What Car? says...
Have you noticed how some manufacturers are naming their individual models with the same first letters, in order to group them into a family? That’s why we’ve got the Skoda Karoq, which sits in between the smaller Kamiq and larger Kodiaq, making it in the Family SUV in the brand’s line up. And it’s Skoda’s answer to the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Seat Ateca and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Externally, it looks every inch the modern Skoda, but under its skin it shares an awful lot of its mechanicals 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 of its siblings’ toes, it’s slightly smaller than the Tiguan and set up to be less sporty, and more comfortable, than the Ateca, creating its own unique identity and place in the world.
It offers plenty of choice as well. There is a range of petrol and diesel engines, and you can choose between front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. When it comes to changing gear, you can do that yourself with a manual gearbox or have a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic do it for you. Oh, and there’s a wide range of trims, too, including the off-road-inspired Scout and racier Sportline version.
So, which Karoq is the one for you? Read on for our in-depth impressions of the best engine’s and trims, and to find out how it compares with the competition. Plus, whichever new car ticks all your boxes, don’t forget to head to our New Car Buying pages to find the cheapest, hassle-free deals available.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level turbocharged 1.0 TSI 115 petrol engine is surprisingly sprightly and has decent low-down shove, so it's fine if you spend most of your time in town. However, we prefer the 1.5 TSI 150 petrol, which is our pick. It deals with heavier loads and faster, open roads more ably thanks to a very useful 148bhp, which delivers punchy performance (0-62mph takes around 9.0sec) throughout the rev range. As a result, you don’t have to work it as hard as the 1.0 TSI 115 to keep up with the traffic on motorways.
The 1.6 TDI diesel is also flexible but nowhere near as lively as the 1.5 TSI 150. In fact, the only diesels we can see an argument for are the 2.0-litres, which come with 148bhp (2.0 TDI 150) and 187bhp (2.0 TDI 190). That’s because they are really gutsy and available with four-wheel drive, which makes them ideal for towing a caravan or boat. They’re pretty pricey, though.
Suspension and ride comfort
Stick to 17in and 18in alloy wheels and the Karoq comes up trumps when it comes to smoothing the harsh edges off ruts and bumps around town. Indeed, it upstages most rivals for ride comfort, most noticeably the sportier and firmer-riding Seat Ateca or the bouncier ride of the Peugeot 3008. Indeed, you’ll have to jump up to the Volvo XC40 to get a comfier family SUV.
The Karoq's ride gets even better on the motorway, making it an extremely gentle companion on a long trip. Edition and Sportline trims with 19in wheels are still comfortable for the most part, but you’ll feel more ruts and other road imperfections, especially at urban speeds.
All but entry-level petrol and diesel models have the option of something called Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). This allows you to stiffen or soften the suspension depending on whether you’re cruising or cornering hard, and makes the Karoq even more cushioned in Comfort mode. DCC works best with the 19in wheels by reducing the jitteriness they add around town, but the rest of the range rides so well it’s not worth the extra outlay.
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. It exhibits more body roll in corners than the driver-focused Ateca, but it’s just as agile as the longer, 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 enjoy driving briskly 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, especially the 1.6 TDI 115, 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 can hear the engines in the background at a motorway cruise, although they aren’t particularly obtrusive.
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.
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