Test Drives

Skoda Karoq Review 2019: Style is everything


  • Dec 16, 2018

As crossovers go, the Skoda Karoq is a contender for class-leading status

SINGAPORE — The Skoda Karoq is what happens when a carmaker whose tagline is “simply clever” turns its hand to making a mid-sized crossover.

It’s built on the bones of corporate parent Volkswagen’s MQB platform, making the Karoq a fairly close mechanical cousin to such varied offerings as the VW Golf (a hatchback) and Tiguan (also a crossover, but ever so slightly larger than this Skoda), the Audi A3 series and Skoda’s own Kodiaq, a larger model with seven seats (pictured below).

As a product offering, it actually sits quite nicely on the pricing ladder that makes up the Skoda/Volkswagen model range imported by Volkswagen Group Singapore — with a price starting at S$112,900 with COE for a Karoq in Ambition trim, it slots neatly above the basic VW Golf lineup but below the Tiguan range.

The basic proposition here is a five-door, five-seat car with VW’s excellent 150 horsepower, 1.5-litre turbo engine, paired with a seven-speed twin-clutch auto.

It might sit on taller suspension than a regular car, but you should probably keep it away from dirt (except for outings to a plant nursery), since only the front wheels are driven.

Skoda being Skoda, however, the Karoq offers something of a twist to the basic compact crossover recipe: its three rear seats are removable. Pull a cord, flip two catches, move a handle and you can lift them right out, which gives you a van-like space in the back.

That’s part of a system Skoda calls “VarioFlex”, which only comes with the Karoq in Style trim, a S$10,000 options pack.

Removing the chairs leaves you with 1,810 litres of cargo space, but heaving them out of the car takes muscle (or builds it), plus you’ll need somewhere to store them. If you’re not inclined towards heavy lifting, you can simply fold and tilt the chairs as well, so the Karoq is nothing if not versatile.

VarioFlex also lets you tilt and slide the back seats, which lets you vary boot space between 479 and 588 litres — the flipside of that is that rear seat passengers can play with the amount of room back there.

That said, the Karoq is a roomy car for something that doesn’t occupy a huge amount of tarmac, with plenty of headroom and a cabin that feels nice and airy.

Flip-up tables are another nice, practical touch.

VarioFlex isn’t the only goodie you get with the Style pack. The basic Ambition version already comes with keyless entry and engine starting, along with a rear-view camera, but spending 10 grand extra buys 18-inch wheels (over the standard 16s), roof rails in silver and LED headlamps.

Inside, the Style trim adds a goodly number of convenience items, such as a powered driver’s seat (with memory), an electric tailgate and a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones.

There’s also a navigation system with a larger screen (9.2 inches vs 8.0) that comes with fancier speakers from a German specialist called Canton.

All Karoqs come with seven airbags, but the Style model does more to prevent accidents in the first place with a blind spot detection system, rear cross traffic alert (handy if you’re backing out of a parking spot blindly) and an autonomous emergency braking system that monitors traffic ahead of you.

Ultimately, you get plenty for the money with the Style pack, making it easy for us to recommend.

That wouldn’t mean much if the car itself were a dud, but thankfully the opposite is true. In fact, leaving aside equipment levels, the Karoq is a lovely car.

For one thing, it’s entertaining to drive. The engine is a rorty thing that pulls eagerly, occasionally wringing a chirp from the Karoq’s front tyres when you’re a little too enthusiastic with the accelerator.

But it’s the handling that sparkles the most. All of the MQB cars from Volkswagen Group tend to steer sharply and handle fluidly, but the Karoq seems to have been tuned with extra care; it strikes a brilliant balance between comfort and sportiness, somehow feeling grippy and alert yet tackling bumps with an easygoing manner.

It’s also quiet at speed, and easily feels as refined as some cars that cost much more.

The Karoq is also put together well. The cabin may be plain to look at, but it feels solid where it should, and soft materials have been used where it counts, too, like the dashboard.

If there’s an ask, it’s that the air-con system should be stronger. Instead, it feels relatively weedy for our weather, though things are helped in the back by two vents there.

As an overall package, however, the Karoq is incredibly appealing. In fact, the Skoda is a strong candidate for best-in-class status — an entertaining drive, good manners on the move, a versatile cabin, solid build and (with the Style pack) a generous equipment list add up to an exemplary crossover.

At this end of the market, putting a Skoda Karoq on your shopping list would be not only a good move on your part, but also a simply clever one.

Skoda Karoq Style 1.5 TSI

Engine

1498cc, turbo in-line four

Power

150hp at 5000 to 6000rpm

Torque

250Nm at 1500 to 3500rpm

Gearbox

7-speed twin-clutch automatic

0-100km/h

203km/h

Top Speed

9.0 seconds

Fuel Efficiency

5.8L/100km

VES Band / CO2

B / 133g/km

Agent

Skoda Centre Singapore

Price

S$122,900 with COE

Available

Now

 

about the author

Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.
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