Skoda Karoq Review
Skoda’s naming policy leaves something to be desired, but its cars most certainly do not. The Karoq is yet another example of just how far the Czech brand has come since the bad old days of jokes involving skips, rust and breakdowns. Today, almost every car Skoda makes is up there with the best in the business, and the sharply styled Karoq is a prime example.
Select's rating score* - 4.3 / 5
Under the skin, the Karoq shares much with the SEAT Ateca and Volkswagen Tiguan, although there’s evidence to suggest it’s better than both those cars. Mixing practicality, quality and value, it’s one of the best family SUVs you can lease, with a version to suit all tastes. Basic SE versions get the essentials – cruise control, parking sensors and the like – while SE L and Edition variants are much more luxurious. And if you like a sporty touch, the Sportline comes with some motorsport-inspired design tweaks.
Like so many other Skodas, the Karoq is rammed with simple but effective features, including an ice scraper stowed in the fuel filler cap, a little parking ticket holder on the windscreen and an umbrella compartment under the seat. And if you want to go crazy with the options list, you can grab a hands-free boot, which opens when you wave your foot under the rear bumper, an electrically folding tow bar for those who pull caravans, trailers or horse boxes and a removable ski bag that slides between the rear seats. They sound small and simple, but they’re the sort of things that make you wonder how you managed without.
The Karoq’s engine options are pretty generous, but it boils down to a choice of four different motors. It’s just the choice of manual and automatic transmissions that makes the range look slightly more bloated than it is.
Kicking things off is the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that packs 110hp. It’s essentially stolen from the little Fabia hatchback, and it’s an eager little engine that isn’t without its charms, but when push comes to shove, it lacks a bit of grunt. Accelerating from nought to 62mph takes a bit more than 10 seconds, which is unremarkable but just about adequate.
Alternatively, there’s a 2.0-litre diesel with 116hp. Like the 1.0-litre petrol it comes with a manual gearbox, and like the 1.0-litre petrol, it isn’t desperately rapid. With more than half an eye on economy, it doesn’t improve on the little petrol engine’s performance, despite its slight power advantage.
Then there are the engines you might actually want. Those in search of petrol power will be fans of the 1.5-litre petrol that churns out 150hp, while those seeking a chunkier diesel engine will go for the 2.0-litre engine with the same power output. Both drag the 0-62mph times below nine seconds, and both are offered with a choice of manual and automatic transmissions. The diesel, however, is available with four-wheel drive, giving the Karoq a bit more off-road capability.
Not that this will ever be a 4x4 in the Land Rover mould. Sure, the all-wheel-drive Karoq is more than comfortable on muddy fields, farm tracks or snowy side streets, but it’s no serious overland vehicle. Nevertheless, it’s more than capable of dealing with anything most customers will ever need – and these things are surprisingly capable if you care to find their limits.
You’re more likely to find the limit on the road, though, where the Karoq excels. If you’re used to hatchbacks, you might find the high seating position a little odd, but the Skoda is far more agile than that lofty perch might have you believe. Of course, cornering with verve will cause it to lean more than, say, an Octavia, but it’s very good by SUV standards. You won’t get handling like this from a Nissan Qashqai or a Hyundai Tucson. Only some slightly numb, overly light steering puts it behind the Mazda CX-5 in the family SUV handling stakes.
To be honest, though, while handling is all very good on your favourite B-road, it’s the ride that matters more. The combination of that high driving position and big rear windows means visibility is excellent, and the suspension is very composed, keeping everything calm in the cabin no matter what’s going on beneath the wheels. In short, its road manners are impeccable.
If you want the most fuel-efficient Karoq, you’ll be looking at one of the diesels. The 116hp version manages the best part of 60mpg on the official economy test, and the 150hp versions aren’t far behind. Equip a base-spec SE with the 2.0-litre 150hp engine and a manual gearbox, and it’ll return 57.4mpg – down just 1.3mpg on its less powerful sibling. If you go for the automatic transmission, though, you will reduce economy again, albeit only by about 1mpg.
