Good: equipment levels, driving experience
Not so good: not as fuel efficient as official numbers
If you were to consider the mid-size SUV segment as a linear spectrum with drop dead gorgeous looks and one end and serious practicality at the other, then the Skoda Karoq would fall as close to bang-on the middle as you could get.
By not being the first to market - with what is effectively a replacement for the more unusual Yeti, Skoda has had the time to look at what its competitors are doing and react advantageously. The Karoq seats five like they all do, with two ISOFIX points in the outer rear pews for child seats. Rear passenger space is good, yet the Karoq comes to the fight with 521 litres of cargo volume - a single litre more than its closest rival, the Volkswagen Tiguan and 11 litres more than its other sibling, the SEAT Ateca.
The one other significant number in this particular review is the engine capacity at just 999cc, in the form of a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol unit. Doesn't sound like much in a car of this size, but it serves as an excellent example of how far along engine downsizing has come.
This engine not only powers what is the cheapest of the Karoq range, but in our opinion it is an engine that will suit a high percentage of buyers. On the sensible side of things, it has a CO2 emissions rating that sees it cost no more than €270 per annum in motor tax and, providing you drive sensibly, Skoda says you can get the consumption down as low as 5.2 litres/100km. We didn't fare quite so well, with an average consumption of 7.4 litres/100km in our time with the car.
Beyond the marginally higher fuel consumption, there is less than many might expect that differentiates this engine from the previously popular diesel variants. Against the venerable 1.6-litre TDI, it concedes no ground in horsepower, both producing 115hp, though the diesel does make an additional 50Nm of torque.
Despite its smaller engine, this Karoq performs so well that we'd wager most passengers wouldn't correctly guess the engine size. Under harder acceleration it does have a distinguishable thrum, which is synonymous with three-cylinder engines. Despite this, it is less aurally offensive than a rattling diesel. Its six-speed manual transmission may only send power to the front wheels, but the gear shift itself is good and has a quality feel to it. The choice of ratios also means you won't constantly be shifting up and down the gearbox to keep momentum up.
With less weight sitting over the front axle this Karoq seems responsive, with a directness to its steering that is welcome in such a class of car. It's not overtly sporty, but should you choose to push on a bit over a mountain road the Skoda feels more than capable and willing. Ultimately there's an assured, surefooted approach to how the Karoq performs.
Away from the oily bits, the overall finish inside the Karoq is to a high standard. From the materials used to the impressive looking 9.2-inch 'Columbus' touchscreen display, this is one SUV that you feel you're getting value for money with.