Skoda Karoq review
The Skoda Karoq condenses the appeal of the seven-seat Kodiaq into a smaller crossover package
Skoda scored an instant hit with the Yeti, so when it came to replace its first-ever SUV crossover, it was a surprise to many that the name was dropped and replaced with Karoq. The reason for the change was to bring the mid-sized crossover into line with the larger Kodiaq, while the Karoq name has the same Inuit Eskimo roots as the Kodiaq's.
The Karoq's design was also heavily influenced by the Kodiaq. The shape of the lights front and rear are similar to the larger car, and Skoda's familiar grille shape is present and correct. However, remove these details, and the Karoq looks largely similar to the SEAT Ateca, although that should come as no surprise, as both cars are identical underneath.
The Ateca is just one of a number of strong contenders in the compact SUV class. Elsewhere, the Peugeot 3008 is one of our class favourites, while the Vauxhall Grandland X shares running gear with that model, too. The class founder, the Nissan Qashqai, was recently renewed, while the Renault Kadjar is built on shared Nissan tech, and is very slightly larger than the Karoq inside.
Then there's the Hyundai Tucson which we recently picked as our class favourite in the Auto Express 2021 New Car Awards, the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Ford Kuga, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and VW Tiguan, all of which have their own strong points. But overall, the Karoq has a sufficiently good mix of talents to keep it near the front of the pack.
Engine choice in the Karoq range consists of 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrols and 2.0 TDI diesels - the formerly available 1.6 TDI having been discontinued. The 1.0 TSI 110PS is a three-cylinder unit that is surprisingly capable of pulling this crossover around, courtesy of the Karoq's relatively lightweight build. The 1.5 TSI 150PS is the VW Group's latest four-cylinder petrol motor, so combines good power with decent efficiency helped in part by cylinder deactivation on light throttle loads. The 187bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine is reserved for the expensive if smart-looking Sportline variant.
Diesel power comes from 116PS and 150PS variants of the 2.0 TDI. The lower powered unit only comes as a two-wheel-drive variant, with a DSG auto gearbox and in SE L trim.
The 2.0 TDI 150PS is offered with both two- and four-wheel-drive transmissions across most trim levels. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard in most cases, while the seven-speed twin-clutch DSG auto is offered as an option.
One thing the Karoq does lack is an eco-focused plug-in model, but if that’s what you’re looking for the Czech firm will steer you towards its impressive Enyaq iV electric SUV instead. Skoda’s first bespoke electric car shares a common platform with the Volkswagen ID.4, but with a £42,000 starting price it’s still a luxury option. You can get behind the wheel of an entry-level petrol Karoq for a little less than £24,000 with the range topping out at around £36,000.
The Karoq model range kicks off with SE trim, but this entry point to the range is still decently equipped. There are 17-inch alloys, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and dual-zone climate control, while SE Technology adds sat-nav and adaptive cruise control. SE Drive brings a rear view camera and all-round parking sensors plus dual-zone climate control for a premium of around £900 over SE.
In the Karoq SE L you get 18-inch alloy wheels and LED headlamps. Sportline models come with 19-inch anthracite alloys, sportily-styled bumpers, sport seats, a multifunction steering wheel and a panoramic sunroof, while the range-topping Karoq Edition features an upgraded 9.2-inch sat-nav, and a lane assist function with blind spot detection among a roster of luxury features which also includes an electrically-operated driver's seat with memory function, leather-trimmed seats and an electric tailgate. The rugged-looking Scout model with its off-road inspired trim details is no longer available.
Engines, performance and drive
Under the skin, the Skoda Karoq uses a tried-and-tested recipe, combining the VW Group’s MQB underpinnings (with MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear axle on 2WD versions, while 4x4 cars have a multilink set-up) that also forms the basis of the Kodiaq and many other models in the Czech brand’s line-up, highlighting its versatility.
On the move, the Skoda feels sharper than the Peugeot 3008. The steering is nicely weighted and more responsive – and it’s more agile, with less roll when changing direction. This stems from the Karoq’s firmer suspension, but the downside is that you’ll feel more body and wheel movements than in the 3008, which smooths out poor surfaces nicely. However, the Karoq isn't as firm as the SEAT Ateca sister model.
