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Skoda Kamiq 2021 review: 110TSI Monte Carlo long-term


The Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo might not be cheap, but it does promise plenty of premium-feeling motoring in a sensible and spacious package. Well, that's what it says on the tin, at least. So we asked our Chesto to put it to the long-term test to see how it measures up. 

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Part 1: April

If I'd asked you a decade ago to tell me the first thing that popped into your mind when I mentioned Skoda, I'd have been able to take a pretty good stab at what your response would be.

"What's a Skoda?"...

But fast-forward to 2021 and that's changed entirely. Skodas are now seen as lots of things - sensible, practical, clever, good value - but most important of all, they're just seen.

Our Kamiq 110TSI Monte Carlo is finished in Moon White (image: Andrew Chesterton). Our Kamiq 110TSI Monte Carlo is finished in Moon White (image: Andrew Chesterton).

Personally, I hand much of the credit to the Skoda Kodiaq, the very good, and immaculately finished, SUV that put the brand on the family map in Australia about five years ago.

The Kodiaq is big, but Skoda has since been applying its SUV skillset to vehicles much smaller - like this, the Kamiq, which we've just taken into our CarsGuide garage.

And while we'll drill down on the specifics in just a moment, I can give you a headstart by saying that, so far, it's delivered the same satisfaction levels as its bigger sibling - it's smaller, yes, but no less clever.

We've got plenty of time to get to know each other, of course, so let's start from the beginning. The vehicle you see here is the Kamiq 110TSI Monte Carlo, finished in Moon White. It will set you back $34,190 - or $36,990 drive-way - but a little more again if you want the options this one has been equipped with.

The Monte Carlo scores adaptive LED headlights (image: Andrew Chesterton). The Monte Carlo scores adaptive LED headlights (image: Andrew Chesterton).

That makes it a pretty sizeable jump over the the entry-level Kamiq 85 TSI, which is $27,990 drive-away with a manual gearbox, or $29,990 drive-away with an automatic.

Skoda will encourage you to make that leap with a burst of extra grunt, and a bounty of goodies. And it's inside where the niceties are most keenly felt.

Usually the Skoda Kamiq is equipped with an 8.0-inch screen, but ours is fitted with a bigger 9.2-inch screen with navigation - part of a $4300 Travel Pack that also includes Automatic Parking Assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, a better stereo, heated seats in the front and rear, flappy paddles on the steering wheel and Wireless Apple Car Play (which can remember two different phones). The Travel Pack, I think, is a necessary investment for maximum driver enjoyment, but it and the Metallic Paint ($550) do lift the Kamiq's RRP price to harder-to-swallow $39,040.

It's inside where the niceties are most keenly felt (image: Andrew Chesterton). It's inside where the niceties are most keenly felt (image: Andrew Chesterton).

Still, leave the options list aside and you still get lots of stuff. All Kamiqs get LED rear lights, roof rails, ambient lighting in the cabin, the very cool Virtual Cockpit (which digitises the driver's binnacle), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with wireless charging that pairs with an eight-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate and keyless entry.

Our Monte Carlo then builds on that, from the black 18-inch alloy wheels and panoramic glass roof to the adaptive LED headlights, and a sportier chassis set-up and multiple driving modes. You also get sports sears, blacked-out exterior elements, and sportier pedals.

Importantly, the Monte Carlo also delivers you more power, upping the engine to a turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol, and the grunt to a useable 110kW and 250Nm. The 85TSI, for reference, uses a 1.0-litre engine and delivers 85kW and 200Nm.

The Monte Carlo adds black 18-inch alloy wheels (image: Andrew Chesterton). The Monte Carlo adds black 18-inch alloy wheels (image: Andrew Chesterton).

That's a whole lot a data, I know, but it's all important. But even more so is how that translates in the rear world.

The simple truth is that the Skoda has proved pretty much flawless over my first month with the car, and feels - dare I say it - decidedly premium from front to back, inside and out.

