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8 APRIL 2019
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Skoda cars used to be built in communist Czechoslovakia, renowned for a solid, if not very inspiring product range with a sort of sporting image. In the 1970s and 1980s they won their class in the RAC rally for 17 years running. BTN’s Malcolm Ginsberg reviews the 2019 Karoq, a car he calls “a nice little family package”.
Today Skoda’s headquarters are still at Mladá Boleslav, 30 miles to the north east of Prague. There have been two big changes. Nowadays the Czech Republic is a member of both the EU and NATO and the company, since 2000, has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group.
Skoda current models start with the £10,000 Citigo, a sister car to the VW Up, through to the top of the line Kodiaq VRS, a seven-seat SUV at just over £40,000.
The Karoq is a five-door proper SUV with four-wheel drive and the winner of the What Car? Car of the Year 2019 Best Family SUV for £18,000-£30,000. The road test car was the SE L150PS version.
The Karoq feels solid, is beautifully put together and offers a host of standard extras including a rear view camera, essential in this modern age and adding minimal to the overall vehicle cost. It is also a proper SUV with decent ground clearance and a 4x4 system designed to smoothly distribute the torque between the front and rear drives automatically. Add to that snow and off road settings for low traction conditions and 18” Brago alloy wheels, ideal for Britain’s rapidly deteriorating road surfaces. The optional rough road package adds underbody protection, which is useful if your house is down a stony, furrowed track.
Something that is not obvious, but a benefit of being part of one of the world’s major automotive groups, is the ability to raid the parts bin. The Karoq is built on what is termed the ‘MLB’ platform, also used by everything from the VW Golf to the Porsche Macan. Many of the enhancements you will find on Audi and SEAT, sister companies.
The 1.5 TSI diesel review model had plenty of torque saving changing into lower gears all the time. The six-speed manual box is adequate for the traffic light grand prix with a 0-60 of 8.7sec and nicely quiet at 70mph. You will finish up with around 45 mpg. A recommendation is to switch the lane assist off when motorway cruising. On this car it was extremely sensitive bleeping far too often. Also included was adaptive cruise control and the front and rear sensors also provide for blind spot detection.
The key is electronic. Leave it in in your pocket. The glove compartment is cooled, useful for a bottle of water on a hot day. It also has chrome roof rails but this seems to be a styling feature. To see these in action, on any car, is rare, and loads will add considerably to fuel consumption.
The Karoq sits higher off the road than a normal saloon, but not that much higher. Getting in and out is very easy and you do get the feeling, as is the norm with SUVs that you are looking down on lesser vehicles. It could be argued that this is safer too. In the dark the pavement lights up. One of a number of upmarket embellishments that makes this SUV stand out. Another is the foot-controlled rear door access and a button for it to close.
One of the problems with a seven-day ownership for a road review and modern technology cars is the impossibly of trying all the gadgets available. Once one settles into the very comfortable driving seat and locked the memory button to ensure it knows who the driver is, you are faced with a virtual cockpit display screen, all 10.25” inches of it. This can be customised with five views, classic, basic, extended, modern and sports. I quickly decided on classic and left it at that.
With the automatic box the driver has normal, sports and eco mode. The electric fold-away door mirror only resets itself when you get out. When in the seat you can still see if anyone is coming up on your offside before leave-taking. Both driver and front seat passenger benefit from heated seats.
In the second row, large adults will find adequate head and leg room and plenty of foot space under the front seats. The Skoda’s Varioflex back seats all fold individually and can also be removed completely. This adds considerably to the Karoq’s carrying versatility.
When it comes to driving the Karoq is a nice little family package, competent with no vices or shortcomings. Just a fine compact SUV. For those with a need for an occasional off the road vehicle it sets a high standard.
If you are taking the small SUV route amongst the rivals are the Hyundai Tuscon, Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca, Toyota C-H and Vauxhall Grandland.
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Ride and Comfort 8
Price as supplied £30,815
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Simon Grigor, Harrow
The Skodas of the late 2010s are fine motors. I'd driven Mazdas for 25 years but switched two years ago. I love my Rapid; and the service from Willis Motors (Ruislip) is terrific.