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Skoda Karoq vs Volkswagen T-Roc: 2023 twin test review

SUV-styled models are all the rage, but is the Karoq or T-Roc tops?

The SUV segment continues to grow – both individually and in terms of models available and sales. There’s an enormous spectrum of options in a range of different sizes, and here we have the best that Skoda and Volkswagen have to offer. 

For Skoda, that’s the Karoq, which is slightly larger than the T-Roc we’ve lined up here. In a class with strong competition, its appeal lies in keeping things simple. If you want hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrains, you’ll need to look elsewhere, but the engines that are present get the job done admirably. 

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One of the more underappreciated powertrains is the 2.0 TDI diesel, the engine used by the car in our pictures. The 148bhp power output is fine for a car such as this, but it’s the punchy 360Nm of torque that really makes a difference. A four-wheel drive system and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox make it very secure and reassuring to drive. With a 2,100kg towing limit, it’ll comfortably haul more than any other powertrain option in the range, too. Despite all of that, our photographer Pete Gibson is averaging 44.9mpg so far.

The Karoq scores big points for space. Go for the SE L trim, and you get what Skoda calls VarioFlex rear seats. The standard back bench becomes three individual seats that can be folded, slid forwards or removed altogether. They make an already spacious car incredibly versatile. An optional ‘Simply Clever’ package includes a reversible boot carpet with a wipe-down rubber mat on one side and extra boot netting to secure smaller items. 

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In SportLine trim seen here, the monthly payments are £613 per month on a three-year PCP with a £5,000 deposit. But the most affordable SE Drive 1.0 TSI costs just £341 per month.

The T-Roc isn’t as big as the Karoq, and the difference between the two is similar to that between the Golf and the Octavia. However, that hasn’t stopped the VW from being a sales success.

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So far in 2023, the T-Roc is the only model in either brand’s line-ups to break into the top 10 of the UK’s new-car sales charts, and the allure is clear as soon as you dive into the numbers. Match the three-year PCP figures to the already competitively priced Golf on the previous page, and the entry-level T-Roc comes to £279 per month – £25 per month less than the Golf for a car with the same 108bhp 1.0-litre TSI petrol.

In many ways, it feels like you’re getting more car for less cash. While its footprint is shorter and more compact on the road than a Golf’s, the T-Roc’s taller roofline means that there’s more space for the driver and passengers inside, and at 445 litres, the boot is larger, too. 

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The VW offers the high-riding style that is so popular with buyers at the moment, but the way it drives on the road isn’t significantly compromised for it. The ride is very slightly firmer than the Golf’s, but it remains composed and refined enough to be very pleasurable to live with every day. 

Skoda does have an alternative in the form of the Kamiq. It has plenty of space and is decent value for money, but the T-Roc feels like a step up when it comes to quality and refinement. 

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The T-Roc range is more versatile, too. Front and four-wheel-drive options are available, and engines range from that 1.0 TSI right the way through to the fire-breathing, 296bhp T-Roc R

Results

Which car comes out on top?

Winner: Skoda Karoq

It’s quite easy to argue that the Karoq is the best car Skoda makes right now. It’s designed to be a practical, versatile family SUV, and it nails its brief. Some rivals offer more glamour, but it’s a superb no-nonsense contender.

ProsCons
Great to driveNo hybrid option
Versatile and spacious cabinNot particularly fun to drive

Runner up: Volkswagen T-Roc

The T-Roc isn’t absolutely outstanding in any one area, but it manages to perform very strongly across the board. However, since the monthly finance rates are currently so competitive, the Volkswagen suddenly becomes an extremely appealing prospect. 

ProsCons
Very competitive finance pricing on entry-level modelsInterior quality could be better
Solid and comfortable driving experienceTop-spec models can get very pricey

Figures

 Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI SE L 4x4Volkswagen T-Roc 1.5 TSI R-Line
On-the-road price£36,385£34,575
Powertrain4cyl in-line turbodiesel, 1,968cc4cyl in-line turbo petrol, 1,498cc
Power/torque148bhp/360Nm148bhp/250Nm
Transmission7-spd auto/4wd7-spd auto/fwd
Length/wheelbase4,390/2,630mm4,236/2,590mm
Height/width1,632/1,841mm1,584/1,819mm
Boot capacity (seats up/down)567/1,789 litres445/1,290 litres
Kerbweight/payload1,599/409kg1,358/502kg
Turning circle/spare wheel10.9 metres/£17510.9 metres/£105
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars93/79/73/58/5 (2017)96/87/79/71/5 (2017)
   
0-62mph/top speed8.9 seconds/127mph8.3 seconds/128mph
WLTP economy/range49.1mpg/594 miles46.3mpg/509 miles
Claimed CO2/tax bracket151g/km/36%138g/km/32%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSeven/yes/f&r/yesSix/yes/f&r/£290
Lane assist/blindspot/AEBYes/no/yesYes/no/yes
Climate control/adaptive cruiseYes/noYes/yes
Leather/heated seats/met paint£305/yes/£660£2,420/yes/£710
LED lights/keyless entry/power bootYes/yes/£760Yes/£390/no
Sat-nav/digital dash/USBsYes/£1,445 (pack)/yesYes/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android£620/wireless/yes£375/yes/yes
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Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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