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9 MARCH 2020
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The Skoda Kamiq shows what a long way car manufactures have come with small cars. Do you remember the tiny one litre BL Mini? Skoda's starter car is a quantum leap.
However the big problem with road tests is that you can’t actually detail the specification of the model you want to review. OK one can ask for an automatic or manual, sometimes petrol or diesel, but unlike a real buyer you have to take what is offered.
The Skoda Kamiq is clearly a class leader when it comes to compact crossovers and BTN highly recommends, but I would never order one without a proper rear view camera writes Malcolm Ginsberg. The screen-based warning system on the test car and audible alert does give the same indication of what is behind you but it is not as good as seeing what is actually there!
My only other real gripe with Skoda is their car naming. The smallest SUV is the aforesaid Kamiq, then you have the larger Karoq, and finally the enormous and imposing Kodiak. It must be hard on the salesmen!
No electrically folding door mirrors either, essential for suburban driving on this front wheel drive car. These are standard on higher grade models as is dark privacy glass. Power for the test car was a three cylinder, petrol driven 1ltr engine with a five-speed manual gearbox, taking 11se from 0-60 and returning 45mpg to the gallon. It provided an earnest and smooth drive, perhaps the fuel figure disappointing, but five up plenty of the time, and no complaints from the rear seat passengers.
Skoda is headquartered in Mladá Boleslav (Czech Republic) about 30mi north east of Prague. It was actually founded in 1895 and became part of the VW Group in 2000. Based on the same tried-and-tested mechanical foundations of the Volkswagen T-Cross and SEAT Arona, the Kamiq undercuts them both in terms of price. It arrived in 2019 offering very good value as a family car around the £20,000 mark, taking the fight to a wealth of capable rivals in a segment that’s hugely important in the UK. The Kamiq is a smart looking car sitting tall with its roof rails and faux scuff plates and you wonder at first if it is four-wheel drive. It is best described as mini-muscular and a ground clearance of nearly 20cm does make sure that is a true SUV and good for tracks and off the road surfaces, up to a point.
The KE version is very well equipped with 17in wheels, ideal for today’s poor suburban roads. Front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, a couple of USB points, hill hold and a fine Bolero radio which also worked through the 8in touchscreen with eight speakers supplying the sound. I switched the lane assist off, but once again the cruise control offered relaxed motorway driving when the road was fairly empty. They do work better with automatics. Heated front seats and a sat nav system were part of the options fitted.
The all-round cabin trimming is excellent but it is impossible to say ‘best in class’ as virtually all the small cars are now very well turned out and a credit to their designers. The ‘plastic’ interiors of old have gone. There is a leather steering wheel. Let us hope that any cost cutting for the next generation is limited. We motorists have been spoilt in recent times and like it.
With the Kodiak you put the key in the traditional place and fire up. No clever electronics. Just switch off when you have completed your drive. Keyless and all the trimmings are available on higher grade models, as is an electrically adjustable driver’s seat. Likewise a panoramic glass roof.
Getting into the car, front and rear was very easy and no chance to knock one’s head. The problem with what is considered more sleekish vehicles on the market is the low roof line. It is a small but important factor when considering a new car. With reasonably big windows, the Kamiq feels more spacious than its size suggests and with a little adjust there is room for two six-foot adults to sit behind each other on the passenger side.
Its trunk is impressive at 400ltr – that’s more than a Volkswagen Golf, and this is stretched to 1395ltr with the seats down. It is not level with the door frame with a 15cm drop to the boot floor.
List price for the basic Kamiq SE as supplied is £19,135, but a host of useful but non-essential extras (the very nice exclusive paintwork at £975 for instance) brings the price of the press car to £23,295. If you think that a 1ltr mini-SUV is just not enough power the 1.5ltr DSG version at £24,405.00, automatic and 8.4sec with some useful add-ons would be an interesting alternative to consider. Depending on what they have in stock, or can easily obtain, motor dealers are more than happy to ‘talk turkey’ at the present time.
Where does the Kamiq fit into the marketplace? Two noteworthy cars meet it head on but the Skoda does score in terms of price. The Nissan Juke and Citroen C3 Aircross are very good. And there is competition from within the VW Group stablemates already mentioned. Today’s small SUVs around the £20,000 mark are all mostly very good but the Kamiq is outstanding.
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Ride and Comfort 8
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