Renault Koleos 2018 review
The Renault Koleos puts a French spin on the mid-size SUV, using the underpinnings of its Nissan X-Trail stablemate as a base.
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Just what is a Karoq? That was my very first question, and it's likely yours, too.
The Karoq replaces Skoda’s Yeti SUV, and everybody knows what a Yeti is. Well… sort of. But a Karoq? Not so much.
The name, by the way, comes from the merging of a Native American word for arrow ("ruq") with an Alaskan tribe's word for car ("karaaq"). Put them together, and you get Karoq.
Incidentally, everybody already knows what a Tiguan is. It’s the rather good SUV from Volkswagen, Skoda’s parent company, that competes in exactly the same bracket as the Karoq, along with a seemingly endless list of other competitors.
So, I guess the real question should be not what is a Karoq? But rather why should I consider a Skoda over a critically acclaimed SUV from its parent company?
I spent a week in the Skoda to find out.
|Skoda KAROQ 2018: 1.5 TSI|
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Skoda is but one piece of Volkswagen's plan for world domination, but the giant company is nothing if not strategic, and it shows in the smart pricing of the Karoq. Starting at $32,290, it seems suddenly very appealing when you tee it up against VW’s entry-level Tiguan, which kicks off north of $40k.
Things change when you start ticking boxes, of course, and that’s where the value of the Karoq gets tricky. Right now, there is only one variant; the Karoq 110 DSG. And all things considered, it’s reasonably well equipped right out of the box.
Standard is an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry and start, adaptive cruise control, LED DRLs, a leather steering wheel and gearknob, reversing camera and rear parking sensors with auto-stop function (reverse AEB).
Oh, but wait. That’s not this car. No, our test car was considerably more expensive. The 19-inch alloys? They're $700. The luscious Velvet Red paint that I was a big fan of (until I saw the price…)? That's another $1000.
And then there’s the Launch Pack; a limited-edition super-pack which contains all the other packs and then some. That comes in at a whopping $8900, and includes leather upholstery, a 9.2-inch multimedia screen with digital radio (DAB+), full LED lighting array, lane-keep assist (LKAS), blind-spot monitoring (BSM), Auto Park Assist, 18-inch alloys, heated front seats, front parking sensors, three keys with personalisation profiles, automatic hands-free tailgate, premium audio system, auto-folding door mirrors and a Qi wireless phone charger.
You read that right - our car had $10,600 of extras. And yes, we got a lot of gear, but it's more than enough to justify another trim level of the Karoq.
If you were keeping count, the options bring the as tested price to $42,890. Solidly in contention with top-spec Asian SUVs and entry-level Tiguans, then. Precarious territory, although the impressive equipment level arguably justifies it. The most notable downside is the lack of all-wheel drive.
With all the options fitted, the Karoq is a nice-looking (and feeling) SUV. Although it’s not quite as quirky as its Yeti predecessor, the more mainstream design will be a delight to a wider audience.
It has still got lots of European charm inside and out, with a distinct Skoda flavour. It’s also smaller than a Tiguan but has sightly more interesting design touches around its grille and hind three-quarter compared to the Volkswagen's stoic sensibilities.
I like the smiling Skoda grille with the over-commitment to vertical lines, I like the separated-out headlamp housings that look oh-so-premium with the blue-tinged LED lighting kit.
The angular contours across the car’s midsection are at odds with the curvy edges, but it all comes together nicely, and, apart from the red paint and LED headlights, it’s all standard. The optional 19-inch alloys do look pretty slick in those wide wheel arches, too.
Inside, all the optional trimmings makes the Karoq feel super premium, a segment above its price point. The leather seats look and feel fantastic, the gloss-black and chrome finishes are tastefully applied, and the subtle coloured lighting kit throughout adds a posh cabin ambience.
The multimedia system is slick, well laid-out and easy to use, plus the glossy theme goes with the rest of the cabin. Apple CarPlay worked flawlessly for me.
Sure, at this price something like the Honda CR-V VTi-LX is also feeling pretty swish, but there’s something special about those delicate Euro touches that are normally reserved for more expensive Volkswagen or Audi models.
Like other Skodas, the Karoq slots in a sneaky size bracket somewhere between the mainstream players. It’s smaller than the Tiguan, but bigger than something like a Peugeot 2008.
Thanks to some smart design tricks, though, the Karoq is just as practical, if not more practical than some ‘proper’ mid-sizers. Boot space is rated at 479 litres, straight-off-the-bat bigger than a Mazda CX-5, which provides 442L, but still decidedly smaller than the Tiguan’s class-leading 610L.
But wait; the Karoq can (almost) close the gap with its VW cousin thanks to it’s ‘VarioFlex’ seating system, which allows the second row slide forward on rails, or it can even be removed completely to maximise space. With the seats pushed as far forward as they’ll go, boot space increases all the way up to 588L. Bigger than almost every mid-sizer. Sneaky.
With the seats completely removed, the Karoq lays down a huge 1810L of space - enough even to shift decently sized furniture.
The boot area comes with two cordoned stowage areas between the back of the car and the wheel arch for objects you want to secure, as well as little plastic walls you can Velcro to the floor to secure larger objects. I moved some computer equipment over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised how well they worked. There’s also the welcome inclusion of a luggage net and a removable LED torch.
With the seats in their normal position, second-row passengers get a good amount of leg and headroom, as well as rear vents, some fairly shallow pockets on the back of the front seats, a power outlet, decent-sized storage bins in the doors, and our car even had tablet holders on the back of both rear seats.