I've knocked off over 1000kms to date, and my earliest impressions are of some real quality here. It feels bigger and more solidly built than its dimensions suggest, and there's a heft to the steering - and even a thickness to the steering wheel - that constantly delivers this sense of quality.

The Kamiq decidedly premium from front to back, inside and out (image: Andrew Chesterton). The Kamiq decidedly premium from front to back, inside and out (image: Andrew Chesterton).

The extra power is a bonus, too. I'm yet to drive the 85 TSI version, but the 250Nm on offer here feels perfectly suited to the Kamiq, and combined with its bite-sized dimensions and sportier set-up, provides genuine engagement and control from behind the wheel. It's not a performance car, but it does offer a sense of connection to the road beneath you that can sometimes be missing from this segment.

The 110TSI pairs with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which at speed performs very well, but whether it's the gearbox or the turbocharged power delivery, there can be some confusion from low speed, resulting in an occasionally jerky (and even wheel-spinning if you're pointed up hill) take-off that takes some getting used to, but you do get used to it, and leaving the gearbox in its Normal mode (Sport is also an option) and being gentle with the acceleration does result in smoother starts.

So far, so good, then, with the Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo. It feels a quality option in the segment, even if it does require some extra spend to climb into it. Will these happy feelings last? Stay tuned...

  • Boot space is rated at 400 litres (image: Andrew Chesterton). Boot space is rated at 400 litres (image: Andrew Chesterton).
  • It feels bigger and more solidly built than its dimensions suggest (image: Andrew Chesterton). It feels bigger and more solidly built than its dimensions suggest (image: Andrew Chesterton).

Acquired: April 2021

Distance travelled this month: 1081km

Average fuel consumption for April: 10.0L/100

Part 2: May

Right, I have seriously eaten a lot of kilometres this month. And I mean A LOT, knocking off somewhere around 1100kms as I tripped from Sydney to Canberra, and back again, and back again, and back again.

That's not something I would wish on my worst enemy, by the way. If there's a road more snore-inducing than that tarmac that links with Sydney with our nation's capital, I'm yet to drive it. 

But if you do have to drive it, then you could do worse than to find yourself behind the wheel of a Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo, especially one equipped with the optional extras our vehicle has been fitted with.

See, this is not a cut-price, stripped-back small SUV all Kamiq’s will give you roof rails, ambient lighting in the cabin, the very cool Virtual Cockpit (which digitises the driver's binnacle), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with wireless charging that pairs with an eight-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate and keyless entry.

The Monte Carlo, however, will set you back an RRP of $34,190, which gives you black 18-inch alloy wheels and panoramic glass roof, the adaptive LED headlights, and a sportier chassis set-up and multiple driving modes. You also get sports seats, blacked-out exterior elements, and sportier pedals.

The Monte Carlo features black 18-inch alloy wheels (image: Andrew Chesterton). The Monte Carlo features black 18-inch alloy wheels (image: Andrew Chesterton).

And then you can spend more again, as whoever ordered our test vehicle chose to. Ours is fitted with a $4300 Travel Pack, which adds an awesome 9.2-inch screen with navigation, Automatic Parking Assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, a better stereo, heated seats in the front and rear, flappy paddles on the steering wheel and Wireless Apple Car Play (which can remember two different phones). That and the Metallic Paint lift the Kamiq's RRP price $39,040.

Yes, there are cheaper ways into a small SUV. But as I knocked off kay after kay this month, I was hugely grateful I wasn't driving a more cut-price offering.

For mine, the Travel Pack is non-negotiable. Some of my favourite elements of this vehicle are among its tech offerings, and so stripping them back is a deal-breaker for me. 

Same with the heated seats, which as the temperature in Canberra dropped so low it felt like you could grab a handful of the frigid air in a closed fist, and then open it again to reveal a perfectly formed ice cube, those bum-warming pews were an absolute life saver.

Equally important, though, is the power on offer from this 110TSI engine. Sure, the numbers produced by the 1.5-litre turbo power plant don’t sound like they’ll set the world on fire (110kW and 250Nm), it’s plenty in the real world, with the little Skoda more than happy to keep up with, and overtake, freeway traffic.

