The Skoda Karoq I was supposed to review was stolen. Police will tell these incidents are more often than not perpetrated by somebody you know. And they’re right, I do know who took it – his name is Tom White. He’s my colleague at CarsGuide.
See, the new Karoq has just arrived and now there are two grades in the line-up. I was originally down to review the 140 TSI Sportline, the fancy, top-of-the-range luxurious one with all-wheel drive, the most powerful engine and $8K worth of options, probably including an on-board espresso machine. But a last-minute change of plan saw Tom White allocated to my car and me in his Karoq – the entry-level 110 TSI with no options and probably milk crates for seats.
Anyway, I’m off to road test it.
Ok, I’m back now. I’ve spent the day driving the Karoq as you might – the preschool drop-off, peak-hour traffic in the rain, trying to hit the harder notes in Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark, then some country roads and motorways…and I feel much better. Also, I think the 110TSI is better, too. Better than I thought, and better than Tom’s 140TSI.
Well, maybe not from a driving perspective, but definitely in terms of value for money and practicality … and by the way, this 110TSI has another thing in it that you couldn’t get before – a new engine and transmission. I'm starting to think Tom may have been the one who was robbed…
OK, there are a few things I could add to that list – LED headlights would be good, as would leather seats, with heating, a wireless phone charger would be nice, too. But you can option those. In fact, the 110 TSI has more options at its disposal than the 140TSI – such as a sunroof and leather seats. You can’t have those on the 140TSI, Tom, no matter how much you want them.
The price for the Karoq 110TSI is pretty good next to its rivals, too. If you compare it to SUVs with similar exterior dimensions, such as the Kia Seltos, it’s on the pricier side, yet still more affordable than the most expensive Seltos. Compared to the larger Mazda CX-5 it’s at the less-expensive end of that price list. A good mid-point between the two, then.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
The Karoq looks just like its big brother, the Kodiaq, only smaller. It’s a tough-looking little SUV full of sharp creases in its metal work and fine details everywhere – such as the taillights, with their crystalline appearance. I think the Karoq could be a bit more adventurous in its styling – or maybe I just feel like that because the white paint my 110TSI was wearing looked a bit household appliance.
It’s a tough-looking little SUV full of sharp creases in its metal work and fine details everywhere.
The 140TSI Sportline my colleague Tom has reviewed looks a lot better – I’ll give him that. The Sportline comes with polished black alloy wheels, a more aggro-looking front bumper, tinted windows, a blacked-out grille frame rather than my chrome one, a rear diffuser… Wait, what am I doing? I’m writing his review for him, you can go and read that yourself.
So, is the Karoq a small SUV or medium sized? The Karoq’s dimensions show it to be 4382mm long, 1841mm wide and 1603mm tall – that’s smaller than mid-sized SUVs such as the Mazda CX-5 (168mm longer), the Hyundai Tucson (98mm longer) and also the Kia Sportage (103mm longer). And the Karoq looks small from the outside. Really the Karoq is more Mazda CX-30 sized, which is 4395mm end to end.
The white paint my 110TSI was wearing looked a bit household appliance.
But, and it’s a big but, good packaging inside means the Karoq’s interior is more spacious than those three larger SUVs. That’s ideal if, like me, you live in a street where the residents fight nightly over the last remaining tiny car spaces, yet you still have a growing family and so you need something bigger than a unicycle.
Inside, the 110TTSI feels business class, but on a domestic route. Not that I travel that way, but I see the seats they sit in as I walk to economy. It’s a serious, stylish and above all functional place to be, with a high-quality feel to the door and centre-console trims. Then there’s the media display and I must admit I’m a big fan of the fully digital instrument cluster. Only the seats could be a bit more sophisticated. If it were me, I’d option the leather; it's easier to keep clean and looks better. Also, did I mention that you can’t option leather seats in the top of the range 140TSI Sportline?
How practical is the space inside? 9/10
Do you know another thing Tom can’t do in his fancy Karoq 140TSI Sportline? Take the back seats out, that’s what. I’m serious – have a look at the photo I took of mine. Yep, that’s the rear left-hand seat sitting on the middle seat, and they all can be removed super easily to open up a cargo space of 1810 litres. If you leave the seats in and fold them flat you have 1605 litres, while the capacity of just the boot with all seats up is 588 litres. That’s larger than the cargo capacity of the CX-5, the Tucson or the Sportage; not bad considering the Karoq is quite a bit smaller than those SUVs (see the dimensions in the design section above).
That’s the rear left-hand seat sitting on the middle seat.
All the back seats can be removed super easily to open up a cargo space of 1810 litres.
The capacity of the boot with all seats up is 588 litres.
The cabin is also impressively roomy for humans. Up front, the flat dashboard and low centre console create a sense of spaciousness, with plenty of shoulder and elbow room even for me with my two-metre wingspan. At 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position without my knees touching the seat back. That’s outstanding.
