Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Skoda Karoq's entry-level turbocharged 1.0 TSI 110 petrol engine is surprisingly sprightly and has decent low-rev 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 of the range. It deals with heavier loads and faster, open roads more ably, thanks to a very useful 148bhp and greater low-down urgency than the 1.0 TSI. Acceleration is punchy throughout the rev range; 0-62mph takes 8.7sec (8.8 with the optional automatic gearbox).
There’s also a pair of 2.0-litre diesels, which come with 114bhp (2.0 TDI 116) and 148bhp (2.0 TDI 150). Both are really gutsy from low revs, and although the lesser version takes its time to get up to motorway speeds, the TDI 150 is very nearly as quick as the 1.5 TSI 150. The top TDI is available with four-wheel drive; the added traction this provides could come in handy when towing a caravan, boat or anything else reasonably hefty.
The diesels are pretty pricey, as is the most powerful engine in the range, the 2.0 TSI 190 petrol, which gets four-wheel drive as standard and is only available in Sportline trim. All in all, the Karoq’s engine lineup fits broadly in line with the performance a Seat Ateca offers, and both are faster than equivalent versions of the Peugeot 3008. There isn’t a hybrid engine option in the Karoq yet, though.
Suspension and ride comfort
Stick to 17in or 18in alloy wheels and the Skoda 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 and the bouncier Peugeot 3008. Indeed, you’ll have to fork out for a Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40 to get a comfier family SUV.
The Karoq's ride gets even better on the motorway, making it a soothing companion on long journeys. Edition and Sportline trims with 19in wheels are far from fractious, but you’ll feel more ruts and other road imperfections, especially at urban speeds.
All but the entry-level petrol and diesel models have the option of something called Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). This essentially 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 already, it’s not worth the extra outlay.
As we explained earlier, while the Skoda Karoq sits on the same basic 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 more driver-focused Ateca, but it’s just as agile as the longer, heavier Tiguan.
Like that of its relatives, the Karoq’s steering has a natural weighting to it, which builds progressively as you turn into a bend, while a fine level of accuracy 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 so.
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 may help you across a muddy field, don’t think of the Karoq as a cheap alternative to a Land Rover Defender – it definitely 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 noticeably, albeit 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 shouts quite loudly when you put it under pressure. None of the Karoq's rivals are significantly better, though.
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 a bit jerky when pulling away from a standstill – a bit of nuisance when parking or in stop-start traffic.
Despite being very similar mechanically, the Karoq does generate more suspension noise than the Ateca and Tiguan. There's a background boom as it deals with bumps in the road, as well as a little more tyre and wind noise. Mind you, none of this is extreme enough to really nark you. For those with particularly sensitive ears, the Mazda CX-30 is a quieter companion.
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