Skoda has had decent success with its mid-sized SUV, the Karoq. Jonathan Crouch looks at what the updated version of this crossover has to offer.
Brand identity is everything in the automotive world, so it seems hard to understand why back in 2017, Skoda wanted to abandon one of their most recognisable name plates, that of the Yeti. Yet the Czech maker did just that, replacing that model line with this one - the Karoq. The reason why was that the company wanted to emphasise that this car is a different, larger and more sophisticated SUV than the Yeti ever was - or could be. The Yeti couldn't ever quite decide whether it wanted to be a Juke-shaped supermini-sized SUV or a Qashqai-shaped family hatch-sized model. This larger Karoq has had no such dilemma, originally launched back in 2017, firmly targeted at the Qashqai sector - and offering a larger boot, amongst other incentives, to tempt buyers away from Nissan's market leader. Here, we're looking at the updated version, announced at the end of 2021. If you're wondering if the word 'Karoq' has any meaning, then we'll tell you that it's taken from the language of an Alaskan tribe and, roughly translated, means 'car arrow'. Make of that what you will.
Not much has changed with the engineering of this car. Under the skin, this Skoda uses much the same MQB chassis as you'll find in the Volkswagen Group's rival SEAT Ateca and Volkswagen Tiguan models. The set-up with this Karoq is deliberately more comfort-orientated than it is in the Ateca. The various powerplants on offer are all familiar from other Volkswagen Group models. There are four turbo-charged direct injection engine options, none of which (yet) get the VW Group's latest mild hybrid tech. As before, things kick off with a 110PS 1.0-litre TSI petrol unit, but most choose the 150PS 1.5 litre TSI powerplant, which uses cylinder deactivation for an exemplary combination of performance and efficiency. There are also two 2.0 TDI diesel engines, now with the VW Group's latest 'Twin Dosing' technology and offering either 116PS or 150PS. Both are available with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or 7-speed DSG auto transmission. Only the top 2.0 TDI 150PS diesel is available with 4WD. These derivatives are also fitted with a special 'Off Road' mode and hill descent control so that you can more easily slither down slippery slopes. In general though, this Skoda's limited ground clearance makes testing off road forays fairly inadvisable. The Karoq is much happier being used for tarmac use and an option worth considering here is the 'DCC' 'Dynamic Chassis Control' adaptive damping system that can considerably improve the ride over poor surfaces. It works through the settings of the standard 'Driving Mode Select' system.
Design and Build
Subtle styling changes mark out this updated Karoq model. The front grille is now wider and hexagonal in shape, the headlights and tail lights are slimmer, there's a larger rear spoiler and the bumpers have been restyled. As before, this is one of the larger SUVs in the mid-sized SUV class. Take the boot, rated at 521-litres and extendable to 1,630-litres if you fold forward the rear bench. Avoid base trim and that back seat will come in 'VarioFlex' form made up of three separate seats that canslide and, if required, be taken out completely. If you do that, a van-like capacity of up to 1,810-litres is freed up. Few Qashqai-class models can get close to that. View the car in profile and the longer-than-average wheelbase by class standards is very evident and the side aesthetics are also characterised by short overhangs and a sloping roofline that's visually extended by a contour in the D-pillar. Inside, things are much as before, though Skoda has improved the ambient lighting system and now offers an 'Eco Pack', with upholstery made from vegan materials. Digital instruments are standard, with an 8-inch screen across the range, with a 10.25-inch upgrade available as an option, or on plusher variants. The central infotainment screen is 8-inches as standard, with a 9.2-inch 'Columbus' upgrade available if you want it. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone-mirroring are standard, with wireless connectivity optional. And, as usual, there are a range of 'Simply Clever' features, including an electrically-retractable tow bar. And a 'Virtual Pedal' option that allows you to open the power-operated tailgate with a wave of your foot beneath the bumper.
Market and Model
Prices start from around £26,000 but if you go for the flagship 4x4 models and add a few well-chosen extras, you'll probably be looking at getting on for £40,000. There are three trim levels - 'SE Drive', 'SE L' and 'Sportline' and equipment levels across the range are pretty generous. 'SE Drive' models offer 17-inch Scutus alloy wheels, Amundsen touchscreen navigation and LED headlights (low functionality) as standard. 'SE Drive' models also feature rear LED lights with welcome effect and dynamic indicators, colour multifunction trip computer, Smartlink with wireless Apple CarPlay and rear parking sensors as standard. Mid-range 'SE L' models add 18-inch Miran alloy wheels, chrome for the roof rails and window surround, VarioFlex seating (a sliding rear bench) and a Winter Pack (which includes a heated steering wheel and heat for the front seats, heated windscreen washer nozzles and headlight washers). 'SE L'-spec also gets you Keyless entry, an engine start/stop system and an extended rear spoiler and the Parking Pack that includes rear view camera and front parking sensors. Top 'SportLine' variants feature Full LED Matrix headlights with AFS (adaptive front light system), plus an LED interior light pack and a panoramic sunroof. Metallic paint and an electrically operated boot and virtual pedal are also standard, along with a Winter Pack and Parking pack that includes front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
Cost of Ownership
The old fashioned image of SUV vehicles being somewhat profligate when it comes to fuel economy certainly doesn't really apply to the Skoda Karoq. Let's get to the WLTP figures. The 2.0 TDI 150PS front-driven diesel variant that many customers will want manages up to 52.3mpg and up to 143g/km of CO2. Go for the 150PS 1.5-litre TSI petrol unit and you should be able to get up to 44.8mpg and up to 144g/km. The base 1.0 TSI petrol unit manages up to 44.8mpg and 142g/km. Whatever powerplant you choose, as you'd expect in this day and age, all models get a start/stop system that cuts the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights. And the DSG auto transmission is equipped with a 'coasting' function that at cruising speeds, will disconnect the gearbox, leaving the engine to idle until you next need it. The TDI diesels now use the VW Group's latest, cleaner 'Twin Dosing' technology. And like most modern diesels, they get a selective catalytic reduction filter to cut down on nitrous oxide, plus as usual with TDI units, they've been designed around the use of a urea-based solution called AdBlue. This is injected into the exhaust gas stream to help clean up emissions, the liquid used being stored in a 12-litre tank mounted at the rear beneath the boot. This will need topping up as part of regular servicing and you can monitor its status via dashboard display.
You can see the appeal of this Karoq model. It's spacious, safe, drives well, has a cool but understated image and is affordable to run. In short, what we have here is a class act in a market full of try-hard rivals and a car that strikes an appealing chord between practicality, quality and fashion. True, some of the rivals it has to face are larger, more hi-tech or more efficient. Most of them are pricier too though and it's that very affordability that'll keep this Skoda in the frame for customers who want a more interesting and flexible alternative to yet another Qashqai clone in this class. It's a car that transcends lifestyle snobbery. A family car that doesn't shout 'family'. And a Crossover you could be genuinely pleased to own.