Road Test: Skoda Karoq
The Yeti’s larger successor has the market’s best crossovers in its sights, explains Alex Grant.
SECTOR Crossover PRICE £20,875-£31,690 FUEL 50.4-64.2mpg CO2 117-138g/km
Skoda’s distinctive Yeti was just ahead of the crossover pack when it launched in 2009, and good timing means it’s been useful for finding new customers in the meantime. Around one in ten of the 600,000 sold globally have come to the UK, rising each year in line with growing demand for crossovers.
This might sound like solid foundations for a new one, but don’t hold your breath. Its successor, the Karoq, isn’t only a new name, it’s also a larger car, positioned in the evergreen Qashqai segment. A sensible move, as it fills an important gap in Skoda’s range, particularly for fleets, while leaving space for a Fabia-based crossover underneath.
There’s no shortage of competition, but the closest comes from within the Volkswagen Group. The Karoq is platform-shared with the Ateca; the two cars share a production line in the Czech Republic. That bodes well but, with near-identical dimensions, engine options and very similar body pressings, it’s mainly personal preference that separates them.
Skoda’s engine offer is slightly different; this launches with two petrol and two diesel engines, at equivalent 113bhp and 148bhp power outputs, and all are available with a £1,300 DSG transmission. Although the 1.6-litre diesel is likely to find the most favour with fleets, it’s worth noting that the 1.0-litre petrol offers identical CO2 emissions and a £2,030 price advantage, which may suit low-mileage drivers. It’s also livelier to drive, and lacks the diesel’s high-pitched whirr under load.
Similarly, the two high-powered engines are hard to choose between. The familiar 2.0-litre TDI offers a broad spread of pulling power and is remarkably quiet, but it’s only offered with four-wheel drive and CO2 emissions are higher than the 1.5-litre petrol. Factor in an even wider price gap, and the petrol engine’s ability to run on two cylinders at low loads, and there’s a head-over-heart case for not choosing diesel here too.
Skoda’s fleet aspirations are obvious; there are four trim levels, including an SE Technology version for businesses. A no-cost upgrade over the SE, it adds adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors and an eight-inch navigation system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, all without the efficiency compromise of the SE L’s larger alloy wheels. Unusually, it can also be paired with the full suite of engines.
However, it doesn’t get the Karoq’s neatest feature. Carried over from the Yeti, the rear bench on SE L and Edition trims not only folds flat, but also slides, tips forwards and lifts out in three sections to extend the load area. It’s a neat solution, but a £450 option where it’s not standard, and the seat sections are cumbersome to lift out.
The big step up, though, is in comfort. This has easily one of the most compliant suspension setups in its class, particularly with the multi-link rear axle fitted to four-wheel drive versions, and it feels a class above the Yeti. Bigfoot left some big shoes to fill, but this should have no problem building on its predecessor’s solid foundations.
What we think
Comfortable, clever and with petrol and diesel options for fleets, Karoq is a latecomer to a crowded segment, but it’s also one of the best in its class. And that’s saying something.