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Soft-roading compact SUV aims to showcase Skoda’s modern-day qualities - we find out if it has kept some of the traits that made the Yeti so likeable

Since 2007, global demand for Czech automobiles whose snouts carry an abstract badge portraying a Native American warrior (Skodas, if you hadn’t guessed) has doubled, to roughly 1.2 million. That statistic doesn’t get any less extraordinary the more you think about it, and yet it should be even greater.

Only recently, the proportion of sales accounted for by Skoda’s sports utility vehicles was half the European average. With just a solitary contender – the mid-size Kodiaq – in this zeitgeist market sector, that’s hardly a surprise, and yet it is perplexing that a strategy-savvy brand built on utilitarian principles should find itself caught short in this manner.

Skoda has deployed the ‘Scout’ moniker once before – for the midsized Octavia. In their soft approach to off-roading, these models compare to Audi’s Allroad and VW’s Alltrack ranges

It’s why we now have the Karoq – a compact SUV designed to compete not only against blood relatives such as the Volkswagen T-Roc and Seat Ateca but also Nissan’s Qashqai and the Kia Sportage. On paper, it should be another strong showing from Skoda, which has in modern times forged a strong reputation. It’s one built from delivering just enough of the technology and materials quality from more premium VW Group brands to make the aggressive pricing seem irresistible. Spacious cabins and an increasingly crisp exterior design language have further precipitated that rocket-like sales graph, which is only expected to steepen as Skoda commits more resources to the segment.

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What makes the Karoq, tested here in rugged Scout guise, such an interesting prospect for Autocar readers is the model it replaces.

Skoda sold the Yeti between 2009 and 2017, and not only was this crossover pleasingly practical but it was also, as we said at the time, genuinely likeable and good to drive. High praise indeed given the segment in question. If Skoda has truly made progress, the newcomer will not only surpass the low-rise Yeti in every measurable parameter but will have done so without sacrificing much – if anything – in the way of charm.

Price £31,275 | Power 148bhp | Torque 251lb ft | 0-60mph 8.9sec | 30-70mph in fourth 12.9sec | Fuel economy 38.0mpg | CO2 emissions 134g/km | 70-0mph 47.9m (damp)

First drives