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New Skoda Karoq vs used Volvo XC40

Both of these family SUVs come highly recommended and can be had for well under £30,000. But should you go for a new Skoda Karoq or a used Volvo XC40?...

New Skoda Karoq vs used Volvo XC40

The contenders

NEW Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SE L

List price £26,770
Target Price £25,346

Our favourite family SUV for less than £30k is comfortable, practical and great value. We’re testing it in our preferred 1.5-litre petrol guise.


USED Volvo XC40 D4 R-Design

Used price £27,000 2018/68-plate

Our 2018 Car of the Year is classier than the Karoq inside, yet similar in price at two years old. There are plenty of these diesel models to choose from.


Safety is a top priority for family car buyers, and that’s no doubt why many of them are choosing to surround their precious cargo with as much metal as possible. Instead of the traditional family hatchback being the first choice, it’s fast becoming the family SUV.

Skoda Karoq side

One of the safest of the breed is the Volvo XC40; it scored very highly for both adult and child protection in its Euro NCAP test, plus it has lots of standard safety assistance technology to help keep you out of trouble. It came out in late 2017, so there are now plenty of used examples for sale for similar money to a new Skoda Karoq, our recommended family SUV at the more affordable end of the market.

The Karoq also gets the full five stars from Euro NCAP and stands out among its non-premium rivals for its comfort, practicality and versatile seating. But are those attributes going to be enough when it’s up against something as classy as the XC40?

To find out, we’re testing the Karoq in our preferred spec, with a 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a six-speed manual gearbox and in mid-range SE L trim. In the opposite corner is a two-year-old XC40 in popular D4 R-Design form, with a 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine. By default, this model comes with four-wheel drive (something that’s available only on diesel Karoqs) and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Volvo XC40 side

Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

With more power and the traction advantage of four-wheel drive off the line, the XC40 hit 60mph from rest a few tenths quicker than the front-wheel-drive Karoq in our tests. The relatively small margin is in part down to the fact that the XC40 weighs more.

In everyday driving, you’ll find both engines perfectly pleasant, with enough grunt to get you up to motorway speeds swiftly. Plus, neither is particularly loud at a steady cruise.

The XC40’s automatic gearbox can be hesitant and reluctant to kick down when you ask for a quick burst of acceleration, although it’s better than the manual alternative, which is rather rubbery.

Skoda Karoq front

The Karoq is the opposite when it comes to gearbox choices. The standard manual ’box has a slick, pleasant shift action, while a light clutch makes low-speed manoeuvres a cinch. The auto alternative will not only cost you an extra £1500 but is also far from perfect; it can be jerky when parking and sluggish to respond when you want quick acceleration, such as when merging onto a roundabout. We’d stick with the manual.

Neither car is particularly sharp in the handling department, with each instead erring on the side of comfort. Even on R-Design trim’s standard ‘sports’ suspension, the XC40 leans over more than the Karoq in corners, and the latter feels a bit more precise at higher speeds. Both cars have light steering, which helps with parking and manoeuvring at low speeds.

As long as you buy an XC40 R-Design with the 18in wheels that came as standard and avoid the 20in ones fitted to higher-spec R-Design Pro models, you’ll enjoy a supple ride. True, you’ll find your head is tossed from side to side around town more than it is in the Karoq. However, things are fine on the motorway, where the XC40 also breezes over rippled and poorly repaired surfaces.

Volvo XC40 front

Similarly, the Karoq has little trouble maintaining its composure when cruising at speed, and it comes with 18in wheels that manage to stave off the worst effects of crummy road surfaces in town. The only problem is that every time you hit a pothole or speed bump, you get an annoying, hollow thwack from the suspension. The XC40, on the other hand, isolates you well from suspension noise.

In fact, the XC40 is the quieter of the two overall, shutting out the whoosh of the wind and the rumbling of its tyres better than the Karoq.