We’re quite familiar with the 1.5-litre four-cylinder motor, offered on a wide variety of VW Group models. Even the 128bhp version pulls a Golf with conviction, so the 148bhp of this Kamiq makes for quite brisk performance balanced with respectable efficiency.
It’s perky from the off and mid-range punch is effective, which is good because this isn’t an engine that rewards chasing the redline with a zingy note and new-found verve. Rather, it becomes quite strained and intrusive beyond 5000rpm. It’s no vRS by any means, then, despite an overly responsive throttle that takes a little while to get used to.
Generally speaking, this engine and dual-clutch gearbox combo is a fine pairing. Once used to the abrupt throttle (and accepting that it isn’t as silky smooth at low speed as a traditional torque-converter automatic), this tester experienced none of the ‘kangarooing’ effect some readers have previously outlined, and with mild to middling throttle inputs, it slurs changes nicely enough and doesn’t hold on to cogs unnecessarily.
You can catch it out, however, if you aren’t in Sport mode and suddenly demand full power, when it sometimes throws a wobbly, drops one too many cogs then takes a fair time to change up again and maintain the pace. It's also a bit of a shame that there aren't any of the usual wheel-mounted gearshift paddles in the Kamiq. You can manually change up by toggling the gearshift, but it's not as satisfying or easy.
That’s one of relatively few gripes with the driving experience, though. Feeling much like the raised-up Scala it essentially is, the Kamiq offers steering that responds naturally to inputs, and body control is very respectable for a crossover. It feels taut and composed in most situations, although a Ford Puma is more agile and entertaining still.
Granted, putting 18in wheels on a smallish car, one already more stiffly suspended than the hatch on which it’s based to account for the taller body, is rarely desirable from a ride comfort perspective. And, sure enough, there’s just a fraction more low-speed bump-thump and awareness in the cabin of the road's sharp ridges than we’d like. Some road roar is noticeable at speed, too.
However, for the most part, the Kamiq Monte Carlo is a composed and sophisticated steer and its damping improves with speed to offer a tied-down feel on undulating roads that something like a Peugeot 2008 couldn’t hope to match. We also suspect the optional adaptive dampers (not fitted to our test car), which drop the car's ride height by 10mm, will help take the edge off the nastiest potholes.