This is a small and tech-savvy city-focused SUV that feels right at home outside the confines of the urban jungle (image: Andrew Chesterton). This is a small and tech-savvy city-focused SUV that feels right at home outside the confines of the urban jungle (image: Andrew Chesterton).

Part of that is down to the fast-thinking nature of the seven-speed DSG automatic, which is quick to shift down a cog (or several) almost as soon as you depress the accelerator, meaning you never find yourself lingering in a torque hole waiting for the power to arrive. 

Short answer? This is a small and tech-savvy city-focused SUV that seriously feels right at home outside the confines of the urban jungle. And with a boot that opens to reveal 400 litres of space with the rear seats in place (1395 litres with them folded flat), there’s plenty of room for luggage on a longer trip, too.

Bravo, little Skoda. And not just for the bum warming, but for everything else this month, too.

Acquired: April, 2021

Distance travelled this month: 1089km

Average fuel consumption for May: 6.5L/100 (measured at the pump)

Part 3: June

And so our Skoda time comes to an end. And for a variety of reasons, I reckon I've spent more time devouring kilometres in this spacious small SUV thank any vehicle I've been behind the wheel of for some time.

So if you’ve got one of these on your consideration list, I reckon I can tell you a few things you really ought to know about it. In fact, I’ll tell you the three things I like, and the three things I don’t, about this small SUV, and I’ll give you my overall verdict, too.

This Monte Carlo get sports chassis control and the ability to select a sportier drive mode (image: Andrew Chesterton). This Monte Carlo get sports chassis control and the ability to select a sportier drive mode (image: Andrew Chesterton).

But first, some background. The Skoda Kamiq is the brand’s small SUV, and a premium-feeling answer to vehicles like the Hyundai Kona, the Mitsubishi ASX and the MG ZS. It’s yet to fully resonate with buyers like those models, though. While they have each sold more than 5,000 units in 2021, the Skoda has so far this year (to June) shifted less than 1000 cars. 

You can have it with a 85TSI engine, but the one you see here is the Kamiq 110TSI Monte Carlo, finished in Moon White. It’s called Monte Carlo as a nod to Skoda’s history in Monaco’s famed rally, dating back to 1936 - as you can see by the racing flags on its flanks - but it’s less a sportier trim these days, and more a premium offering, with a higher level of comfort and standard kit.

That said, though, this Monte Carlo does get sports chassis control and the ability to select a sportier drive mode, and it will deliver you more power.

Which leads me neatly to my very first like...

Like one: There's plenty of punch

Some of vehicles in this segment can feel a little anaemic behind the wheel, like they’re designed for A-to-B transport, and driver fun be damned. 

But not the Kamiq Monte Carlo. This is a vehicle that allows you to feel connected to the experience, and plenty of that comes down to the clever little engine on offer, which delivers a very useable 110kW and 250Nm.

Now I know those numbers don’t sound massive in theory, but in practice it’s plenty, and I’ve taken this thing on everything from urban streets to country roads and freeways, and it’s never, ever, felt underpowered, nor even like it’s struggling.

The engine pairs with a seven-speed DSG automatic, and Skoda says you’ll clip 100km/h in 8.4 seconds. And that really is plenty fast enough in as vehicle in this segment. 

More important, though, is the way the torque is delivered at 1500rpm, and the speed in which the gearbox selects a lower cog. Plant your foot to overtake, and the power is simply there when you need it.

Like two: It's sensible and spacious

Sensible is not usually a term marketing types apply to a vehicle, but why not? Isn’t that exactly what you want from your car? Excitement is fine, but when you’re really living with a vehicle, what’s more important is that it performs on the practicality front. 

This Kamiq stretches around 4.0m in length, 1.7m in width and 1.5m in height, and those dimensions do translate to a really useable cabin, and a clever, spacious boot. 

We’ll start here, where the boot opens to reveal an impressive 400 litres of space with the rear seats in place, and that number swells to 1395 litres with them folded flat. And it’s been plenty to transport absolutely everything we’ve needed to move over the past few months without breaking sweat.

