21 February 2018
Author: Rachel Boagey
The firm's newest SUV is all about practicality - but has it forgotten about the fun?
Skoda may not have a particularly long history of building SUVs but, crucially, what it has done since entering the market is to listen to what buyers really want.
Following the big seven-seat Kodiaq SUV comes the new Karoq. It competes in the C-SUV sector, which is the fastest-growing segment in the UK car market. You may be thinking that it looks rather familiar and you'd be right - after all, it is based on the same platform as the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Seat Ateca.
Practicality, comfort and connectivity are the three pillars on which the Karoq has been designed and engineered, to ensure it achieves the type of comfort that its family-conscious customers demand. As a consequence, the Karoq is noticeably softer than the Ateca on the road, so it comes as no surprise that the handling isn't quite as sharp. However, it does make for a smooth, relaxing drive.
There are three core trim grades that are available from launch: SE, SE L and Edition. In addition, a fleet-focused SE Technology model will be available, with lower CO2 levels and a lower P11D.
From launch, the car will come with a range of petrol and diesel engines, although our driving experience was limited to the SE L version, which has all the bells and whistles and is powered by the Volkswagen Group's latest 1.5-litre turbocharged, 150hp petrol engine.
When it comes to power delivery, the engine is an absolute gem, with a willingness to rev smoothly right up to the red line, while delivering the kind of real- world performance that will challenge many a boy racer's warmed-up hatchback.
In SE L trim, it will also return 51.4mpg when driven more conservatively, which means it emits 125g/km of CO2 - not bad, when you consider the fleet trim SE Technology only betters this by 1mpg and produces 123g/km of CO2.
Other engine options include a smaller 115hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit, but unless you're on a particularly tight budget we'd avoid this, as it's not really powerful enough for such a big car. The two TDI diesel units, also with power outputs of 115 and 150hp, produce much stronger mid-range power and are available with a seven-speed DSG transmission as an option, which adds around £1,000 to the P11D.
Few manufacturers do interior treatments better than the Volkswagen Group and the Karoq is no exception. Every fixture and fitting feels solidly built and all the controls have a reassuring, precise feel. There's also an attractive, crisp 9.2in infotainment touchscreen and all models come with Smartlink as standard, enabling Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.
Unquestionably, the key area in which the Karoq really shines is practicality. With the rear seats completely removed - sadly, this is only possible with expensive SE L and Edition models - the Karoq will make light work of trips to Ikea. You can fully fold the rear seats down to get more boot space or take them out entirely. Other nice touches include handy hooks and compartments in the boot, plus lots of large storage solutions dotted around the cabin - there is even a small detachable rubbish bin in the driver door.
The Karoq may not be the most exciting SUV on the market, but it is comfortable, super functional, and looks clean and modern, making it the perfect family car. And with the SE Technology trim also on offer, it could prove to be the perfect fleet car too.
Skoda Karoq SE L 1.5-litre TSI 150hp
On sale January 2018
Residual value 44.4%
Service, maintenance and repair £2,416
Cost per mile 52.5p
Fuel consumption 51.4mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 125g/km (24%)
BIK 20/40% a month £97/£194
Boot space 479 litres
Engine size/power 1,498cc/150hp