The faster you go, the more the Karoq’s body control comes to the fore, though, giving plenty of security and confidence. The more energy you put through the springs and dampers, the more the ride quality calms down, but because these SUVs are likely to spend lots of time in town, the lumpier feeling from the Skoda’s suspension over broken surfaces just takes the edge off the car’s otherwise impressive refinement. However, it’s only marginally less supple than a 3008.
It's worth noting the ride takes a turn for the worse if you go for the Sportline model. Adding 19-inch alloys to what is a fairly compliant family SUV causes it to develop unwelcome jiggliness over uneven A and B roads, and causes some annoying harmonics to present themselves over concrete sections of motorway. There's no denying the Sportline model looks the part, though, and it's also fair to say the Karoq is not alone in having its ride adversely affected by larger alloys.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
Of the two petrol engines, the larger 1.5 TSI comes out as our clear favourite, although the smaller 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine performs pretty well, too. The entry-level TSI unit makes a respectable 109bhp, and while it will accelerate the Karoq from 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds, it feels a little strained at higher speeds or when fully laden. It means that when accelerating hard, you can feel and hear the work the little engine is having to put in, as the noise becomes somewhat intrusive and there’s a small amount of vibration present through the pedals.
The larger 1.5 TSI has a broader power band, and with 148bhp it’s a stronger performer and more refined – 0 to 62mph arrives in 8.9 seconds (or 9.0 seconds with the DSG twin-clutch auto option), and you don’t have to work the engine quite so hard.
The 116PS TDI turbodiesel makes roughly the same power as the entry-level petrol, but has more torque, so it doesn’t feel quite as strained when you need a bit of grunt, although it too can be noisy when stretched. It manages the 0-62mph sprint in 10.6 seconds.
The 2.0-litre TDI has 148bhp, and knocks off the benchmark sprint in 8.8 seconds, as well as offering a lot more punch for overtaking. This will help if you’re intending to tow as well.
Opt for the Sportline model and as well as the 148bhp petrol and diesel engines, you can also have 2.0-litre 187bhp petrol unit. Sportline is the only trim with which you can get this engine – the most powerful in the Karoq range – and while a circa £34,000 list price means this configuration is by no means cheap, a 7.3-second 0-62mph time means it certainly shifts.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
Aside from the relative practicality, one of the Karoq’s great attractions is the combination of fashionable SUV style with manageable running costs. Apart from a small fuel economy penalty, these cars shouldn’t cost more to run than a comparable hatchback.
The Karoq’s petrol engines look attractive from a cost point of view too, as they’re pretty efficient and cheaper to buy than the diesels you might typically associate with the SUV genre.
The Karoq’s engines aren’t class-leading for economy, but they’re still among the most efficient in the sector. The 1.0 TSI can return up to a claimed 47.9mpg combined while emitting as little as 133g/km of CO2. The larger 1.5 TSI’s official maximum figures are 45.6mpg (44.8mpg with the DSG auto), with CO2 emissions from 141g/km.
If you really do want to eke the best mileage out of every gallon, the manual 116PS 2.0-litre diesel is the sensible choice. It returns up to 58.9mpg with CO2 emissions from 126g/km.
You won’t pay too much for insurance with any of the Karoq models, but the lower spec versions are obviously cheaper, with the smaller petrol and diesel engines attracting a Group 10 rating. The 1.5 petrol and 2.0 diesel are Group 14 and 16 respectively, and premiums across the range should be cheaper than the Peugeot 3008 which is Group 11 to 24, helped by strong safety tech.
Skoda is known for solid residual values, so we'd expect the Karoq to fare better than some of its Korean or French rivals. Data suggests the Karoq should retain an average of 46% of its value over three years and 36,000 miles.
Interior, design and technology
While the Yeti design was arguably more characterful than the Karoq, this model has a broader range of talents. It’s a mature design, and while it lacks any flashes of stylistic flair it does have a solid, almost premium appeal.
At a glance, there’s not much to separate it from the bigger seven-seat Kodiaq, with a very similar grille and headlamp design, the same ridge up the centre of the bonnet, and a similar side profile set with chunky wheelarches. The rear lights are the biggest difference at the rear, and despite variations in details such as intake shapes in the lower bumpers, even car enthusiasts could be forgiven for a little difficulty in telling the two models apart. Park them side-by-side, and the Kodiaq’s extra length stands out, but it’s wider and taller too.