Headroom back there is also excellent. Abraham Lincoln wouldn’t even have to take his hat off thanks to that high, flat roof.
Up front, the flat dashboard and low centre console create a sense of spaciousness.
Big, tall doors meant buckling my five year old into his car seat was easy on my back, while the car isn’t too far off the ground for him to be able to climb into.
Cabin storage is superb, with large door pockets, six cupholders (three up front and three in the back), a covered centre-console area with more compartments than a bento box, an enormous dash-top box with trapdoor, phone and tablet holders on the front headrests, little rubbish bins, cargo nets, hooks, elasticized cords with Velcro ends to tie down stuff. Then there’s the pop-out torch in the boot and an umbrella under the driver’s seat, just waiting for you to lose it the first time you take it out.
For charging devices and media there’s a USB port up front. There are also two 12V outlets (front and rear).
There's no blinds for the rear side windows or USB ports in the back.
Back-seat passengers also have directional air vents.
The only thing stopping this car getting a 10 is that it doesn’t have blinds for the rear side windows or USB ports in the back.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
The Karoq 110TSI used to have a 1.5-litre engine and a dual-clutch automatic, but that’s now been replaced in this upgrade by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol engine making the same outputs of 110kW and 250Nm and an eight-speed automatic transmission (a traditional torque converter, too) sending drive to the front wheels.
Sure, it’s not all-wheel drive like Tom’s 140TSI, nor does it have that car’s seven-speed dual clutch, but 250Nm of torque isn’t bad at all.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
I’ve just jumped out of the Karoq 110TSI after a day of manic weather on chaotic city and suburban streets. I even managed to escape all that and find some country roads and motorways.
Making it easy to drive is the light steering, plus a composed and comfortable ride.
The first thing you need to know is it’s easy to pilot. The visibility out of that expansive windscreen is excellent, made even better by a high driving position – the bonnet dips away to make it look as if there isn’t one and that made it feel like driving a bus at times. It is a bit bus-like to sit in with those upright front seat, and their jazzy graffiti-deterrent fabric pattern, but they’re comfortable, supportive and large, which suits me fine because I’m all of those things, too.
Also making it also easy to drive is the light steering, plus a composed and comfortable ride. That made it ideal for where I live in the inner city, a place where peak-hour traffic seems to be 24/7 and potholes are peppered everywhere.
That new engine is quiet, and the regular automatic provides a far smoother experience than the dual-clutch it replaced.
The regular automatic provides a far smoother experience than the dual-clutch it replaced.
A blast through the bush on great winding roads made me wish for two things – better steering feel and more grunt. Traction, even in the wet, was impressive , but there were times I wanted more oomph and to feel more connected to the road through the steering wheel. Oh, and paddle shifters – my fingers kept reaching for them, but the 110TSI doesn’t have any. Tom will probably gloat about his 140TSI’s grunt, all-wheel drive and multitude of paddle shifters in his review.
On the motorway, the Karoq is serene with a quiet cabin and a transmission that quickly slips into eighth gear for comfortable, long-haul cruising. There’s more than enough grunt to overtake and merge rapidly when needed, too.
How much fuel does it consume? 8/10
In my fuel test I filled the tank to full and drove 140.7km on a combination of city streets, country roads and motorways, then filled up again – I needed 10.11 litres to do so, which works out at 7.2L/100km. The trip computer reported the same mileage. Skoda says that, ideally, the 110TSI engine should see 6.6L/100km. Either way, the 110TSI is pretty darn fuel efficient for a mid-sized SUV.
Also, you’ll need a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 7/10
The Karoq scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017.
The Karoq scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017.
Coming standard are seven airbags, AEB (city braking), rear parking sensors with auto stop, reversing camera, multi-collision braking system and driver fatigue detection. I’ve given it a lower score here because there’s safety kit that needs to be optioned that comes standard on rivals these days.
For child seats you’ll find three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
The Karoq is covered by Skoda’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km and if you want to pay up front, there’s a three-year pack for $900 and a five-year plan for $1700 that includes roadside assistance and map updates and is fully transferable.
The Karoq is covered by Skoda’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
All right, I’ve changed my mind – Tom was robbed of the better Karoq in my view. Sure, I’m yet to drive his Sportline 140TSI, but the 110TSI is less expensive and better value, with more options to pick from, plus it's more practical and versatile with that removable rear row. Sure, the 110 TSI doesn’t have the fancy wheels and paddle shifters, or the more powerful engine, but if what you’re going to be using it for is daily duties, like me, in traffic, then the 110TSI is better.
Compared to its rivals, the Karoq 110 TSI is also better – better for interior space and practicality, better for cabin tech, with that fully digital instrument display, and now, with that new engine and transmission, better to drive than many of them, too.
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