Skoda Kamiq Review
As you might have guessed, the Kamiq is Skoda’s latest SUV offering, joining the Kodiaq and Karoq in the Czech brand’s stable of K-something-something-something-Q-badged models. Based on overgrown Fabia underpinnings, the high-riding hatchback is a likeable, practical alternative to humdrum family cars, and it backs that up with more than a smattering of style. The lettering on the back might say Skoda, but the sharp lines and clean shape give it a more premium image than you might expect.
Select's rating score* - 4.1 / 5
Skoda is a master of the natty feature, but they aren’t just there to show how clever the Czech brand is. The bigwigs have really thought their offerings through. That means all but the cheapest versions of the Kamiq get umbrellas in the driver’s door, so you’re covered – literally – if you’re caught in a rain shower. It’s a feature shared with Rolls-Royce, so you know it’s a good one.
Similarly, you get an ice scraper hidden in the fuel filler cap so you don’t have to crack your credit card when the weather turns, and you get a strange washer bottle cap that turns into a funnel so you don’t spill service station washer fluid all over your nice, shiny engine. All this stuff sounds dull, but when you’re struggling to get off the drive in the depths of a miserable British winter, you’ll be grateful for them.
The Kamiq engine range is fairly simple, with a little 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine sitting at the foot of the range. That 95hp engine is decent enough, with a five-speed manual gearbox and enough grunt to get from 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds, but there’s more power on offer if you want it. You can get the same engine tuned up to 116hp, which will get you to 62mph about a second-and-a-bit faster and comes with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearboxes.
Alternatively, you can go for the more powerful 1.5-litre petrol engine, which boasts 150hp and comes with the same choice of transmissions. That’s the fastest option, cutting the 0-62mph dash to eight seconds, but you can have a more economical 1.6-litre diesel with 116hp. It’s only marginally slower than the equally powerful petrol, but it comes with the seven-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
In many ways, the diesel suits the car better than anything else in the line-up; the Kamiq isn’t about performance, and the low-down grunt of the engine fits with the car’s character. Yet despite that, the more powerful 1.0-litre petrol engine is probably the sweet spot in the range – not least because the diesel is only available with the SE L trim level.
Admittedly, neither engine is the most exciting in the stable, but then the Kamiq is very much set up for comfort rather than sportiness. The ride is very supple, and the Kamiq glides over bumps with noticeable composure. Despite that, it doesn’t wallow and roll through the corners too much, and its response to commands from the wheel is quite solid and predictable. It’s a very easy car to drive, with light steering, smooth manual gearboxes and decent visibility. It’s exactly what you expect it to be, but that’s no bad thing.
Unless, of course, you’re expecting a little off-road capability. Yes, the Kamiq sits higher than your average hatchback, but otherwise it’s no more rugged. You can’t have four-wheel drive, no matter which engine you choose, and there are no clever off-road driver aids to speak of. That said, with a good set of tyres wrapped around the alloys, it’ll deal with pretty much everything most customers will need.
If you want economy, the diesel is the obvious engine to plump for, providing around 50mpg. However, the difference isn’t night and day. Because the diesel is paired with the automatic gearbox and the 18-inch alloy wheels, it is running with something of a handicap. Opting for the 95hp petrol could – on paper, at least – prove almost as economical. The 1.5-litre petrol gets surprisingly close, too.
If we’re speaking in broad strokes, though, none of the Kamiq’s engines is particularly thirsty. A couple of miles to the gallon here and there make little difference, and all will manage more than 40mpg on the official test. Pick the one you want, and don’t worry too much about filling up.
Given the lack of major difference between the engines in terms of economy, it’ll come as no surprise that there isn’t much difference on the emissions front, either. However, that means the petrol engines should be your first port of call if you’re looking for company wheels. The 95hp 1.0-litre sneaks into the 25-percent company car tax bracket, and the low purchase price makes it by far the cheapest. The 116hp petrol isn’t far behind, though, and the 1.5-litre engine is closer than you might imagine.
