What Car? says...
With more and more car manufacturers favouring naming their cars with the same first letters in order to group them into a family, identifying which one is which can get a bit confusing.
Here we have the Skoda Karoq, which sits in between the smaller Kamiq and larger Kodiaq, placing it in the Family SUV category and and making it Skoda's answer to the Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Tiguan or Seat Ateca.
Externally, it looks every inch the modern Skoda, but under the skin is a platform that's shared with the Ateca and Tiguan – both of which are made by brands that are part of the same VW Group.
However, to make sure the Karoq doesn’t tread on any toes, it’s slightly smaller than the Tiguan and is set up to be less sporty and more comfortable than the Ateca, giving its own unique – and highly impressive – identity.
There is a choice of petrol and diesel engines in the range, and you can choose between front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, and a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. That's more than enough choice for most car shoppers.
There's also the Scout trim level for those who want a more rugged off-road look, and the Sportline for those who want a Karoq with an altogether sporty leaning.
So, which Karoq is for you? Read on for our in-depth impressions, and whatever new car ticks your boxes, don’t forget to head to our New Car Buying page for the cheapest, hassle-free deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine is surprisingly sprightly and has good low-down shove, so it's ideal if you spend most of your time in town. However, we prefer the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol as it deals with heavy loads and open roads better. It has 148bhp and is well suited to the Karoq, delivering punchy performance in a refined manner. There’s plenty of power from low in the rev range, so you don’t have to work the engine hard and, regardless of driven wheels or gearbox, it’ll manage 0-62mph in around 9.0sec. That’s enough to whisk you and your family up to motorway speeds on all but the shortest of slip roads.
The 1.6 TDI diesel is more flexible, but will cost more in company car tax, while the 2.0 TDI offers a strong blend of power and economy in its lowest powered form. With 148bhp and 251lb ft of torque, the 2.0-litre unit’s straight-line performance is more than adequate and, whether you choose the slick DSG gearbox or sweet-shifting six-speed manual, the engine is kept suitably quiet at cruising speeds.
You can also opt for higher-powered 187bhp 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines in conjunction with four-wheel drive, but these are best reserved for those who frequently encounter tricky terrain or intend to tow a substantial trailer. For most, they won't be worth the extra expense.
Suspension and ride comfort
Where 17in or 18in wheels are fitted, the Karoq comes up trumps for smoothing the harsh edges off ruts and bumps around town. Thus equipped, the Karoq upstages many rivals when smoothness is concerned, most noticeably the sportier and therefore firmer-riding Seat Ateca and the less composed Peugeot 3008. Indeed, you’ll have to jump up to the Volvo XC40 to get a comfier family SUV.
Up your speed on the motorway and the Karoq's ride gets even better, making it an extremely gentle companion on a long trip. Models with 19in wheels are still comfortable for the most part, but you will feel more ruts and other road imperfections, especially at urban speeds.
While the Karoq sits on the same platform as the Ateca and Volkswagen Tiguan, Skoda has clearly worked hard to give the Karoq its own character; it falls squarely in the middle of the spectrum between comfort and sportiness. Therefore, the Karoq exhibits more body roll in corners than the driver-focused Ateca, but it’s still more agile than the longer and heavier Tiguan.
Like its relatives, the Karoq’s steering has a natural-feeling weight that builds progressively, and a fine level of accuracy that lets you swoop from corner to corner with ease. And with plenty of grip at your disposal, you won’t lack any confidence as you do. Yet, admirable as it is, there’s no doubting that those who prefer a little more on-the-limit cornering prowess will find the Ateca a noticeably sharper drive.
Don’t forget that if you need your SUV to do more than just look the part, four-wheel drive is available. Mind you, while this might help you across a muddy field, don’t think of the Karoq as the tool to scale Snowdon – it isn't.
Noise and vibration
Let’s start with the engines and gearboxes. The diesels are a little grumbly under hard acceleration, while the 1.0-litre petrol thrums away (but not unpleasantly) if you give it some stick. On balance, we’d say the 1.5 petrol engine offers the smoothest progress of all, although even this screams a little at the top of its rev range. None of the Karoq's rivals are significantly better, though. You will hear the engines in the background at a motorway cruise, although they aren’t particularly obstrusive.
The manual gearbox is light and easy to use, as is the clutch. If you opt for one of the automatic models, these change smoothly between each gear but can be jerky from a standstill – a bit of nuisance when parking or in stop-start traffic.
Despite being very similar mechanically, the Karoq does lose out to the Ateca when it comes to suspension noise; there's a background boom as it deals with bumps in the road, as well as a little more tyre and wind noise as well. Mind you, none of this is anywhere near extreme enough to nark you. For those with particularly sensitive ears, the Mazda CX-30 is a quieter companion.