The Karoq is the replacement for Skoda’s popular Yeti, a rare sort of small SUV that actually had character and a distinct personality.
Based on the same MQB platform that underpins the Volkswagen Group’s other entry-level SUVs, such as the Seat Ateca, as well as any number of hatchbacks and saloons, the Karoq is bigger in all dimensions than the Yeti.
Breaking new ground beyond the Yeti
That car’s chunky, distinctive styling has gone, but the new model is at least reasonably handsome with its sharp creases and narrow, predator-eyed headlights.
The cabin design is pretty strong, too, but it’s the quality that really impresses. There’s an overall sense of solidity, while the materials themselves feel premium. The soft-touch, rubberised dashboard is particularly good.
The upgraded Canton infotainment system that was fitted to our test car, which includes a vast high-resolution display, was perhaps the most impressive element of the entire cabin.
The VarioFlex seating system that proved so popular on the Yeti (which allows you to remove, slide and recline the rear seats individually), incidentally, wasn’t fitted here but will be available on the Karoq.
Naturally, there’s bundles of interior space and a very generous boot. The lofty seating position gives the elevated view of the road that seems so popular these days but, helpfully, the car never feels especially big when driving around town.
Skoda likes to shout about the various ‘simply clever’ trinkets that are dotted around the cabin - the little sealed rubbish bin in the driver’s door pocket, the rear-facing tablet holders that can be fitted to the front headrests and so on - with good reason; they really are very handy in everyday use.
As for trims there are three to choose from – SE, SE L and Edition. Entry-level models get 17in alloy wheels, black roof rails, front foglights, autonomous emergency braking, automatic wipers and lights, rear parking sensors and cruise control are all fitted as standard. Inside, there is height adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control and Skoda’s infotainment system complete with DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, smartphone integration and 12 speaker audio system.
Upgrade to SE L, and the Karoq comes very well equipped; LED lights, chrome roof rails, heated front seats, VarioFlex seats, an Alcantara upholstery, front parking sensors, a rear view camera, 18in alloy wheels, keyless entry and an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat nav are all included.
Topping the range is the Karoq Edition, which comes with 19in alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, electrically adjustable, heated and folding door mirrors, LED interior ambient lighting, electrically adjustable front seats, a leather upholstery, wireless mobile phone charging mat, a powered tailgate and 9.2in touchscreen infotainment screen.
Powering the Karoq’s charge
Skoda expects the best-selling engine to be the 1.5 TSI tested here - a turbocharged 1498cc petrol engine that develops 148bhp and some 184lb ft of torque. There is also a turbocharged triple and a couple of diesel options powered by the usual 1.6 and 2.0-litre suspects, too, but this 1.5-litre four-pot is refined and impressively responsive for a turbo unit.
With 0-62mph dispatched in 8.4sec, performance is adequate, although the car certainly never feels quick. This engine is so much quieter and sweeter than a diesel lump would be. Skoda claims 52.3mpg on the combined cycle, too, so it’s hardly thirsty.
The six-speed manual gearbox is basically very good, but the shift action was notchier than expected, feeling a little obstructive at times where other VW Group transmissions are oily slick. There is a DSG gearbox option, too, and although this particular car is front-wheel drive only, there are four-wheel-drive models available.
The Karoq’s smooth character
This is a car that majors on comfort, refinement and convenience. With lots of wheel travel and plush suspension, along with meaty tyre sidewalls, the Karoq rides very well indeed.
It’s settled, calm and composed even on reasonably broken Tarmac. At motorway speeds, the cabin is calm and serene, too, with tyre noise kept to a minimum and engine noise totally absent, while the only real wind noise seemed to be created by those chunky door mirrors.
Even the steering is rather good. The weighting is natural, as is the rate of response, which means you guide the Karoq along without really having to think about it. Given the tall ride height, it’s no surprise the car rolls a fair amount in spirited cornering, but there’s enough control, grip and stability that the car will hold on gamely if you fling into a few bends.
The Karoq isn’t exactly fun to drive, which probably doesn’t really matter. The Yeti could be amusing to pedal along, though. It also had a personality, whereas the Karoq is just a little short of any individuality to call its own.
Still, that shouldn't detract too much from what is a very capable and well-rounded family car.