If you are looking for a company car, avoid the diesel. It might have competitive 119g/km CO2 emissions and appealing economy, but it doesn’t meet the latest RDE2 emissions standards, so it’s hit with a four-percent tax surcharge.
As we’ve come to expect from Skoda, the Kamiq’s cabin is excellent. Sure, it’s been built to a price, but that’s true of everything in this class. What matters is that the plastics are decent wherever you’re likely to touch them, and the switchgear all feels properly fitted. None of the knobs feel as though they’re about to come off in your hand and no button feels like the insert from a box of Milk Tray. That quality is matched by the style, which is clean and modern and minimalist. It doesn’t necessarily fit with the sharp creases of the bodywork, but it’s a pleasant environment nevertheless.
It’s spacious in there, too, with plenty of room for passengers in the front and rear. The only problem is it doesn’t always feel as roomy as it is, because the drab colour schemes of some models make it feel a little dingy. The same is true of vehicles not fitted with the panoramic roof, which adds some much-needed light and air to proceedings.
The quality of the Kamiq’s infotainment system depends heavily on which trim level you choose. Basic S versions get quite a functional, no-frills 6.5-inch screen, while there’s a more advanced eight-inch system for the SE model. Upgrade to the SE L or the Monte Carlo and you get the jewel in the crown: the 9.2-inch Amundsen system. All three do the job, but the two bigger units are far more capable, as well as being better to look at. Go for either of those and you get the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration systems, which make life much easier, and satellite navigation is included with the 9.2-inch screen.
Aside from that, more subtle features include the two USB-C ports that come as standard, as well as the digital instrument cluster that features on higher-end models. That screen can be configured to show various amounts of data, from navigation displays to clearer, less cluttered displays that just provide the essentials. Raid the options list, and you can add to that arsenal with rear USB-C ports, wireless charging and parking assistance technology.
Given Skoda is a brand that sells itself on practicality and value, it’s a good job the Kamiq delivers on the space front. You get 400 litres of space behind the rear seats, which is more than you’ll find in a Ford Focus and – surprise, surprise – exactly the same as you get in the Kamiq’s sister car, the Seat Arona. It isn’t quite up there with the roomiest in the class, but it’s close enough, and it’s more than most people will regularly need. Fold down the back seats and you’ll free up 1,395 litres of space.
Fortunately, that space doesn’t come at the cost of rear legroom. The Kamiq might only be small on the outside, but it’s big enough to seat four adults in comfort. Fitting three fully-grown adults across the rear bench might be a bit tight for a long journey, but nipping to the pub would be fine. Better still, because the Kamiq sits a little higher than a conventional car but lower than a full-size 4x4, the seats are at a really good height for getting in and out. If you’re finding it difficult to hoist yourself in or out of a family hatchback these days, the Kamiq might be a good choice.
Once you’re inside, you’ll find plenty of cubbies and pockets in which to hold various water bottles, sweet wrappers and other assorted bits and bobs. Add to that the Skoda’s excellent suite of Simply Clever features, including the built-in ice scraper in the fuel filler cap and the clever washer bottle lid-cum-funnel, and you’ve got a really user friendly car. It even has a little clip at the corner of the windscreen to keep your parking ticket in place.
As you’d probably expect, the Kamiq cruised to a five-star Euro NCAP crash test score, thanks in no small part to a particularly strong showing for adult occupant protection. An incredible 96% score puts the car among the safest on the market, while the 85% child occupant protection score is not to be sniffed at. Naturally, it’s fitted with more airbags than you can shake a gearstick at, and you get Isofix child seat anchoring points on the two outer rear seats, plus another set on the front passenger seat. In short, it’s a pretty safe place to be should the worst happen.
