Whether it's down to dramatic looks, revolutionary technology or the creation of a new class, there are some cars that immediately present themselves as game-changers. The Skoda Yeti wasn’t one of them.
With its boxy design and slightly odd proportions, we were unsure about the Czech brand’s small SUV when it was first unveiled in 2009. And yet, eight years on, it’s clear that the Yeti has been a huge success, not only in terms of sales but also in having helped Skoda to move upmarket and be seen as more than just a maker of cheap Volkswagens.
Amazingly, sales of the Yeti have grown every year since its launch, and it’s only recently that demand has tailed off, following the introduction of a host of new rivals, including the Audi Q2, Seat Ateca and second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan – and those are just the ones from Skoda’s fellow VW Group brands. There’s also the class-leading Nissan Qashqai and other popular choices such as the Kia Sportage.
The arrival of the new Skoda Karoq as a replacement for the Yeti is timely, then, even if there will be plenty of people (us included) who are disappointed and confused by Skoda's decision to drop both the iconic Yeti name and the car’s distinctive silhouette.
What's new on the Skoda Karoq?
It shares its underpinnings with that aforementioned VW Group trio, which has allowed Skoda to use the latest engines and technology. However, almost every trace of the Yeti has been abandoned in favour of a shape which is very much in keeping with the bigger Skoda Kodiaq – our reigning Large SUV of the Year.
While the Karoq is smaller than the Kodiaq, it's longer than the Yeti and gets more space between its front and rear axles, which translates into more room inside. Indeed, with the rear seats in place, the Karoq offers more carrying space than both the Ateca and Qashqai.
As a bonus, the Karoq's three rear seats can be folded down, individually adjusted or removed altogether, meaning you can turn it into a van if you need more space.
What engines is the Skoda Karoq available with?
Five engines are available from launch, split into two petrols and three diesels, with four of those engines being new to Skoda.
Kicking off the range is a turbocharged three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol with 113bhp, followed by a 1.5-litre petrol with 148bhp. The more powerful petrol is likely to be a big seller in this country, especially among drivers who spend most of their time in the city. Plus, with CO2 emissions of 119g/km and official fuel economy of 55.4mpg running costs should be very reasonable. The 1.5-litre engine is also able to shut off two of its four cylinders on the motorway to save fuel.
Buyers looking for a diesel option have 1.6 and 2.0-litre choices, with the most efficient – the mid-range 148bhp 2.0-litre – emitting 115g/km of CO2.
Gearbox choices include a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic. And some versions of the Karoq can be had with four-wheel drive, giving you added traction on and off-road.
What equipment can I get on the Skoda Karoq?
We've become used to digital instrument panels being offered on Audi and Volkswagen cars, but this is the first time you can get the technology in a Skoda. It's coupled with a seperate 6.5in infotainment screen which comes as standard and offers two USB ports, a DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity.
There are three system upgrades systems available, too. The Bolero set-up gets you a larger 8.0in touchscreen, while the Amundsen brings satellite navigation and a Wi-Fi hotspot. At the top of the range, the Columbus system features a 9.2in touchscree,n including a DVD/CD player, a 64GB internal memory and its own internet connection. As with the latest Volkswagen Golf, the Karoq's system can also be controlled using gestures – but our experience of this suggests it's not particularly effective.
Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink connectivity are also included through Skoda's SmartLink+ platform.
In addition, drivers can choose between four different driving modes, dubbed Normal, Eco, Sport and Individual, which alter the steering and gearbox settings. Four-wheel drive versions also get an off-road mode.
Other features include a tailgate which can be operated either via a button inside the car, or by waving your foot under the rear bumper, and an electrically deployable tow bar.
While Skoda hasn't said which safety and assistance systems will be standard on the Karoq, we do know that adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, lane keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition and a driver fatigue monitor will all be available.
How much will the Skoda Karoq cost?
Prices are still being finalised, but Skoda officials suggest that the Karoq will cost less than the Yeti when it goes on sale later this year. Given that the Yeti currently has a price tag of £17,770, there's a good chance that the Karoq will significantly undercut both of its biggest rivals. The Ateca, for example, costs £18,150 while the Qashqai is priced from £18,955. PCP deals are likely to be equally competitive.
Interestingly, it's known that Skoda is exploring the possibility of an even smaller SUV, using the same underpinnings as the upcoming Volkswagen T-Roc and Seat Arona. That model would be primarily designed for the Chinese market, and aimed at young buyers.
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