What Car? says...
Small SUVs are becoming more and more like chocolate bars. You see, while the basic ingredients of some of the bestsellers are now very similar, there’s still always something to help you decide which one to buy.
So, why might you choose the Skoda Kamiq over a Seat Arona or VW T-Cross, two models that use the same basic underpinnings? Well, sticking with the choccie bar analogy for a moment longer, the Kamiq has a different wrapper and a squidgier filling – but it’s also what you might describe as ‘King Size’.
Before we explain exactly what we mean by all that, though, let’s consider the looks, because while Skoda hasn’t exactly been as adventurous as Nissan was when it launched the original Nissan Juke a decade or so ago, the Kamiq isn’t simply a Skoda Karoq (the Czech brand's larger family SUV) that’s been put through a photocopier set to 95%.
Then there are its nifty practical features. Fed up with the rigmarole of squeezing out of your car while desperately trying to avoid banging the door into the car parked next to you? Well, the Kamiq is available with hidden rubber strips that automatically pop out as you open the doors to protect their edges.
The usual handy Skoda accoutrements, including an umbrella in the door and an ice scraper in the fuel filler cap, are all present and correct. Most versions even have a removable, rechargeable torch that lives in the boot.
But aside from all those clever touches, is the Skoda Kamiq as good as the best small SUVs, including not only the Arona and T-Cross, but also the Volkswagen T-Roc and Ford Puma? We'll tell you everything you need to know over the next few pages of this review.
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Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If you're happy for your Skoda Kamiq to have modest levels of zip (0-62mph in around 11 seconds) we recommend the 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol (1.0 TSI 95). You'll find the same engine in the Seat Arona and VW T-Cross and it's just the ticket for most journeys. It needs revving fairly hard in order to get up to motorway speeds quickly, but there’s a reasonable amount of low-rev shove. That means you're not changing up and down through the five-speed manual gearbox too often.
The more powerful 108bhp version (1.0 TSI 110) shaves a second off the 0-62mph time and gains you a sixth gear for more relaxed motorway cruising. It’s worth considering if you plan to carry passengers regularly, spend a lot of time on the motorway, or live in a hilly area. The mild-hybrid Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost (mHEV) 125 is stronger, though.
For a truly lively experience, try the 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol (1.5 TSI 150). With 0-62mph in 8.0sec, it just edges ahead of the more powerful Puma 1.0 Ecoboost (mHEV) 155. An automatic gearbox is available as an option with the 1.0 TSI 110 and 1.5 TSI 150.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Kamiq is one of the most comfortable cars in its class, and displays soothing motorway manners. In fact, when you compare small SUVs on their standard suspension set-ups, only the VW T-Roc is better at smothering potholes and ridges around town.
The T-Cross and Taigo aren't far behind, and the Puma is firmer but better tied down over undulating roads. The Nissan Juke is generally more agitated over all surfaces.
You can add optional Sport Chassis Control to the Kamiq, giving you adjustable suspension with a 15mm lowered ride height. It allows you to stiffen or soften the suspension by pressing a button, but the standard set-up is so good that it's not necessary to spend the extra money.
Kamiq means ‘something that fits perfectly’ in the language of the Inuit people of Canada and Greenland. Skoda says that’s because this small SUV is a perfect fit for the city, and in many respects, it is very well suited to the urban hustle and bustle.
It has a tighter turning circle than most rivals, and light, accurate steering that makes negotiating narrow streets or winding your way up a multi-storey car park a breeze. The Kamiq doesn't sway as much as the taller T-Roc or T-Cross through faster corners, and feels just as agile as the Arona.
For a small SUV that's genuinely fun to drive, though, get yourself behind the wheel of the much sharper Puma.
Noise and vibration
The Kamiq is a doddle to drive, thanks to its sweet manual gearshift and positive clutch and brake pedal. The automatic gearbox is a bit jerky if you're edging in and out of a parking space, but it changes gear smoothly.
The 1.0 TSI 95 and 110 petrol engines are fairly smooth and emit a thrummy engine note that sits obediently in the background when you drive gently. If you work them harder, you'll feel a few vibrations filtering up through the steering wheel and pedals. The 1.5 TSI 150 is the smoothest engine in the range.