But for all that, the petrol engines aren’t so far behind the diesels, and those driving fewer miles might find them a more appealing option. The 1.0-litre engine will return 48.1mpg, while the 1.5-litre unit manages 45.3mpg thanks to clever technology that shuts down two of its four cylinders when the power is not needed, then fires them back up when you press the accelerator.
Again, those with an eye on emissions and company car tax will be lured towards the diesel engines. The 116hp motor goes as low as 126g/km in entry-level SE guise, and that’s enough to keep the Karoq in the 28% tax bracket. It’s tempting to go for the 150hp unit, though, because that’s only marginally more polluting and it stays in the same 28% tax band.
If, for whatever reason, you absolutely must have a petrol engine, the 1.0-litre, 110hp unit is the one to go for. With 133g/km emissions, it’s more polluting than the diesel, but it’s only one tax band higher, attracting 29% Benefit-in-Kind tax. But it’s much cheaper to buy than the diesel, and there’s more to tax than just the percentages. Do some calculations to see which works out cheapest for you
Although Skoda’s interiors may not always be the most imaginative designs on the planet, they make up for it with this wonderful sense of solidity. For the most part, the plastics are very good, and even those that inhabit the realm of the average feel as though they’ve been screwed down securely. The switchgear feels solid, too, with just the right amount of resistance to the buttons and a sensible layout.
So while the dashboard might not be especially pretty, it is at least very functional, and the same goes for everything else. The seats are supportive and comfortable, with high-quality materials and a good range of adjustment, while the steering wheel and gear lever are both wrapped in soft, smooth leather. Skoda is supposed to be the slightly more cost-conscious version of Volkswagen, but the Karoq suggests you’re getting just as much quality, if not quite as much luxury.
The Karoq really benefits from its Volkswagen roots when it comes to technology, with a host of features shared with VW, Audi and Seat. The touchscreen infotainment system is excellent, with logical menus, big ‘buttons’ and a clear display. Admittedly, it isn’t as modern as some other manufacturers’ systems, but the functionality and user-friendliness makes up for that.
And that central screen is backed up by plenty of other features. There’s an optional ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital instrument cluster that’s essentially a less sophisticated version of the Audi system that’s rightly lauded by critics across the board. Then you get other goodies, such as the optional Canton sound system, the wireless charging and the USB ports in the dashboard that connect with the handy Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration systems.
A Skoda lives and dies on its practicality. This corner of the Volkswagen stable is reserved for big boots and handy features, so it’s important the Karoq delivers. Fortunately, it does so with room to spare, thanks to its ‘Varioflex’ seats. This means the rear seats can slide fore and aft, recline and fold independently, and all three can also ‘tumble’ forward, freeing up extra boot space. As a result, the Karoq offers you the chance to trade luggage capacity for passenger-carrying capability, offering boot space that varies from 479 to 588 litres with the rear seats up, and from 1,605 to 1,810 litres with the rear seats tucked away. In short, you’ll have plenty of space for your suitcases, and that’s before you trouble the other nooks and crannies found in the Karoq’s cabin.
You get door bins capable of carrying big bottles, a massive central stowage bin and a sensibly proportioned glove box, not to mention various stowage options behind the seats and in the rear doors. And because the Karoq comes with roof rails as standard, you can even fit a roof box to carry even more stuff.
But if you choose to configure the Karoq for people-carrying duties, there’s still bags of space. Rear space is generous, so carrying four adults will be no issue on even the longest of journeys. You could fill the middle rear seat, too, but although it would be absolutely fine for short trips to the shops or the pub, it won’t suit fully grown adults on a longer trip. Kids might get away with it, though.
With a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, the Karoq is as safe as any other family SUV on the market. It scored particularly highly for its protection of adult occupants, but it achieved respectable scores in other areas too. As you’d expect, that was all assisted by the usual armada of airbags, Isofix child seat mounting points in the two outer rear seats and a few other features.
