Why would I buy it?
- Sorted powertrain and dynamics
- Fit and finish
Why would I avoid it?
- Too pricey
The Karoq is appreciated for its fine amalgamation of nippy performance and sure-footed dynamics despite being a mid-sized SUV. Your senses are instantly pampered by the relaxing feature-loaded cabin, the pristine fit and finish, solid build quality, and the secure feeling that stems from the long list of safety equipment. By contrast, the only significant deterrent that eclipses this otherwise tempting package is the steep price which simply drops it out of any equation.
Engine and Performance
This is a truly silent motor for the most part- and not just while at idle or moving around in traffic. Off the mark, this 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol mill encourages this SUV to pick up pace smoothly and effortlessly. I’d be lying if I told you that the power fed to the front wheels via the seven-speed DSG transmission is in an absolute linear state. Because you’d have to be blind to not spot the turbo go on serious boost. And that’s a nice feeling!
Armed with around 150bhp and 250Nm of torque, the Karoq dashes forward swiftly and it’s only when the virtual cockpit (read all-digital instrumentation) tells you that you’ve nudged triple digit speeds, that you shrug in a momentary disbelief. This has partly to do with the pristine NVH levels and outside noises being subdued.
So yes, you can putter around in traffic with hardly any effort, and when you need some go, just gas the pedal. In the D mode, the DSG first resorts to serving you your expected dose of performance from the slotted gear. All the same, when it still observes considerable throttle input, it takes a second’s delay to kick-down and give you more go.
On a more detailed note, a steady foot on the throttle (in the D mode) will allow the gearbox to quickly upshift. And, getting off the throttle altogether, will have the gearbox upshift a few cogs to keep the engine in the optimum rpm range for the speed being driven at. As for the S mode, the DSG always clings on to a lower gear for quintessential responses.
Unlike in D mode, the downshifts are much quicker in the S mode, and you’ll run into this each time you pull off a quick overtake at higher speeds. Flooring the throttle is greeted with a prompt downshift. Be that as it may, it is in the S mode that you constantly hear the engine in the background.
Being a Skoda has a reputation of sorts, with speed being at the top of the list. After putting it through our VBox tests, it came back with interesting results. While the Jeep Compass was a fraction of a milli-second quicker to 100kmph, the Karoq smoked it by almost 1.5 seconds in the 20-80kmph run in kick-down. Indeed, a great tool for overtaking!
With an extremely light and accurate steering, the Karoq is an easy SUV to navigate around the city. But then again, with about two- and-three-quarter turns from lock-to-lock, you will have to feed it with a little more input, especially when piloting through tight confines. In the bargain, this translates into some extra arm work.
Over and above that, the Karoq’s ride quality at slow speeds tilts slightly to the firmer side. Yet, it offers a soft edge over the harsh bumps. This may certainly work in its favour as the ride gets increasingly absorbent as one goes faster. But as a result, the Karoq also imparts low-frequency vertical movements over high speed undulations, while also exhibiting some nosedive under serious braking.
Interior Space and Quality
This is one cabin you will remember. Mainly due to the large dimensions, a giant panorama sunroof, and the light cabin materials. What’s more, like all Skoda’s, premium fit and finish, and solid build quality comes standard. We were especially delighted by the comfort, the fact that it's adequately loaded with features, and the Virtual Cockpit which is a feast to the eyes. And if these weren’t enough, it’s quite practical too. Had it not been the lack of rear thigh support or the high rear window line which limits outward visibility, it would have scored higher.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is favourable too. Mainly assisted by a large windscreen, huge mirrors, and a driving position that’s aided by height adjustable seats and a steering which can be altered for both rake and reach.
In terms of storage, you get a covered cubby space in the centre console that also houses a 12V socket and a USB port. Plus, the centre-armrest slides back and forth to open up a large storage space, part of which has its own removable compartment shelf. Also, coming in handy are the large and deep door-pads, a dash-top storage with a lid, and an adequately-sized cooled glove-box.
I really liked the spacious leather seats- the front ones especially, due to the nice combo of lateral support and firm cushioning. There’s adjustable lumbar, acres of headroom, and plenty of shoulder room. In contrast, the rear 60:40 split-bench sports flatter contours. Still, the backrest has a favourable angle that’s fixed and can’t be adjusted.
Notwithstanding, there’s ample legroom, knee room, and foot room. But we’d have loved some more thigh support. Nevertheless, seating three average-sized adults should also be fine despite the high centre-tunnel and the rather flat-cushioned centre-backrest. There’s also lots of headroom and the cabin feels even more airy when the shades to the panorama sunroof are opened.
This brings us to the 521-litre square-ish boot enclosure which is good for up to three medium-sized suitcases, or your wife’s and kid’s shopping. Yank at the handles on either ends of the boot to see that number swell to 1630-litres as the second row tumbles almost flat. Yet, what truly adds to the convenience-quotient is the low loading lip (by SUV standards), so there’s no need to struggle with lifting your luggage far off the ground.
Features and Entertainment
The Karoq gets all the regulars and some. For instance, it’s got LED headlamps with LED DRLs with corner function, a panoramic sunroof, and auto wipers. Then, there’s the memory function not only for the electric driver's seat but also for the heated door mirrors. Dual-zone climate control, engine start/stop button, a cooled glove box, rear ac vents under both front seats which are in addition to the regular centrally-placed rear air vents, and ambient lighting for a variety of colour palates.
As for the eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with eight speakers, it’s placed high-up on the dash, so using it on the go isn’t a hassle. Not only are the processing speeds zippy, you’ll like the high-res display with rich colours, quick frame rates, and the silky-smooth touch responses. On top of that, it features voice command control, smartphone mirroring via SmartLink (AndroidAuto and Apple CarPlay) along with USB connectivity and navigation.
In terms of safety, the Skoda Karoq has almost everything covered. This mid-sized SUV has the auto-dimming function on both the inside rear-view mirrors, as well as on the heated outer rear-view mirrors. Then there are nine airbags (the whole nine yards!), anti-slip regulation (ASR), and electronic stability control (ESC). On top of that, it also gets a slew of fancy braking assists such as mechanical braking assist (MBA), hydraulic brake assist (HBA), multi collision brake (MKB), and hydraulic brakingsystem readiness. Phew!
And if you thought we hit the end of the list, it also gets the current standard ABS with EBD, auto hold function, tyre pressure monitoring, parking sensors (both front and rear), and the rear-view camera that we have all gotten so accustomed to.
For now, the Skoda Karoq is being brought in via the CBU route. So, there will only be one fully-loaded variant, with one engine option (petrol-auto) to rival the likes of the Jeep Compass, MG Hector, Volkswagen T-Roc, and the Hyundai Tucson. Yes, it may fall short on some gizmos that its segment contenders may have on offer, or even be slightly short on second-row legroom in comparison. Not to mention it’s hard to justify the Rs 31 lakh (OTR Mumbai), which makes it the most expensive in its category.
All the same, we have to admit that for those who appreciate comfort, the Karoq will certainly satisfy. At the same time, this Skoda SUV is loaded with safety features, screams of a solid build quality, is powered by a swift motor with sorted dynamics, and offers great comfort overall. If your affinity for Skoda is relentless, and can afford the price tag, then this is the SUV for you.
Picture: Kaustubh Gandhi