There’s only one five-door body variant for the Karoq, as with the Kodiaq, and while the Karoq only offers five seats it can be specified with the same VarioFlex adjustable rear bench as the Kodiaq that allows you to alter the amount of passenger legroom or boot space depending on your needs.
Inside, the Karoq cabin design is identical to that of the bigger Kodiaq, which means it’s conservative with no flashy or fashionable design highlights. But it’s also incredibly functional, with great ergonomics, plenty of space and a sense of quality. It feels well built, while it’s also stacked with tech features.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Built-in sat-nav isn’t as big a deal as it used to be in this class, especially when all Karoq models get a good level of smartphone connectivity, offering navigation through your phone on the standard eight-inch screen.
The level of connection is improved with the 9.2-inch optional Columbus system, which is standard on Edition models and offered as an option on SE L. While this adds gesture control, the standard Amundsen system gets the same WiFi hotspot, voice control and a one-year subscription to Skoda’s online services.
You can add features such as wireless phone charging for £300 to improve the technology on offer with the Karoq, but they’re not really necessary because the core of the system is what makes the Skoda’s unit so capable.
A bright screen, sharp graphics and simple menu layout mean it’s easy to use. The glossy screen picks up fingerprints, but with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus other services with a valid data connection, it’s advanced and more responsive than the Peugeot 3008’s infotainment.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
On the road, a hushed cabin that’s marred only a little by wind noise around the door pillars at higher speeds and a little too much engine noise under hard acceleration in entry level cars goes hand-in-hand with a supple ride to make the Karoq a comfortable SUV. Throw in the supportive seats, roomy cabin, well laid out controls and high quality fit and finish, not to mention plenty of gadgets and toys on top versions, and it’s an impressive effort.
The large interior with its voluminous boot is well suited to family use, and there are a range of options you can add that will make life a little easier. Cabin features include a large Jumbo Box for gadgets and drinks that sits between the front seats, and there are plenty of storage spaces dotted around, plus foldable tables in the backs of both front seats.
Things like a space-saver spare, rough road package with engine and chassis guards, a reversing camera and adaptive cruise control are all either standard or available optionally to improve how easy the Karoq is to live with.
The Karoq is noticeably bigger than its predecessor, the Yeti, and measures 4,382mm long, 1,841mm wide and 1,603mm tall. That compares with the 4,447mm length of the Peugeot 3008, or 4,394mm of the Nissan Qashqai, so it’s pretty much on par with its rivals.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
There’s good leg and headroom in any of the seats in the Skoda Karoq – in fact the rear-seat passengers do slightly better for headroom than those in back of the larger Kodiaq. Taller rear seat passengers may find their knees brushing on the seat backs though.
Depending on spec the Karoq’s tailgate raises electrically, and there’s a ‘virtual pedal’ that allows you to open it with the waggle of a foot under the rear bumper if your hands are full. Once it’s open you’re greeted by an impressive load area, that’s practically shaped and roomy. In standard form it will swallow 521 litres with the rear seats in place, or a huge 1,630 litres with them folded.
Opt for the VarioFlex rear seats and you can adjust the ‘seats up’ figure to 588 litres – although more luggage space means less legroom. Removing the rear seats completely brings a van-like 1,810 litres.
Reliability and Safety
As it’s based on the VW Group MQB platform the Skoda Karoq shares its underpinnings with a huge number of cars from the Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW stables. The list includes names from the Audi A3 to the VW Touran, with almost two dozen different models either in production or in the pipeline.
All of which means that the Karoq’s engineering and technology is already very well-proven, and that bodes very well for the model’s likely reliability. As a marque, Skoda regularly puts in an extremely good performance in our own Driver Power survey but, in 2021, the Czech car maker finished 12th out of 30 manufacturers - quite a drop from its 5th place in 2020. The Karoq itself placed a creditable 5th out of 75 cars in the owner satisfaction poll.
Euro NCAP has already performed independent crash tests on the Karoq, awarding a full five-star rating and a great score for adult occupant safety at 93%.
There’s a full range of the latest safety measures available as you would expect, and most of it’s fitted as standard to the top-spec Karoq Edition. It comes with traffic sign recognition, lane assistance, cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring, as well as autonomous braking that’s standard across the range.
The Skoda Karoq requires annual servicing unless you do mainly long-distance motorway driving, in which case the intervals can be extended – onboard computers tell you by how much while the brand’s servicing packs are relatively affordable when bought up front.
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