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Every review you’ll read about the new Skoda Kamiq will begin with how the name means ‘to fit perfectly’ in Canadian Inuit language. Well not this one, I’m resisting the urge to just spout Skoda’s marketing spin for them. Oh, that didn’t go very well…
Okay, I’m not sure about the name but having driven more small SUVs in the past 12 months than any other type of car I sure know what makes a good one.
The Australian launch of the Kamiq saw me test drive just the entry-grade 85 TSI, but this review covers the entire line-up. We’ll test drive the other grades once they’re made available to us.
Full disclosure: I’m a Skoda owner. Our family car is a Rapid Spaceback, but I’m not going to let that influence me. If anything, my tastes are for old things with V8 engines that don’t have airbags. I won’t let that influence me, either.
Shall we start?
You’re getting excellent value-for-money with the Kamiq. The entry-grade 85 TSI with a manual gearbox lists for $26,990, while the 85 TSI with the dual-clutch automatic transmission is $27,990.
For that you get 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, silver roof rails, a digital instrument cluster, an 8.0-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charger, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, proximity key, auto tailgate, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, eight-speaker stereo, reversing camera, and adaptive cruise control.
The 110 TSI Monte Carlo sits above the entry-grade with a list price of $34,190. The Monte Carlo adds 18-inch back alloys, LED headlights, Monte Carlo sports seats, and a ‘blacked-out’ treatment to the mirrors, grille, rear lettering and rear diffuser. There’s also a panoramic glass roof, sports pedals, adaptive LED headlights, multi drive modes and sports suspension.
At the top of the range is the Limited Edition for a list price of $35,490. This scores all the equipment in the entry-grade Kamiq but adds leather and 'Suedia' seats, a 9.2-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, sat nav, heated front and rear seats, a power driver’s seat, and auto parking.
Skoda was offering drive-away pricing at the launch: $27,990 for the 85 TSI with the manual; $29,990 for the 85 TSI with the auto; and $36,990 for both the Monte Carlo and Limited Edition.
It’s odd that sat nav only comes standard on the Limited Edition. If you want it on any other grade you’ll need to option it for $2700 with the larger touchscreen, but you’re better off getting it as part of the 'Tech Pack' for $3800.
This was the line-up at the launch of the Kamiq in October 2020 and it’s likely to change down the track. The Limited Edition, for example, is expected to be offered for six months from the launch.
It’s a Skoda, there’s nothing boring about it. I didn’t say the Kamiq was beautiful, but it is appealing and different in an off-beat way. There’s the moustache-like grille worn by the rest of the Skoda family and also that bulging bonnet, then there’s those super crisp edges running down the side and those taillights, which along with the tailgate design are verging on beautiful.
New for Skoda is the headlight and running light design. The headlights are down low and the running lights sit above them in line with the bonnet edge. If you look closely, you’ll see the crystalline design in the running light covers – it’s a nod to the Czech origins of the Skoda brand.
In the metal the Kamiq doesn’t look like an SUV, it seems more like a little station wagon with a bit more ground clearance and a tall roof. I reckon that’ll appeal to Skoda buyers who seem to have a thing for wagons.
The entry-grade 85 TSI doesn’t look like the cheap one in the family thanks to the 18-inch alloy wheels, the silver roof rails and the privacy glass. It’s a prestigious looking little SUV or little wagon or whatever it is – a Swagon?
And it is little at 4241mm long, 1533mm tall and 1988 across with its wing mirrors unfurled.
The 85 TSI’s cabin is modern and minimalist looking with silver and cloth fabric trim, a touchscreen partially integrated into the dash and a digital instrument cluster. The red LED ambient cabin lighting is a high-end touch, too.
The Monte Carlo is the sporty one. The grille, alloys, mirror caps, rear diffuser, door sills and even the lettering on the tailgate get a black tint. Inside there are sports seats, metal pedals and the big glass roof.
The Limited Edition looks a lot like the entry-grade Kamiq from the outside, save for the chrome window surrounds, but the differences are bigger on the inside with the leather seats, larger touchscreen and white ambient lighting.
As for paint colours, 'Candy White' is standard on the 85 TSI and Limited Edition, while 'Steel Grey' is standard on the Monte Carlo. Metallic paint is $550 and there are four colours to choose from: 'Moon White', 'Brilliant Silver', 'Quartz Grey' and 'Race Blue'. 'Black Magic' is a pearl effect and is also $550, while 'Velvet Red' is a premium colour, at $1100.
Skoda’s schtick is practicality and the Kamiq is outstanding on that score among its rivals.
Yes, the Kamiq is small, but the wheelbase is quite long and that means the doors are large and open wide for easy entry and exit. This means legroom is also excellent. I’m 191cm (6'3") tall and can sit behind my driving position with about four cm between my knees and the seatback. Headroom is also outrageously good.
Cabin storage is good, too, with enormous front door pockets and smaller ones in the rear, there’s three cupholders up front, a tall and skinny centre console bin and a hidey hole in front of the shifter where the wireless charger lives.
In that little cave are also two USB-C ports (the mini ones) and another two for passengers in the rear. Those in the back also have directional air vents.