And as is now de rigeur, the Karoq also comes with a small army of electronic gadgets and gizmos designed to prevent you having an accident in the first place. Key among these is the autonomous emergency braking feature, which comes as standard on every model and scans the road ahead for hazards. If it decides the car is about to have an accident and the driver does not respond, it will slam on the brakes automatically, hoping to either prevent a crash or reduce the forces involved.
Aside from that, the Karoq is also offered with cruise control that maintains a safe distance to the vehicle in front, blind-spot monitoring that warns you if an unseen vehicle drifts into the blind spots over your shoulders and a system to help keep you in your lane should your attention wander. You can even have a system that warns you of oncoming traffic when reversing out of parking spaces.
If you like choice, there’s plenty to be found in the Karoq range. With a total of six different trim levels, there’s bound to be one that suits your needs, desires and purse strings. The base model is the SE, which comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, two-zone climate control and rear parking sensors. It gets automatic lights and wipers, too, along with a touchscreen infotainment system and keyless start. So although it’s the entry-level option, it has everything you really need.
But if you want more, the SE Technology is arguably the sweet spot in the range. Although it’s aimed primarily at company car drivers, its qualities translate well for any kind of customer, offering front and rear parking sensors, satellite navigation and clever adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance to the car in front. All it’s really missing is a reversing camera, but if you’re going to raid the options list, you might as well have the SE Drive instead – a car that basically apes the SE Technology equipment but gets the rear-view camera.
Next up is the SE L, which is where the luxury starts to kick in. Full LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels mark out this high-end model, and you get part-leather upholstery. But the Edition model is even more luxurious, offering a panoramic glass sunroof, a larger 9.2-inch touchscreen and 19-inch alloy wheels.
But if it’s sportiness you desire, rather than luxury, try the SportLine. It reverts to cloth seats and you’re back down to the eight-inch touchscreen, but you get sportier bumpers, 19-inch alloy wheels and black exterior trim pieces. You even get the Edition’s panoramic sunroof.
The options list varies slightly depending on which car you choose, but the heated windscreen will prove hugely useful in the winter, and the upgrade to leather upholstery represents decent value if you’ve chosen an SE L-spec car. The digital instrument cluster and heated seats are worth a look, too, while audiophiles might be tempted by the optional Canton sound system.
With so much shared DNA, the Karoq’s key competitors are found within the Volkswagen Group. The recently revamped VW Tiguan offers a slightly more premium feel, while the sporty-looking Seat Ateca has a slightly more youthful air. The Karoq is a nice halfway house, though, melding the solidity of the Volkswagen and the style of the Ateca, while still feeling practical and honest.
Outside the Volkswagen family, though, alternatives are numerous. There’s the Nissan Qashqai, which has earned its place among the UK’s most popular cars simply by being a jack of all trades, and the Kia Sportage, which has similar qualities – albeit with a slightly smarter interior. The Hyundai Tucson is cut from similar cloth, although the latest model is certainly a looker.
Beyond that, you could consider the Renault Kadjar, which is closely related to the Qashqai, or the SsangYong Korando, which is far better than you might expect. You could have the Ford Kuga, too, and that’s a seriously capable piece of kit – particularly for customers who like driving. But if that’s your bag, the Mazda CX-5 has to be at the top of your wish list. A stunning driver’s car with a lovely cabin and even lovelier lines, it’s the enthusiast’s choice.
If you want a mid-size family SUV, your choices are numerous, but the Karoq is the best all-rounder you can lease. Seemingly devoid of weakness, the Skoda mixes practicality, quality and surprisingly pleasant road manners in a rather attractive package. Finding fault is difficult, and when you want dependable, likeable transport for your nearest and dearest, praise doesn’t come much higher than that.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Skoda Karoq
**Correct as of 09/03/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 8,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1,831.57 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.