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Six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Author: Matt Joy
Skoda has achieved a remarkable feat in building a strong reputation in the fleet world in little over a decade, led by successive versions of the Octavia and Superb that have delivered quality, reliability and highly competitive running costs. The addition of the Kodiaq has brought more of the same in the large SUV segment and now it is the turn of the smaller Karoq to do battle in the crucial C-Segment SUV sector.
It's easy to spot the Karoq's place in the Skoda family as it shares the imposing grille and strongly creased flanks of its bigger sibling. However, in many ways it is a little more eye-catching, packing more visual interest into its smaller dimensions and sitting comfortably, even on the smaller alloy wheel options. Much like other Skoda takes on VW platforms, the Karoq is a fraction longer - 19mm compared with the Seat Ateca - although it hits the sweet spot of being small enough to park and large enough to be practical.
The familiar Skoda focus on the practicalities of daily life is impossible to miss inside the Karoq. Nine storage areas are littered throughout the cabin, while the SE-L and Edition models come with the VarioFlex seating arrangement as standard in the rear, a similar system to that found on the outgoing Yeti. This provides three individual rear seats that can be slid fore and aft - the middle seat having been removed altogether and the outside chairs moved toward the middle - giving a four-seater arrangement with generous space front and rear.
In terms of quality the Karoq is up to the usual high standards expected of a Skoda. In top-spec Edition form the equipment is generous, with a larger touchscreen with gesture control as standard, an electric tailgate and wireless phone charging among the features. The driving position is excellent, with a wide range of adjustment, while the Karoq is also the first Skoda to benefit from a configurable digital instrument display, a premium tech feature not commonly found on cars in this segment.
Likely to be one of the bestselling variants, the 1.5-litre TSI mated to the six-speed manual gearbox provides an impressive blend of performance and efficiency. Smooth on start up (and hardly vocal even when extended), the turbocharged unit is happy to rev but also pulls comfortably from low revs in a high gear, comfortably coping with larger loads of passengers and luggage. Despite the performance the 1.5 TSi Karoq fits into the 23% BIK band thanks to official emissions of 124g/km, helped by a slick gearbox with sensible ratios.
The Karoq also takes a similarly well-judged approach to the rest of the driving experience with a focus on comfort rather than sporty dynamics. The steering is responsive and accurate while the suspension is tuned for a smooth ride, filtering out undulations even on very poor roads. While that does result in some body roll if pushed through corners, it always remains well within reasonable limits and will likely suit the vast majority of users.
From a financial perspective the Karoq should perform as well as other Skoda products, with a strong residual performance. Although not the best in its class, the Karoq is competitive in terms of cost per mile and, as already mentioned, attracts a low BIK percentage charge of 23%.
The success of the Kodiaq and Yeti has proven that the appetite for a Skoda SUV remains strong and the Karoq is well placed to continue the trend. It blends strong showroom appeal with comfort and practicality - and demands little financial sacrifice for it. Expect to see a great deal of them on UK roads in the future.