The boot has a cargo capacity of 400 litres and it has more nets than a fishing boat for keeping your shopping from rolling around. In there are hooks and a torch, too.
Another Skoda party trick is the umbrella in the driver’s door. Skoda owners and fans will know about this already but for those new to the brand there’s an umbrella waiting in a chamber in the door frame like a torpedo. Let it out occasionally for exercise and fresh air.
The 85 TSI has a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine making 85kW/200Nm. The Monte Carlo and Limited Edition have a 110 TSI engine and, yes, that’s Skoda-speak for a 1.5-litre engine which makes 110kW/250Nm.
All Kamiqs are front-wheel drive.
I tested the 85 TSI and found the engine and transmission performed superbly. The Volkswagen Group has come a long way with its DSG dual-clutch in the past decade and now make the best I’ve experienced, with smooth operation and quick changes at the right time.
That three-cylinder engine is also outstanding – quiet and smooth, with plenty of oomph for the size.
I’ve driven some small SUVs that have been let down by their 1.0-litre three-cylinder engines and dual-clutch autos. The Puma and Juke, to be brutally honest, aren’t smooth or easy to drive in the city.
I’m yet to drive the Monte Carlo or Limited Edition, but I’ve experienced the 110 TSI and seven-speed dual clutch in numerous Skoda and Volkswagen vehicles and my experiences have always been good ones. More grunt and refinement than the three-cylinder can’t be a bad thing.
I’ve held back on giving the Kamiq a nine out of 10 here because I’m yet to drive the Monte Carlo and Limited Edition. We’ll have the opportunity to drive those other grades soon and we’ll review them individually. For now, I’m focusing on the 85 TSI.
I’ve tested a gazillion small SUVs in the past 12 months, many of them rivals to the Kamiq in price, intent, and size, and none of them drive as well.
Engine, transmission, steering, visibility, driving position, suspension, tyres, wheels and even feel of the pedals under your feet and the sound insulation contribute to that overall sensation of driving a car.
Duh... obviously, but get a few of them wrong and the experience isn’t as enjoyable or easy as it can be.
I think Skoda has got each of these criterion pretty much spot-on and the overall feeling is a car that’s comfortable, easy and fun to drive.
Yes, the three-cylinder isn’t hugely powerful and there's some lag in the delivery of the grunt, but that delay is nowhere near as pronounced as the triples in the Ford Puma or Nissan Juke.
You can make the engine more responsive by pulling the shift into Sport mode and this quickens the gear changes and keeps you in the ‘power band.'
The seven-speed dual-clutch performs impressively, too. In slow speed traffic the changes are smooth with no lurching, and at higher speeds the transmission shifts decisively and is not out of step with my driving style.
That engine is quiet for a three-cylinder, as well. It's not just cabin insulation, either, although that's good, too.
Then there's the comfortable ride. That's a surprise because the 85 TSI rolls on 18-inch wheels with fairly low-profile tyres. Handling is also great – planted.
The Monte Carlo has sports suspension and I’m keen to see how that feels, but the 85 TSI, even with its standard suspension, always feels composed even on the crumbing excuse for roads around where I live. Speed bumps, potholes, cats eyes… they're all dealt with comfortably.
The steering is also excellent – well weighted, accurate and natural feeling.
Finally, visibility. The windscreen feels smallish and so does the back window to look through, but the side windows are huge and offer great visibility for parking.
Skoda says that after a combination of open and urban roads the 85 TSI, with its three-cylinder petrol engine and dual-clutch auto, should use 5.0L/100km (5.1L/100km for the manual).
I drove the 85 TSI how you might – lots of urban driving with car parks, and daycare drop-offs, plus some decent motorway running thrown in, and measured 6.3L/100km at the bowser. That’s great fuel economy.
The Monte Carlo and Limited Edition, with their 110 TSI four-cylinder engines and dual clutches, officially should use 5.6L/100km. We’ll be able to verify that once the cars come into our CarsGuide garage.
Also, you’ll need a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
The Kamiq scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, which is based on Euro NCAP's testing in 2019.
The Limited Edition comes with blind spot protection and rear traffic alert.
There’s a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor.
The Kamiq is covered by Skoda’s five-year/unlimited km warranty.
Servicing is recommended every 12 months/15,000km and if you want to pay up front, there’s a three-year pack for $800, and a five-year plan for $1400, and that includes road-side assistance, map updates and is fully transferable.
The Skoda Kamiq is outstanding among its rivals for practicality and I think the 85 TSI which I tested is the best-driving small SUV in this price range. Everything from the ride and handling to the engine and transmission is exceptionally good. I’m keen to drive the Monte Carlo and Limited Edition, too.
Value-for-money is also strong – proximity unlocking, privacy glass, auto tailgate, digital instrument cluster, dual-zone climate and wireless charging for less than $30K on the entry-grade!
Safety could be better – rear cross traffic should be standard. Finally, the ownership costs are not bad at all, but I’d like to see Skoda move to a longer warranty.
The sweet spot in the range would also be the 85 TSI which has pretty much everything you need except sat nav – but not even the Monte Carlo gets that standard.
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