But Skoda has added plenty of safety gizmos to help stop the worst happening. All models get Skoda’s radar-based front collision prevention system, which monitors the road ahead and warns the driver if their attention has waned and they have failed to react to an obstacle. If that doesn’t work, the car can apply the brakes automatically to prevent or mitigate a collision. Lane assistance technology is included, too, helping the car stay in its lane by applying a few degrees of steering lock when it detects the car drifting over the white line. Further up the range, you can get goodies such as blind-spot monitoring, which tells you if a car has strayed into the difficult-to-see areas over your shoulder.
Even entry-level S-model cars are a little basic, boasting a tiny 6.5-inch touchscreen and manual air conditioning, but you do get 16-inch alloy wheels. You get cloth upholstery, too, although the steering wheel and gear lever are leather-wrapped to add a slightly more upmarket feel. In truth, though, things only really get going with the slightly more luxurious SE version, which is marked out by its larger 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and eight-inch touchscreen. That car gets automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, too, while the two-spoke steering wheel gains some buttons for controlling the multimedia systems.
Further up the ladder is the SE L model, which is another big step forward. Manual air conditioning is replaced with two-zone climate control, while push-button ignition and satellite navigation come as standard. You get larger 18-inch alloy wheels, too, as well as a 9.2-inch touchscreen and a digital instrument cluster.
Finally, the range is capped by the Monte Carlo model. Quite what a world-famous rally has to do with a small, jacked-up hatchback is anyone’s guess, but the model does come with some sportier features that might appeal. The panoramic glass roof, for example, is well worth having, and you get black trim on the door mirrors, roof rails and window surrounds. Inside, the Monte Carlo has sportier upholstery, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and aluminium pedals. Just to hammer the point home, you get carbon-effect trim on the dashboard.
Once you’ve picked your poison, you get a healthy options list to play with, but only a handful really grab the attention. Chief among these is the heated windscreen, which will be a game-changer for those who’ve never had the pleasure of such a thing. Equally appealing is the Winter Pack, which comes with heated washer nozzles and heated seats, while front and rear parking sensors are worth a look, too. The same is also true of the handy electrically-operated tailgate, which saves your arm a job, and the panoramic roof, which brightens up the cabin.
While you’re playing with the options list, it’s worth taking a look at the paint options. All too often, the no-cost option is a bland and unimaginative white, but the Kamiq comes in a rather smart Electric Blue. That sets the tone for the rest of the options, which include quite a brave shade of green and some very tasteful blues, as well as a bright red that particularly suits the Monte Carlo version.
The Kamiq’s biggest rivals are its cousins: the Volkswagen T-Cross and the Seat Arona. Both are essentially the same car underneath, but they come with distinct styling and very different characters. Then you’ve got cars such as the Kia Stonic, which is better than its name suggests, and the Hyundai Kona (ditto). The new Ford Puma is a great car, too, but perhaps the most exciting to drive of all the Kamiq’s opponents is the Mazda CX-30. If you want cheap, you could always look at the surprisingly good Dacia Duster and SsangYong Tivoli, while more premium alternatives include the Audi Q2 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA.
Aside from the collection of compact SUVs snapping at the Kamiq’s heels, the Czech crossover faces competition from more conventional parts of the market, too. Alternatives include family hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, while you could opt for something a little more left-field, such as the brilliant Mazda3. You could look in-house, too, and try the Skoda Scala or the incredibly roomy Skoda Fabia Estate.
When it comes to practical family cars, few brands have the credentials of Skoda. The Kamiq shows us exactly why that is, offering bags of space and plenty of clever features in a stylish package. It’s a great compact SUV that will slot into place on all manner of driveways, capable of playing the suburban runabout or the long-distance companion with ease. And despite being the butt of yesteryear’s groan-worthiest jokes, the Skoda badge now stands for quality and value. With the arrival of the Kamiq, though, it’s no longer a stretch to describe Skoda with adjectives such as Zeitgeist-y and trendy.
Where to next?
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top six leading independent car website reviews of the Skoda Kamiq.
**Correct as of 27/10/2020. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1,959.44 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.