Skoda Karoq SUV review
“The Skoda Karoq is fun to drive, loaded with features and very practical, making it an ideal choice for families”
- Handy VarioFlex rear seats
- Ideal for families
- Fun to drive
- Short warranty
- Conservative interior
- Less character than Yeti
The Skoda Karoq is the smaller sibling of the Skoda Kodiaq – one of the very best models in its class – so to say expectations were high when it launched is an understatement. The shorter Karoq has five seats instead of the Kodiaq's seven and a slightly smaller boot, but there’s still plenty of room if you don’t need to carry six passengers.
Its smaller size also makes the Karoq a bit cheaper and sportier than the Kodiaq, even if it’s not quite as full of character as the Skoda Yeti it effectively replaces. A long list of attributes make the Karoq a formidable rival to the Ford Kuga, Peugeot 3008, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Qashqai.
The Karoq resembles a scaled-down Kodiaq in many ways and shares much of the sharp-edged styling of its bigger brother. It comes as no surprise, either, that it shares its outline and proportions with the SEAT Ateca – the two cars are closely related under the surface, so it's no surprise the Spanish car is one of the Karoq's closest rivals.
The Czech car has a practical edge for families, though, thanks to its VarioFlex rear seats. These slide and adjust independently of each other to allow the boot space to vary from 479 to 588 litres depending on what you need to carry. This means the potential to beat the 510 litres of load space found behind the Ateca’s fixed rear bench. There’s also plenty of legroom for rear passengers, along with heaps of headroom thanks to the tall roofline. It’s the same story in the front seats, which also offer excellent adjustability and make it easy to find your ideal driving position.
The dashboard design is virtually the same as that used in the larger Kodiaq and that’s great news, as it looks classy and feels well screwed together. Customers ranked the infotainment system highly in our 2020 Driver Power survey. It's not as innovative as the Peugeot 3008’s ‘i-Cockpit’, but it’s still one of the best interiors in its class. It’s also possible to match Peugeot’s digital instruments by adding Skoda’s optional Virtual Cockpit, but it's a shame they aren't standard.
Engine choice shouldn’t be an issue, whether you want a petrol or diesel. The former is covered by a 1.0-litre with 109bhp or a 1.5-litre TSI with 148bhp, both of which can return over 40mpg and have CO2 emissions from 134-164g/km that shouldn't be too much of a hurdle for company-car buyers.
The most economical diesel is the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI with front-wheel drive, which can manage over 50mpg with a manual gearbox. Higher up the range there was previously a 2.0-litre diesel with 188bhp, but this has now been discontinued. We reckon the 1.5-litre TSI petrol is the most appealing all-rounder, undercutting the 2.0-litre diesel on price, despite having the same amount of power.
Out on the road, the Karoq has far softer suspension than the Ateca, providing it with a better ride quality, but without losing too much composure. This should be a well judged compromise for families, who most of the time are likely to appreciate a smooth ride more than high-speed precision.
There are a number of trim levels to choose from, with even the entry-level Karoq SE very well equipped with features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and dual-zone climate control. SE Drive was added to the range in 2020 and includes new alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, sat nav and LED ambient interior lighting. Stepping up to SE L adds the VarioFlex seats, front and rear parking sensors, an Amundsen sat nav with an eight-inch screen, a reversing camera, LED headlights and Smartlink.
While that roster should be enough to satisfy most, you can push the boat out and choose the Edition range-topper with 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, a 9.2-inch Columbus infotainment system and extra active safety features. This pushes the Karoq into Kodiaq territory, though, so the SE, SE Drive and SE L trims represent better value. In late 2018 Skoda added the Karoq Scout and Karoq Sportline to the range, each with individual styling, wheels and interior themes designed to give customers a more rugged (Scout) or sportier (Sportline) car than the standard Karoq. The Scout trim has now been discontinued, but Sportline is still available, with black exterior trim, unique alloy wheels, a sports steering wheel and upgraded seats.
Families will be reassured that the Skoda Karoq was awarded the full five-star score for crash safety by Euro NCAP in late 2017. It’s fitted with an impressive roster of safety equipment and actually beat the scores of the larger Skoda Kodiaq. The Karoq also came an impressive 15th overall in our 2020 Driver Power survey, particularly impressing owners with its comfort, build quality and practicality.