As with the Puma, you'll hear a little bit of wind noise at fast motorway speeds, while a few thumps from the suspension over bumps are more noticeable at lower speeds. Overall, the Kamiq is fractionally noisier than the T-Cross. However, if you crave peace and quiet, we recommend the T-Roc.
Strengths One of the most comfortable small SUVs; tight turning circle; accurate steering
Weaknesses Ford Puma is more fun; Volkswagen T-Roc is quieter
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
In most respects, the driving position in the Skoda Kamiq is very good. You get plenty of adjustment and the seat offers good side support in bends and is comfortable for long drives. However, it's a shame that adjustable lumbar support is only standard on SE L Executive cars and above.
The steering wheel has a lot of travel for height and reach and the dashboard buttons are arranged logically. If you opt for at least SE L Executive trim, you get digital instruments as standard. They can show full-screen navigation maps and a huge array of other information on the 10.3in driver display screen that replaces the regular analogue dials behind the steering wheel.
So, why not the full five stars for this category? Well, it all comes down to height. It's not much higher off the ground than a hatchback. If you want a high-up SUV driving position, you'll be disappointed. In the small SUV class, the Ford Puma, VW T-Cross and VW T-Roc all give you a higher vantage point.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Although you don't sit particularly high up in the Kamiq, you still get a better view out in all directions than you would in many of its rivals, including the Puma and the Kia Stonic. That's because the front pillars are quite narrow and there's a huge expanse of glass, cutting down on any blind-spots.
Rear passengers will find the Kamiq easier to see out of than many of its rivals too. In fact, its tall side windows mean even the kids get a good view of the outside world – handy if they're prone to travel sickness.
Rear parking sensors are fitted on all trims, while front sensors and a rear-view camera are available as options (or come as standard on SE L Executive trim). All versions get ultra-bright LED dipped-beam headlights, and there's the option of upgrading to adaptive LED main beams on most models (they're standard with Monte Carlo trim).
Sat nav and infotainment
There are two USB-C ports (the latest, smaller type) in the front, and you can pay extra to have a couple more in the rear, allowing you to charge plenty of devices all at once. If you go for entry-level SE trim, you’ll get an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system. The screen grows to 9.2in if you opt for SE Drive trim or above.
All three systems have Bluetooth and a DAB radio, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring fitted as standard. Only the range-topping 9.2in system is available with built-in sat-nav and the Skoda voice assistant, called Laura. Laura can recognise natural speech and set commands, but doesn't always get what you're saying.
The touchscreen graphics look smart and the operating systems are easy enough to use, but the response to your prods can be slow sometimes and the system is prone to software crashes.
The quality of the Kamiq's interior, relative to the wider small SUV class, is pretty impressive. Its VW Group cousins – the Seat Arona and the T-Cross – have hard plastic in places you touch regularly, including the dashboard and doors, and the Stonic is no better.
In the Kamiq, you’ll find plenty of squidgy and more appealing materials. It feels altogether more expensive than those rivals, which it isn't. The sporty Monte Carlo trim adds more colour, including red stitching and highlights on the seats.
Strengths Good visibility; well built; infotainment system looks smart and is easy enough to use
Weaknesses Driving position is more hatchback than SUV; interior lacks wow factor
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
You’ll have no problem fitting in the front of the Kamiq. Indeed, if you're really tall, it's one of the small SUVs to check out. Leg room is generous and there’s a very useful amount of head room too – even with the optional panoramic glass sunroof fitted.
There's also 26 litres of storage in cubbies dotted around the interior – that's far more than most rivals offer. There’s even a small drawer under each front seat if you go for the relatively inexpensive optional Simply Clever Pack, which also includes door protectors.
While the Kamiq uses the same underpinnings as the Seat Arona and VW T-Cross, they've been stretched so the front and rear wheels are further apart, giving you more space inside, especially in the back.
That means there's loads of rear leg room – noticeably more than the Ford Puma, Arona and T-Cross, and slightly more than in the VW T-Roc. Even if you’re a six-footer sitting behind someone else of a similar height, you’ll have a gap of several inches in front of your knees.
