To get a sneak preview of what the new Skoda Karoq will be like to drive, we went to Estonia, where final development work was being carried out. This was before last night's official reveal of the Karoq, which is why the cars we tried were covered in camouflage.
What's the 2017 Skoda Karoq like to drive?
The Karoq is based on the same platform as the Seat Ateca and Volkswagen Tiguan, but it clearly has a softer set-up than the former, because there's more vertical movement over crests and undulations. That said, at no point did the disguised prototype that we drove feel floaty or wayward, and it soaked up large bumps well.
Just don't expect that initial softness to translate into the sort of plush, cosseting feel you get with the Skoda Superb executive saloon. On the standard passive suspension fitted to our test car, the Karoq simply failed to settle down, exhibiting a fidgety ride on all but the smoothest of surfaces. We suspect Skoda is aware of this low-speed unruliness, because it has streamlined the development time of the optional adaptive dampers to ensure they’re available to customers by the end of 2017.
Another thing that could be better is the steering. On our prototype, this was over-assisted, giving a slightly pendulous feel. However, most cars in Skoda's range traditionally have well-weighted major controls, so we wouldn't be surprised if this was addressed before sales start. Ultimately, there's no doubt that a Seat Ateca feels more agile to drive, even if the Karoq does display high levels of grip.
Thankfully, we have no such gripes with the tried and tested 2.0-litre diesel engine. Producing 148bhp and 251lb ft of torque, it delivers gutsy performance and, combined with Skoda's smooth DSG automatic gearbox, remains impressively quiet at cruising speeds. In fact, unless you’re planning on travelling five up with luggage on a regular basis, you won't regret foregoing the punchier 188bhp diesel model.
What's the 2017 Skoda Karoq like inside?
Determined to ensure that the Karoq has a distinct Skoda identity, the design team has come up with an interior that is far removed from both the Ateca's and Tiguan's.
Overall, it takes its inspiration from the larger Kodiaq SUV, with the dashboard design showcasing the minimalist, logical style that we’ve come to expect from the brand. At the centre of the dash is a new 9.2in colour touchscreen infotainment system similar to the one fitted to the latest Volkswagen Golf. It certainly looks the part, responds quickly and is easy to navigate, although the new gesture control technology (which activates features in response to hand movements) is a bit clunky.
The (optional) digital instrument panel on our car, meanwhile, lets you choose from four specific layouts. These range from Classic (which presents engine revs, speed and location) to Reduced, which only displays key information chosen by the driver, such as speed and remaining miles before a refuel is needed. Like the infotainment screen, it is easy to use and can display a vast range of information clearly.
Practicality is similarly impressive, with the Karoq offering good leg and head room, whether you're seated in the front or the back. True, there is a rather high central tunnel, but once you've straddled this, the middle seat is still comfortable enough for a third rear passenger.
Yeti owners will also be pleased to learn that the Karoq is available with the Varioflex seating of its predecessor, which allows the rear seats to be slid backwards and forwards independently or removed completely. This flexible layout ensures boot capacity is class leading – the fact that the Karoq's boot is a good, square shape with a wide aperture and virtually no load lip makes it easy to load, too.
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