Skoda is on something of a roll, and following the well-received Kodiaq SUV comes its smaller sibling, the Karoq. Effectively replacing the Yeti, but in a more conventional SUV style, it appears to have all the right ingredients to be a real success.
In the Metal:
The new Skoda Karoq takes its look from the larger Kodiaq and, in many ways, the smaller proportions suit the style even better. Its robust design features subtle details and sharp lines to give the Skoda plenty of kerbside appeal, and a healthy variety of exterior colours to choose from should inspire some buyers to be a little more adventurous. The thin LED daytime running light strip and bold front grille help it stand out and, to be fair to Skoda, the split headlight design on the Karoq seems to be the least divisive of its recent models.
Considering Skoda's reputation, we shouldn't be too shocked to find that passenger space in the front and back is generous. The dashboard layout is clean and Ambition models get the eight-inch 'Bolero' infotainment system. Those upgrading to the Style version get, amongst other things, the 9.2-inch 'Columbus' touchscreen system that looks decidedly high-end and is excellent to use. In the back, both head- and legroom are suitable for adults and the rear doors open to a wide enough angle to help cope with getting younger passengers in and out.
Skoda claims to have the largest boot in the segment, at 521 litres, and it can open up to 1,630 litres with the back seats folded. If you need more space from time to time, the VarioFlex option changes the rear seats to three individual units, which can be adjusted, folded or easily removed to give you a van-like 1,810 litres of cargo volume. Taking them out is a relatively simple task. However, there is some weight to them, and you'll need to find somewhere to store them. It's a smart system that some buyers will love.
A swing back towards petrol power is slowly happening, but diesel remains the popular choice in this part of the market. The 1.6-litre TDI diesel in the Karoq works well as a package, especially with the seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. Its 115hp is modest, but is enough to help the Skoda clip along at a comfortable pace. Sudden overtakes aren't its forte, but the DSG does react quickly to throttle inputs.
While many will compare the Karoq to the SEAT Ateca and Volkswagen Tiguan, Skoda's engineers worked hard to give the car an individual feel. Particular attention was paid to the suspension setup, which, even on the standard passive springs, varies slightly depending on the engine and transmission setup. The aim was to give consistency across the different car weights, and the results are positive. There are some very slight differences depending on the engine, but it was this 1.6-litre TDI variant that we found rode the best of the whole range.
Even in front-wheel-drive guise, the Karoq feels very planted on the road. The suspension doesn't get easily unsettled, coping well with average surface changes and imperfections. It doesn't exhibit much in the way of body lean through bends, and the steering feels assuredly positive. You can lean on that front end into faster corners with the confidence that it will stick, too. Most buyers are never going to get close to finding the handling limits of the Karoq, but it's reassuring to know that when required it can perform.
From launch, Skoda will offer its Dynamic Chassis Control system, which features adjustable damping and three selectable drive modes. However, this will only be available on versions powered by the 1.5-litre TSI petrol and larger 2.0-litre diesel engines. All models can have the optional Drive Mode Select system that changes the characteristics of the steering, throttle response and gear change (in the case of the automatic transmission).
What you get for your Money:
In a somewhat understandable move, Skoda Ireland will not offer the usual entry-level Active specification, given the low uptake generally on these versions. So, the Karoq range starts with the Ambition grade, which is priced from €27,715 or, as in the case of our 1.6-litre TDI model with DSG, €31,165. For that you get 17-inch 'Ratikon' alloy wheels, eight-inch 'Bolero' touchscreen system, dual-zone air conditioning, rear parking sensors, Smart Link+ (which enables smartphone connectivity) and chrome for the roof rails and window surrounds.
The Style trim starts from €30,315 and adds 18-inch 'Mytikas' alloy wheels, 9.2-inch 'Columbus' infotainment system with satellite navigation and a sim card slot for the Skoda Connect package. A reversing camera, DAB radio and keyless entry and start also feature.
There isn't one area where the new Skoda Karoq massively excels over its many rivals. Instead, it's more a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It's evident that Skoda has spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that it got the recipe right for this one, and our first proper taste confirms that the Czech car maker has nailed it once again. The Karoq is set to be a sure-fire hit in the SUV and crossover segment.