Skoda is aiming to make life that little bit easier and more comfortable for young families with this mainstream SUV.
The Skoda Karoq small SUV is the latest offering from the Czech car manufacturer as it moves away from quirky designs and towards more mainstream models.
The five-seater wagon, which is built on the VW Golf platform, replaces the smaller – and yes, very quirky – Yeti though it has kept some of its clever features.
It is currently only available in one two-wheel-drive model with one engine option, but Skoda says more models and power train options will be added.
The current model offers three options that add everything from heated leather seats to an electric tailgate that opens with the wave of your foot, as well as the latest driver-assist technology. It all gets down to how much you want to add to the starting price of $29,990 for the manual or $32,490 for the dual-clutch auto.
For those who want it all there is the launch pack, which adds all packs and three years free servicing for an extra $8900. Direct Advice for Dads enjoyed a model with the lot for testing.
Strap ’em in
The Karoq is at the upper end of the market segment when it comes to interior space.
While it is not quite as big as the Honda HRV, the class leader in this area, it is close. I can sit in the front passenger seat with a rear-facing baby seat set up behind me with a few millimetres of space between my knees and the glove box.
Alas, as with every other small SUV we have tested – even the HRV — I cannot drive the car with a rear-facing seat behind the driver’s seat.
Setting up the baby seats, both rear and forward-facing, is easy and there are two ISOFIX anchor points.
You will need an extension strap when using a rear facing seat because the top tether anchor points, situated on the back of the rear seats, are very close to the floor in the cargo area.
The top model has a classy-looking, well-equipped cabin with all the comfort and safety features the family needs.
The leather seats are not only comfortable and supportive but the front seats are heated and adjustable electronically.
It has many handy little features like little rubbish bins, ideal for getting rid of tissues and wet ones, that fit in the front door pockets.
The tablet holders connect to the back of the front seat headrests and are a very simple but clever addition that families will appreciate.
There is also a 12-volt power point in the back to ensure the electronics continue to work throughout the journey (though a second one would have been nice).
Access to the back seat is good with the ground clearance of the SUV meaning you don’t need to lean down too much to get the bub into the seat.
The doors are also wide enough so you can lean right into the car.
Back seat passengers are well looked after with cup and bottle holders and rear air conditioning vents.
There is even an umbrella included in the standard features so you will never get caught out by unexpected showers.
On the road, the cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise enabling you to enjoy the full sound of the 10-speaker Canton premium audio system (part of the Tech Pack).
This is one of the standout features, thanks to Skoda’s Vario Flex seating.
The Karoq can configure as a five, four, three or even two seater. And moving, or removing the seats altogether, is quick and easy. They are also light enough for most to be able to carry.
You can also slide and tilt the rear seats which again provides more flexibility when it comes to catering for different size passengers (when the baby seats are not in use).
With all the seats in use, slid back and in the upright position you have a very handy 479-litres of boot space, which is enough room for a larger pram and a few other bits and pieces.
You can expand that to 588-litres by pushing the rear seats as far forward as they will go, though this is not possible if you are using a rear-facing baby seat.
With the 40/20/40 split rear seat removed you have van-like space of 1810-litres
You will also find some very handy, and clever, extra features in the cargo area, like:
- A removable light that can be used as a torch
- A floor mat that is carpet on one side and a rubber mat on the other
- Netting to hold cargo in place, and
- A pair of plastic mounts that stick to the carpet via Velcro to lock anything prone to sliding around in place.
Even gaining access to the boot is easy, with a sensor under the bumper bar opening the tailgate with a simple wave of the leg (if you have the key in your possession).
Oh, and you also need to have purchased the appropriate option package, otherwise you need to lift it the old-fashioned way. There is a space saver spare tyre under the floor.
The standard Karoq is well-equipped with a full suite of safety features including autonomous emergency braking.
It also comes with adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and start, dual-zone air conditioning and an 8.0-inch screen with reversing camera and audio system that is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
But you need to add the Travel Pack (a $1700 option) to get driver aid features like lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert – all designed to reduce the risk of accidents.
The tech pack ($3200) will get you the premium audio system I mentioned earlier along with a bigger 9.2-inch touch screen with navigation, semi-autonomous parking and wireless phone charging — though not all phones are compatible.