But if they’ve prioritised boot space, does that mean it’s a tiny backseat? Nope. Sitting behind my own 175cm driving position, I have plenty of head room, lots of leg room, and, thanks to the massive glass roof, the rear of the cabin feels positively airy for a vehicle in this class.

The boot opens to reveal an impressive 400 litres of space with the rear seats in place (image: Andrew Chesterton). The boot opens to reveal an impressive 400 litres of space with the rear seats in place (image: Andrew Chesterton).

Like three: Feels premium at (almost) every touch point 

The thing that really struck me about the Kamiq is this sense of premiumness that it exudes from the moment you climb into it. The doors are satisfyingly solid, the steering wheel thick and premium, the tech totally on point and the drive experience engaging.

This does not feel like a cheap and tinny SUV. Not at all. 

But it can't be all champagne and roses, so here are the three things I didn't like quite so much.

The thing that really struck me about the Kamiq is this sense of premiumness that it exudes (image: Andrew Chesterton). The thing that really struck me about the Kamiq is this sense of premiumness that it exudes (image: Andrew Chesterton).

Dislike one: It’s not cheap

A premium feel does mean a premium price tag, and there’s no doubt the Kamiq Monte Carlo is a fairly pricey option, especially with the options that this one has ticked. 

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll pay an RRP of $34,190 for a Monte Carlo, but ours has also been fitted with a $4300 Travel Pack, and Metallic Paint, which boosts the RRP to almost $40k.

Dislike two: Tech can be glitchy

Now, I have had only two real complaints from behind the wheel of the Skoda, and this is the first one. 

The tech is fabulous when working smoothly, and it usually is, but on several occasions over the past few months I’ve suffered a couple of minor, though lightly vexing, glitches that have forced me to pull over and restart the engine to keep things moving.

The wireless Apple CarPlay has dropped out a couple of times, for example, active cruise control refused to activate on one occasion, and on another, I was warned that some of my safety features weren’t working.

Again, restarting the engine reset things, so not the world’s biggest deal, and If I really owned it I would take it back to the service centre for a software reset, but in vehicle that hasn’t really vexed me anywhere else, it bears mentioning.

Dislike three: Smooth starts can take practice

I’ve raved about the power on offer here earlier, but in previous dispatches, I've also previously mentioned the fact that smooth take-offs can take a little bit of practice.

There are two potential culprits, the start/stop system, or the gearbox shift from first to second, but it only really creeps in at a mid-level of acceleration depression.

Basically, dump the accelerator and there are no surprises, the Skoda predictably lunging forward. Same with when you ease it on. But when you jump straight to a mid-level of accelerator depression, you can get some jerkiness in the cabin, and some wheel spin from the front wheels, almost as though the engine isn't entirely sure how much power to deliver, so it delivers lots in a big lump.

The other is when you come to a super brief stop (like at a stop sign, rather than a traffic light), and the engine stops itself and starts itself in a hurry, resulting in some confusion.

The latter is pretty rare, I think, with the engine cut-off function not always working when you only stop for a moment, but you also pretty quickly get used to both of them, and simply adjust your driving style accordingly.

The likes far outweigh the dislikes with the Skoda Kamiq (image: Andrew Chesterton). The likes far outweigh the dislikes with the Skoda Kamiq (image: Andrew Chesterton).

Acquired: April 2021

Distance travelled this month: 813km

Odometer: 774km

Average fuel consumption for June: 6.5L/100 (measured at the pump)


The Wrap

To be honest, the likes far outweigh the dislikes with the Skoda Kamiq. And if you can spring for the Monte Carlo, then spring a little further for the tech upgrades, then you’ll find yourself with a whole lot of car, and whole lot of space for your money.

Likes

Quality feel inside and out
Power that's fit for purpose
The (optional) tech is awesome

Dislikes

Ride might be firm for some
Smooth acceleration can take practice
Design that leans sensible over stylish

Scores

Andrew:

3.9

The Kids:

3.9

$34,190

Based on new car retail price

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