Description: Medium-sized SUV/crossover, petrol or diesel
Price range: £27,470 (plus options)
Skoda says: “An SUV that offers unparalleled levels of value for money with generous standard equipment”
We say: The Skoda Karoq finds a way to nestle itself right amongst the mid-sized SUVs that are practical, spacious and fuel-efficient.
The SUV trend continues and no surprises the market continues to grow, with a plethora of electric SUVs coming into view, as battery technology gets better. The Skoda Karoq is, for now at least, in the stable of conventionally powered SUVs. This 1.5-litre petrol-fuelled powerhouse is exactly that, a house.
The Karoq sits between the smaller Skoda Kamiq and the bigger Skoda Kodiaq. It is very much aimed squarely at the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai market — and because of that, the Karoq has its work firmly cut out for it. This market is overflowing with choice; from premium feel or more basic, to super practical or exceptionally classy. It’s all about working out which qualities most suit your lifestyle.
What’s new about this car?
The Karoq has been around since early 2018, when it replaced the popular Skoda Yeti. A mid-life facelift in Spring 2022 brought some tweaks to the styling, along with improvements to the interior appointments and engines – though the variety for the latter is limited and that’s one of the Karoq’s drawbacks.
How does it look?
Pretty big, for a mid-sized family car. All SUVs are but, even among its rivals, the Karoq feels quite imposing. When you step inside, there’s space in pretty much every direction and that’s a very good thing.
What the Skoda Karoq lacks in the fashion of, say, the Sportage or newest Tucson, it makes up for in convention. Being a bit more Skoda-sensible, one likes to think it’ll be a bit more Qashqai, transcending trends to retain a bit more resale value and endure for a few more years yet.
We like: Interior has plenty of space for everyone
We don’t like: It’s not really the most stylish car ever created, is it?
What are the specs like?
Sportline is the best-selling Karoq trim, the top level sitting above SE Drive and SE L. The standard specs on the Karoq Sportline are one of its most appealing features. Our Sportline test car was only specced up with the better Columbus satnav, tacking £850 onto the price tag and giving a total of about £36.5k.
That price tag is no small sum for a family wagon, but Skoda goes a long way to justify that investment. Style in a panoramic roof and smart appearance and comfort in a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, electric tailgate and heated front seats. Couple these with a plethora of technology, including DAB radio, Bluetooth, smart phone integration, keyless entry with stop/start fuel-saving tech, LED matrix headlights with adaptive functionality and a swathe of safety features, like a reversing camera, pedestrian monitor, rear privacy glass and a driver fatigue sensor, and you soon get a sense of value.
We like: Good level of kit for the money
We don’t like: Prices have crept substantially over recent years
What’s it like inside?
The Karoq is really comfortable. Across our test period, a number of family members — a couple well over 6ft — commented on how roomy it was, both for head height (up front and in the backseats) and for legroom.
For smaller passengers, it could at times feel a bit cavernous. However, when considering the amount of luggage it swallowed—pets included— without breaking a sweat, the Karoq’s space was a firm positive for the model. The dual-climate control has real buttons and dials, which is also a big plus.
The eight-inch touchscreen display had its own 4G mobile connection, enabling the car to become a wifi hotspot. The Amundsen system worked more smoothly than in previous experiences of this, but it’s still not as refined as using phone mirroring programmes, Apple Carplay or Android Auto.
The finish on the dashboard and accents feels above average in quality, though can seem a bit practical-over-premium in some places.
We like: Proper air-conditioning controls separate to touchscreen
We don’t like: Standard Skoda operating system still not as good as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
Under the bonnet
The 1.5-litre petrol engine has roughly the same power as the Kia Sportage’s 1.6-litre engine and slightly less than the Nissan Qashqai’s 1.3-litre unit, so again, the Karoq is a middling choice.
There’s also a smaller 1.0-litre engine, but since the Karoq already struggles a bit on motorways when fully loaded, we wouldn’t recommend going any smaller unless you don’t have any friends or family. And don’t like troubling the national speed limit.
If you want more power, there’s a 2.0-litre petrol that puts out 190hp and also comes with four-wheel drive (the smaller engines are front-wheel drive only)
For the few remaining diesel fans, there’s a 2.0-litre diesel which is more fuel efficient than the petrol options (49mpg vs. the 1.5-litre’s 45mpg), and also comes with four-wheel drive.
How does it drive?
The Skoda Karoq in its 1.5-litre guise drives well. There’s more than enough power to get you around and about town without any hassle. On the motorways, you’ll not notice any detriment in performance, unless, like we’ve mentioned, you’re packed to the rafters.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox is smooth, but somewhat leisurely. It’s not laggy, but it’ll just get there when it gets there. It’s a relaxing ride. If you’re an impatient person, with driving behaviour to reflect that fact, the Karoq isn’t for you.
There’s a choice of driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – which change the responsiveness and handling of the Karoq instantaneously. The Karoq packed a bit more punch off the line when pushed into Sport. On motorways, we’d return to Eco or Normal and the fuel economy would improve.
The handling of the Skoda Karoq Sportline also feels very solid. Despite the high driving position – which really does provide a great deal of visibility – there’s very little roll in the corners. It’s not exciting, but it does everything you’d expect of a middle-of-the-road family car.
We like: Great driving position with good visibility
We don’t like: Not really a lot of fun if you enjoy your driving
The Skoda Karoq finds a way to nestle itself right amongst the mid-sized SUVs that are good to look at, practically spacious and fuel-efficient.
The sport-style seats were a practical grey in colour but the fabric seemed to cling to dust and dry mud, long after it had been brushed off. This irked us a bit, but it wouldn’t be a total dealbreaker.
It’s not the cheapest petrol SUV out there on the market. The Karoq does have so much competition, especially as more and more drivers look to electrified models, but it makes a great play for being one of those offering the best value-for-money.
This is demonstrably true, when you consider the super convenient driver accessories, like the umbrella under your seat or the ice scraper stored in the fuel port. Sure, it’s no ‘remote controlled defrosting from a smartphone app on a wintry morning’ feature. An ice scraper is bog-standard, and it’s cheaper to buy one than be lumbered with a car you dislike. However, such a feature ultimately epitomises the soul of the Skoda Karoq — conventional and reliable.
- Plenty of cabin space
- Impressive interior fit and finish
- Easy and relaxing driving experience
- Value for money entry-level model
- Capable off-roader
- Charmless looks
- Top models can get pricey
- Bland performance
Citroën C5 Aircross | Ford Kuga | Honda CR-V | Hyundai Tucson | Jeep Compass | Kia Sportage | Mazda CX-5 | MG HS | Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross | Nissan Qashqai | Peugeot 3008 | Renault Kadjar | SEAT Ateca | SsangYong Korando | Subaru XV | Suzuki S-Cross | Toyota C-HR | Vauxhall Grandland X | Volkswagen Tiguan
Model tested: Skoda Karoq Sportline
Price as tested: £36,505
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol
Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic
Power: 150 hp
Torque: 250 Nm
Top speed: 130 mph
0-62 mph: 9.1 seconds
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