Up front, there is a variable storage box common to Volkswagen Group vehicles (it has a variable lid for the centre console, so you can use it as an armrest, or stow it lower and out of the way). Inside the centre console there’s a little cupholder that can be flipped over to reveal a flat storage tray, and a small slit under the air-conditioning controls houses the Qi wireless charging bay, a power outlet and a USB port.
In the doors there’s a cupholder, stowage area and neat little bin fittings. The front passenger gets a storage net along the transmission tunnel.
The answer to the question ‘how practical is the space inside?’, then, is 'very.’
The Karoq is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo engine which produces 110kW and 250Nm of torque. Which sounds underdone on paper. Sure enough, the Karoq is less powerful than all its European rivals; the Volkswagen Tiguan (2.0-litre turbo, 132kW/320Nm), Renault Koleos (2.5-litre, 126kW/226Nm) and Peugeot 3008 (1.6-litre turbo, 121kW/240Nm). It’s also less powerful than the Honda CR-V which has a similar engine (1.5-turbo, 140kW/240Nm).
In practice, however, the strong torque figure plays a big role in making the 1.5-litre engine punch above its weight in a very similar fashion to the CR-V. Once the turbo is on-song between 1500-3500rpm you’re not exactly left wanting for more power.
The Karoq drives the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. There’s no manual anymore, and an all-wheel drive is due to arrive late this year.
Small engine or not, Skoda’s claim of 5.8L/100km is a bold one. And to help attempt to achieve it, there are a bunch of techy tricks at work.
There’s an aggressive start-stop system that borders on annoying, cylinder deactivation that switches off half the engine when cruising, and brake energy recovery. Dual-clutch transmissions are also claimed to improve efficiency.
But in practice, it doesn’t quite come together. I remained determined to leave the start-stop system on for my entire drive week, but still ended up scoring 8.0L/100km. That's a bit of a miss. Disappointing, considering I wasn’t going out of my way to drive aggressively and had a large stretch of freeway driving over my weekend…
As an interesting coincidence, I produced exactly the same 8.0L figure from Honda’s 1.5-litre turbo CR-V. Go figure.
There’s something genuinely special about the way the Karoq drives. It brings a German finesse with its light steering and ultra-compliant suspension. It grabs the magic of the VW Golf and stretches it across its larger dimensions.
The suspension rides flat and confident. It’s a pleasure to throw around corners around the suburbs, with the light steering taking the edge off its ride height and extra weight.
On the freeway it shines. The Karoq is quiet and balanced at 110km/h. It’s so clearly meant to cruise closer to 150km/h+ on the autobahn that there’s little about the Aussie motorway system that will bother it.
That having been said, the Karoq isn’t totally perfect. The 19-inch alloys on our car created a bit of road-noise, and the worse potholes and road irregularities sent a few shocks through the otherwise quiet and insulated cabin.
There’s also no overcoming the higher centre of gravity of the Karoq, so it will tilt in corners when pushed. It will be interesting to see whether the extra weight of an AWD system alters this in the future.
Despite the engine’s size, it provides no shortage of power in the torque band between 1500-3500rpm. However, its complicated drivetrain can take a second or two to react to your inputs, and pressing the accelerator further while you’re waiting for a gear change, turbo lag, or cylinders to re-activate will cause the front wheels to spin once all those parts figure out how to work together.
Other irritations include the start-stop system, which is overly keen to turn the engine off, but slow to start it up again, and the jerky nature of the DSG at low speeds. That second one is pretty annoying when parking.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
The Karoq comes standard with auto emergency braking (AEB) which explicitly works up to 210km/h (makes sense - it's autobahn ready), pre-collision alert, low-speed reverse AEB for parking, active cruise control and rear parking sensors.
The standard suite of airbags, electronic assistance and chassis refinements are also present, although the Karoq has not yet been tested by ANCAP.
Our car had the full safety suite fitted, as part of the ‘Launch Pack’, but the key addition of blind-spot monitoring (BSM) and lane-keep assist (LKAS) can be had on any Karoq as part of the $1700 ‘Travel Pack’. Worth it.
Annoyingly, you’ll also need to fork out an additional $3600 for the ‘Premium Pack’ to get LED headlights and front parking sensors.
The Karoq has a space-saver spare under the boot floor and there are two ISOFIX child-seat anchor points on the outboard rear seats.
The Karoq has a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is bang on-par with what most Asian manufactures are now offering, and bests the old-looking, three-year warranty from Volkswagen.
It’s also cheaper to service the Karoq, with its 12-month/15,000km intervals, than it is for the Tiguan, with services ranging from $288 to $583 and averaging out to about $504.20 per service over five years.
Like other VW Group vehicles, service packages can be bundled in with the upfront cost. Our ‘Launch Pack’, for example, actually included three years of servicing.
The Skoda Karoq is a sneaky little mid-size SUV with more than a few practicality tricks up its sleeve, a dose of European flavour, and German levels of refinement. Only for slightly less money that you’d expect it to cost across the board.
It’s a pleasure to drive, comes with most of the good kit as standard, and presents a genuine alternative to Japanese, Korean and even European SUVs with a few options ticked.
While it’s neat that you can transform the Karoq into something that feels truly premium, double check what the same money will buy you elsewhere.
|1.5 110TSI||1.5L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO||$25,740 – 31,790||2018 Skoda KAROQ 2018 1.5 110TSI Pricing and Specs|
|1.5 TSI||1.5L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO||$32,366 – 39,888||2018 Skoda KAROQ 2018 1.5 TSI Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||7|