First Drive: Is the updated Skoda Karoq the perfect family crossover?

·5-min read

What is it?

(Skoda)
(Skoda)

Though the introduction of the rather plain Karoq as the replacement for the well-loved and characterful Yeti in 2017 proved slightly controversial, you’d never know looking at its sales figures. That’s because more than half a million Karoqs have been produced, and it’s a particularly popular choice in the UK.

But change is fast in the mid-size crossover segment especially, with a raft of new rival metal launching since the Karoq originally debuted, which is why we’ve got a new updated version to keep things fresh.

What’s new?

(Skoda)
(Skoda)

The Karoq benefits from many of the tweaks we’ve recently seen on the larger seven-seat Kodiaq, including a redesigned front and rear end. Changes are – in typical Skoda fashion – quite reserved, as at first you’d struggle to tell it apart from the previous model.

We’ll explore more about the redesign later, but other changes include an extended LED lighting package, while Skoda is ramping up sustainability, with an ‘Eco’ interior package available, which includes seats made from recycled plastic bottles.

What’s under the bonnet?

The engine line-up remains identical to before, with a range of petrol and diesel units on offer. There’s not even a whiff of electrification here, which does make it feel slightly behind the times.

Engine options include 1.0-, 1.5- and 2.0-litre petrol options, while a 2.0-litre diesel is offered for higher-mileage drivers in a choice of two outputs. Our test car uses the smallest of the lot, though – a 108bhp three-cylinder petrol that’s paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s front-driven too; you’ll need a high-spec petrol or diesel if you want a 4×4.

Getting to 60mph will take you 11 seconds, while Skoda claims it will return around 45mpg, with CO2 emissions of 145g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

(Skoda)
(Skoda)

A three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine in a decent-sized SUV might seem questionable, but it’s actually a surprisingly good fit. If you like to get from A to B quickly, it might not be the best, but it’s more than adequate enough in most situations, and is pretty capable on the motorway too. The six-speed manual gearbox has a slick action and is well-geared to ensure it doesn’t rev too high even at 70mph.
It’s pretty competent through the bends too, with limited body roll, though the mechanically similar Seat Ateca would make for a more enjoyable choice. Another stand-out area of the Karoq is its comfort and refinement, which allows for a hushed and relaxing driving experience.

Our test car’s optional £950 Travel Assist package is well worth choosing too, as it combines adaptive cruise control and lane assist, helping to take further stress out of longer trips.

How does it look?

(Skoda)
(Skoda)

The Karoq is certainly not the most exciting looking car on the market, but offers a smart and elegant design that will appeal to those not wanting something too bold.

This update has helped to smarten up what was already an attractive look, though, with key changes including a wider grille and slimmer LED headlights, which are available with adaptive ‘matrix’ technology as an option.

Skoda has worked to improve aerodynamics too, with a longer rear spoiler now fitted as standard, while new wheel designs help to reduce drag, and subsequently reduce fuel consumption.

What’s it like inside?

(Skoda)
(Skoda)

In a day and age of big touchscreens and fancy digital dials, the Karoq’s cabin does look a bit plain and unexciting at first. However, when it comes to quality and ergonomics, it leads the way in this class. There are next to no hard plastics in the cabin, while the eight-inch touchscreen – which now features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – is an absolute doddle to use.

In true Skoda fashion, it’s hugely practical too. Though you’ll need the Kodiaq if you want a third row of seats, the Karoq will likely suit most families, with its plentiful rear seat space and large 538-litre boot. Features like individually sliding rear seats and tray tables on the back of the front seats with in-built cup holders are incredibly useful touches.

What’s the spec like?

(Skoda)
(Skoda)

Skoda has slimmed down the trim levels on the latest Karoq, with just three versions now offered – SE Drive, SE L and the top-spec SportLine. SE Drive models get pretty much everything you’d need, such as electric folding mirrors, an eight-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate control.

The extra niceties of the SE L make it our pick, though, with larger 18-inch alloy wheels fitted alongside heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and smart Alcantara and leather seats. At the top of the range, the SportLine gets a more aggressive design, as well as Matrix LED headlights and a panoramic sunroof.

Prices for the Karoq kick off from £26,255, though we personally reckon the mid-range SE L is where to put your money. Prices for this start from £28,090 and it easily justifies the extra expense.

Verdict

It’s a sign of just how good the Karoq was originally that Skoda has had to make such few changes to keep pace with rivals. When it comes to spaciousness and quality, it’s pretty hard to beat at this price, while generous standard equipment and impressive driving manners solidify it as a leader in this particularly crowded class.

Though not the most exciting car to look at or be in, and no electrified options mean it’s behind many in this class, the Karoq remains one of the best crossover all-rounders on the market.

  • Model: Skoda Karoq

  • Starting price: £26,255

  • Model as tested: Skoda Karoq SE L 1.0 TSI 110PS

  • Price as tested: £29,870

  • Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol

  • Power: 108bhp

  • Torque: 200Nm

  • 0-60mph: 11.0 seconds

  • Top speed: 118mph

  • Economy: 44.1-45.6mpg

  • Emissions: 140-145g/km

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