New Skoda Kamiq vs Kia Stonic vs Volkswagen T-Roc

The new Skoda Kamiq small SUV promises to slot easily into buyers’ lives – but can it do so better than its Kia and Volkswagen rivals?...

Skoda Kamiq vs Kia Stonic vs Volkswagen T-Roc

The contenders

Kia Stonic 1.0 T-GDI 118 4

  • List price - £20,625
  • Target Price - £19,288

Known for being tidy to drive and well equipped, plus it comes with Kia’s long warranty.

Skoda Kamiq 1.0 TSI 115 SE L 

  • List price - £21,980
  • Target Price - £21,557 

Skoda’s new small SUV promises great value for money and lots of space inside.

Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 TSI 115 Design

  • List price - £22,555
  • Target Price - £21,416

One of the more cultured small SUVs, designed to be quiet and comfortable.

The English language is peppered with imported words, but have you ever wondered, “What’s the origin of that word?” Some are easier to identify than others, of course. ‘Boudoir’ and ‘lingerie’ are as French as an air traffic control strike. And ‘delicatessen’ and ‘rucksack’? Danke Deutschland for those two. It was the Swedes who gave us ‘moped’, Indians the phonetically playful ‘pyjamas’ and the Inuits ‘kayak’. And now there’s another Inuit word in our lexicon thanks to the Skoda Kamiq. It means ‘best fit’ and is the name of Skoda’s newest, smallest SUV.

Mind you, ‘bigger is better’ would also work. The Kamiq, as with many Skodas, is longer and more spacious than its key rivals. The usual practical Skoda flourishes are present and correct, too, including an ice scraper clipped to the fuel flap, an umbrella secreted in the front door and a rechargeable torch in the boot. The version we’re testing is the top-spec SE L grade, which adds some luxuries as well.

Under its skin, the Kamiq is similar to the Volkswagen T-Cross and its bigger brother, the T-Roc. It’s the latter that we’ve chosen as a rival here. The T-Roc and Kamiq have exactly the same 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and six-speed manual gearbox, but the Volkswagen is the slightly dearer choice. To keep a degree of price parity, our T-Roc is in mid-level Design trim, which comes with some natty styling add-ons.

Because the T-Roc is at the comfortable end of the small SUV spectrum, our third option is the slightly sportier Kia Stonic. It, too, comes with a 1.0-litre petrol engine and a six-speed manual gearbox and, like the Kamiq, is represented in the range-topping trim, called 4.

Kia Stonic

On the road

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

A combination of three cylinders and 1.0 litre isn’t likely to fire up your adrenal glands, but with a turbocharger thrown into the mix, as these three have, they deliver more punch than you might imagine. If outright speed is your main focus, the Kamiq wins out; it’s half a second faster than its rivals from 0-60mph. 

Yet in-gear flexibility – achieved with a good slug of mid-rev shove to get you around with the least fuss – is a more admirable trait. And provided you don’t let the revs drop below 2000rpm, all three are pretty perky, so you can keep up with the flow of traffic without nailing the accelerator to the floor or working the gearlever like an egg whisk. The Stonic is the liveliest, thanks to shorter gearing. The Kamiq and T-Roc are fairly even-stevens – no great surprise, considering their engine parity.

Likewise, because those cars’ gearboxes are cut from the same cloth, they, too, feel very similar: light and slick, making it easy to find the right gear. The Stonic’s ’box has a slacker gait and notchier engagement. Indeed, when it comes to smoothness, the Stonic is generally found wanting.

At tickover, its engine slings the most vibrations into the interior, and it’s far louder than the other two as you accelerate, although some of that is because there’s an element of sportiness to its rasp. Road and wind noise are intrusive in the Stonic, too  – so much so that you need to raise your voice to be heard at 70mph. Wind noise is a lot less of an issue in the Kamiq, but its tyres still drone over rougher surfaces. The T-Roc, meanwhile, is the most cultured at high speeds.

Skoda Kamiq

If comfort matters to you, the T-Roc is good at that, too – just not quite as good as this particular Kamiq. Why? Well, our Kamiq had £495 worth of optional adaptive suspension fitted. This can be stiffened or softened as desired and, in Comfort mode, is better at filtering out the little pimples on motorways and fast A-roads than the T-Roc’s standard suspension. You can add adaptive suspension to the T-Roc, too, but it will cost you £1075. Around town, there’s less to separate them; they both do a decent job of absorbing potholes and the like, but the T-Roc rides them with fewer noisy twangs.

There’s no option to add any clever suspension to the ever-firm Stonic. It’s always jiggling and jostling you the most over little imperfections and thumps the most over bigger bumps. It’s bearable but is outclassed extensively in this company.

Volkswagen T-Roc

Still, its stiffer stance breathes a degree of sporting intent into its handling. Along twisty roads, the Stonic leans the least and feels the most agile, and it’s the most stable when the surface becomes uneven. That doesn’t mean it has the most grip, though – that accolade falls to the Kamiq – and its steering could be improved. It’s accurate enough, so you can learn to place the nose where you want, but there’s little weight build-up in corners and it gives few clues as to what the front wheels are doing.

Both the Kamiq and T-Roc have sweeter steering that builds weight more progressively and delivers a greater sense of the tyres’ grip to your fingers, yet in other respects they fail to match the Stonic’s degree of driver engagement. With its optional suspension in the everyday driving mode that most drivers will stick with, the Kamiq isn’t quite as hunkered down over dips and crests or as resistant to roll through bends. The T-Roc lurches the most in corners and, as a result, won’t change direction as quickly as its rivals, but if you’re not bothered about dynamic sparkle, it’s still capable enough.