, practical, good to drive, comfortable, frugal and even quite clever. However, pricing will be the deciding factor for fleet take-up.
Key Fleet Model: 1.0-litre 115hp manual.
Strengths: Practicality, quality, good to drive.
Weaknesses: Pricing more than rivals.