The Kamiq’s relatively boxy shape means there’s a frankly ridiculous amount of rear head room. You’ll have to pay extra for a central rear armrest, though.
Seat folding and flexibility
The Kamiq doesn’t have the sliding rear seats that feature in the T-Cross, the useful ski hatch the T-Roc comes with, or the handy folding front passenger seat that some other Skodas have. The rear seats split 60/40 to fold down.
This is a strong area for the Kamiq. We managed to fit seven carry-on suitcases under the parcel shelf, which is a match for the T-Roc, and beats the Nissan Juke (six) and T-Cross (five).
That said, the T-Roc had a bit more room to spare because its boot is slightly longer and wider. Only the Puma's clever boot, which has a massive trough under the floor, can do better; it swallowed eight cases.
Unless you add the optional height-adjustable boot floor to the Kamiq, there’s a fairly hefty lip at the boot entrance, as well as a step in the floor when the rear seats are folded down. It's not an expensive addition, so it's worth ordering.
Strengths Roomy in the front and rear; lots of in-car storage space; panoramic sunroof doesn't significantly impact practicality
Weaknesses Height-adjustable boot floor costs extra; seats don't do anything clever
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Skoda Kamiq in popular SE trim comes in at around the same price as an equivalent VW T-Cross while the Ford Puma and VW T-Roc are priced slightly higher. PCP finance deals are usually pretty tasty if you're paying monthly, but for a slightly cheaper cash buy, have a look at the Kia Stonic.
Officially, the 1.0 TSI 95 and 110 can achieve an average fuel economy figure of around 50mpg, and the 1.5 TSI 150 isn’t far behind. CO2 emissions are competitive, with each engine emitting a similar amount. Bear that in mind if you're a company car driver looking to keep tax bills low.
That said, the hybrid Toyota Yaris Cross is even cheaper for company car drivers. If you're looking at longer-term costs, resale values for the Kamiq are predicted to be solid, although not as bullet-proof as the T-Roc's.
Equipment, options and extras
Our favourite trim is the entry-level SE. It comes with 17in alloy wheels, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, rear parking sensors, a front armrest and an 8.0in infotainment screen. Think about adding a rear-view camera, a height-adjustable boot floor and the Simply Clever Pack if you can – its boot-mounted 12V socket, underseat drawers and interior tablet holder are very handy.
SE Drive adds different 17in wheels, rear privacy glass and the 9.2in touchscreen with gesture control, but doesn’t do a great deal else to justify the extra money. SE L Executive trim – which is only available with the two most powerful engines – adds climate control, 18in alloys, power-folding door mirrors, keyless start, dynamic indicators and ambient lighting.
At the top of the range, Monte Carlo offers a sportier look with black roof rails, sports front seats and a panoramic sunroof.
The Kamiq had a rather disappointing performance in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey – finishing in 16th place out of 25 small SUVs. Skoda as a brand performed a little better finishing 13th out of 32 manufacturers, putting it ahead of Seat, Audi and Nissan but behind Hyundai and Kia
Like other Skoda models, it comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty as standard. You can extend that up to five years for an extra fee. The Renault Captur and Hyundai Kona come with five-year warranties, while the Kia Stonic and Kia Niro top them all with seven years' cover.
Safety and security
Standard safety kit includes lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection and seven airbags. The airbag count is raised to nine if you spec the optional driver’s kneebag and rear side airbags.
Lane keeping assist is available as an option, as part of a Travel Assist package.
When it was tested for safety by Euro NCAP, the Kamiq proved very effective at protecting its occupants in a crash and was awarded the full five stars. It achieved higher scores for adult and pedestrian protection than the Stonic, but the T-Roc was deemed safer still, with a lower risk of child whiplash injury.
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Strengths Competitively priced; attractive PCP finance deals; offers good protection in a crash
Weaknesses Toyota Yaris Cross is more efficient; reliability record is merely okay
No. The Kamiq is available exclusively with turbocharged petrol engines. You can choose between 94bhp and 108bhp 1.0-litre units, or a 148bhp 1.5-litre.
The Skoda Karoq is bigger (and more expensive) than the Kamiq, with more rear space and a bigger boot.