Skoda Karoq long-term test review
Can the Kodiaq's smaller sibling convince a long-time fan of estate cars that SUVs are the better option?...
- The car Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 DSG SE L
- Run by Will Williams, photographer
- Why it’s here This is our favourite trim of one of our favourite family SUVs, so we want to see how it stacks up in the real world
- Needs to Be comfortable, smooth-riding and economical on a colossal commute, with plenty of space for photography equipment
Price £25,820 Price as tested £27,650 Miles covered 5989 Official fuel economy 50.4mpg Test economy 35.4mpg CO2 127g/km Options Three-spoke leather heated multi-function steering wheel (£150), upgraded Canton sound system (£550), Family Pack (£120), heated windscreen and washer nozzles (£250), Isofix front passenger seat (£35), metallic paint (£575), steel space-saving spare wheel (£150)
22 May 2018 – the Skoda Karoq joins our fleet
With my previous long-termer, the Kia Optima Sportswagon, I was going against the trend. While car buyers are flocking to the SUV segment, I shunned the mainstream for a voyage of discovery in the estate class and I greatly enjoyed my time with the Optima SW.
But the Optima SW has departed our fleet and now I have to admit that I’ve become a sellout, a bit like Nelly Furtado when she started working with Timbaland. That’s because my new long-termer is bang on trend. It’s a car that is the result of a relentless pursuit of commercial success – and it’s a price point winner in the hotly contested family SUV category at the What Car? Awards. A big welcome, then, to the Skoda Karoq.
Yes, the Karoq is exactly what scores of buyers are looking for at the moment. It’s nicely designed, practical, high-riding and gets the much-sought-after 'SUV' tag. It’s based on the Seat Ateca, which is another of our favourite family SUVs, but the Karoq – or so I’m told by my esteemed reviewer colleagues – will be slightly softer-riding than the comfortable but sporty Ateca.
That’s welcome news for me, because I cover a serious amount of miles each month on What Car? assignments from my base in deepest darkest Hampshire, so comfort is at the top of my list.
So, too, is fuel economy. The diesel Optima SW I’ve just waved off had a remarkable fuel tank that could hold enough juice for more than 700 miles, reducing the number of trips I needed to make to the fuel station, in turn saving me a lot of time. The Karoq, however, is a petrol, so my expectations have been adjusted accordingly.
I realise it won’t be as economical as diesel alternatives, but I’d still like to see how close it can get to the 50.4mpg recorded in official tests. Early signs aren’t too encouraging, but I’ll pay closer attention once I’ve done some more miles. The Karoq does, however, get a clever bit of tech that means it can shut off half of its four cylinders when cruising, saving a small amount of fuel. It's pretty unobtrusive; a light illuminates on the dash to show you this process is happening but you’d never guess otherwise.
Performance-wise, the 1.5-litre petrol engine is quite pokey, but to get it to really pick up I put it into Sport mode. It's quite a vocal unit; when you drive it hard, it can get quite noisy. But when you’re on the motorway or at low revs, it’s nicely chilled.
The version I’m running has an automatic gearbox (our award-winning favourite is the manual option). It’s early days but the auto seems smooth and slick, but it can feel a little hesitant at low revs.
As for spec, we’ve gone for our favourite SE-L trim, which gets 18in wheels, Alcantara upholstery and an infotainment system with sat-nav, among other things. In the options list, I’ve ticked the heated steering wheel and heated windscreen – which should prove useful in winter – and gone for the upgraded sound system as well.
Inside, I’ve been very impressed so far. The Karoq has plenty of practical tricks up its sleeve. The fantastic Varioflex rear seats come as standard, meaning not only can I slide them forward and fold them down, I can also remove them entirely.
The parcel shelf is connected to the boot so it lifts when the boot opens, meaning you don’t have to fiddle with it to reach what’s underneath. There’s also a rubber handle to pull the boot down. There’s tonnes of cubby holes and storage compartments, too – such as a shelf on top of the wheel arch in the boot. There’s also an ice scraper next to the fuel cap. Plus tray tables in the back. None of these may seem like life-changing additions, but I’m hoping that they will all add up to make the Karoq a very easy car to live with.
I’ve been getting on well with the infotainment system so far. Manufacturers seem to be desperate to get rid of buttons these days, but I’m pleased to see Skoda at least has kept some shortcuts. It also has a scroll knob that lets you toggle through menus – a useful feature.
We don’t hand out awards to just anything at What Car?, so knowing the Karoq is starting on such a firm footing means I should have an enjoyable few months ahead. Will I be tempted to join the SUV crowd full time, though, or will I be looking at estate alternatives before long? Stay tuned for the answer.