And for the electric tailgate with the rear bumper sensor – something you will fall in love with as you stand at the back of the car with an arm full of gear and watch the tailgate open in front of you — you will need the Premium Pack ($3600) which also includes LED lights, front parking sensors and the leather upholstery.
As I said earlier, the test car had the launch pack that included all of the above for $8900 which I think is money well spent if it fits into your budget.
The wife’s take
This car had an interesting, high-end feel to it. It looked like an expensive car and had quite a few features associated with more expensive brands.
An example of this was the boot opening procedure. Being able to open the boot by waving your foot under the sensor is a very useful feature for someone who often struggles back to the car laden with shopping bags. The boot wasn’t huge, but was adequate.
A novelty feature was the lights built into the underneath of the front doors that cast the word Skoda onto the ground when the door was opened. Nifty!
It also was very comfortable to drive, with all instruments in easy reach. There were lots of safety features and a good reversing camera.
“Being able to open the boot by waving your foot under the sensor is a very useful feature for someone who often struggles back to the car laden with shopping bags.”
The Karoq was tested in Europe in 2017 and scored 5 stars with scores of 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 79 per cent for child occupant and 73 per cent for pedestrian safety. It has not been given a score by the local ANCAP.
Standard safety equipment includes dual front and side airbags and a driver’s knee airbag. It also comes standard with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, driver fatigue monitoring and multi-collision braking that will stop the car from moving if it has been in a collision.
The 1.5-litre turbo charged four-cylinder engine in the Karoq is a brand new and it’s a good fit for this small SUV.
It is not going to satisfy those who have a penchant for performance cars, (not that many engines in this category will) but it does have a bit of get up and go, especially when you flick the transmission into sports mode.
Around town it is comfortable with the suspension right up there with the best in this class in terms of ironing out any road imperfections.
The steering provides good feedback on the highway and is light enough to make slow speed manoeuvres an easy operation.
Fuel consumption during the test, which is helped by the engine cylinder de-activation that cuts out two cylinders while cruising, was a reasonable 7.1L/100km.
My only complaint in this area was that the dual clutch transmission wasn’t as smooth as you would like at low speeds.
The Karoq is a good looking car that is well-equipped, even without adding any of the option packs, and well-designed.
It offers the type of flexibility that growing families need and is stacked with features designed to make life that little bit easier and more comfortable.
The warranty offered by Skoda is better than some of its mainstream competitors, though five years is becoming the norm, and servicing costs are not too bad, considering it is a European car.
I struggled to come up with any real issues with the Karoq, aside from the small issue with the transmission.
Honda HRV VTi-LX 2WD
Price: $34,590 RRP
Engine/Transmission: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (105kW/172Nm) with Continuously Variable automatic transmission.
The HRV has a slightly bigger cabin, but it is only marginal. In terms of safety they offer similar technology but the HRV is not available with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, or adaptive cruise control. On the road, both cars are comfortable to drive , though the Honda also lacks the punch of the Karoq.
Hyundai Kona Highlander 2WD
Price: $35,500 RRP
Engine/Transmission: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol (130kW/265Nm) with seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
These two are hard to split. They are both new to the market, very well equipped and both have punchy turbo petrol engines. The Karoq has a little bit more room inside, and more flexibility with its vario seating. The Kona has a slightly more rugged look.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed 2WD
Price: $36,000 RRP
Engine/Transmission: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol (110kW/250Nm) with continuously variable automatic transmission.
This is another of the bigger cars in the segment but its coupe-like styling does make back seat access a little more difficult. The Eclipse Cross is another model with a punchy little turbo engine that is a joy to drive. With these two it almost gets down to the coupe-like styling versus a more traditional-looking SUV.
• Price: $32,490 RRP
• Warranty: Five years unlimited km
• Servicing: 12 months or 15,000km. There is a choice of service plans available. Standard service for first 5 years is $288, $363, $427, $583, $427.
• Fuel Consumption: 5.8L/100km (official) 7.1L/100km (during test) premium unleaded
• Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
• Power: 110kW/250Nm
• Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch automatic
• Visit HBF for a tailored insurance quote
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