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Shane O' Donoghue

Review: The Skoda Karoq is a strong contender to rival the Tiguan and the Ateca

The Karoq is Skoda’s contender in the competitive compact SUV market.

THE COMPACT SUV market is big business and sales show no signs of slowing down any time soon. So, it makes sense that Skoda has brought out a compact SUV of its own, the Karoq.

The Karoq is basically a scaled-down version of Skoda’s very popular Kodiaq model, the company’s first ever SUV. The Kodiaq can be had with five or seven seats but the more compact Karoq can only be had with five seats.

The Karoq starts at a competitive price of €26,950 for the mid-level ‘Ambition’ models. There is no entry-level model for the Karoq so it is important to bear this in mind when comparing cars. You need to be comparing similarly specced cars in order to see which ones offer the best value.

In terms of size, both the Ateca and Tiguan are rivals for the Karoq, they all share the same platform. The mid-level Ateca starts from €27,330 and the mid-level Tiguan starts from €33,750. In terms of similarly priced rivals, the Peugeot 3008 starts at €26,595 for the entry-level trim – which is so high specced that it compares well to the Karoq’s mid-level trim.

Shane O' Donoghue Shane O' Donoghue

My test car was the top of the range, all-bells-and-whistles, ‘Style’ model powered by a 150hp 2.0-litre diesel TDI version with the seven-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive (priced from €37,765). If you want four-wheel drive (although why would you in a car like this?) then you have to opt for the 2.0-litre diesel engine which can only be had in the more expensive ‘Style’ trim. However, it can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox (from €35,765).

If you are considering the four-wheel drive option, just be aware that it does bump up the weight of the car and this can be felt out on the road. Even without four-wheel drive the Karoq has decent front wheel grip and feels nice and planted.

And speaking of wheels, stick with the smaller 17-inch alloys to improve the ride comfort. The 18-inch wheels do look better, but the ride suffers a little due to the low profile.

Shane O' Donoghue Shane O' Donoghue

The ride quality on the Skoda Karoq is rather good, a bit on the firm side, but if you are comparing cars, the ride isn’t as firm as the SEAT Ateca but it’s not as comfortable as the Volkswagen Tiguan.

There isn’t much in the way of body lean and it just feels nice and safe out on the road. The high driving position and good all-round visibility also add to the confident feeling behind the wheel. The steering is light, a bit too light for my liking, but it does make the car very easy to manoeuvre. The DSG gearbox reacts quickly to throttle inputs and this gearbox is well suited to the smooth four-pot diesel, making for a refined driving experience. A little more cabin insulation would be nice.

Shane O' Donoghue Shane O' Donoghue

In terms of looks, well, I think the familiar Skoda styling suits the smaller Karoq a little less well than the larger Kodiaq. It’s not a bad looking car and has some nice lines and angles, but the styling is a little conservative.

Shane O' Donoghue Shane O' Donoghue

That same conservative feeling is carried over into the cabin. Being a Skoda, the cabin is hugely functional and practical, but I think it is just a lacking a bit of character or interest. Having said that, the 9.2-inch (eight-inch comes as standard) infotainment system is one of the best around as it is so bright, high resolution and easy to use. It gives a cabin a more premium feel.

In terms of space, well this is one of the major plus points of the Karoq. The cabin is very roomy with loads of leg, head and should room and plenty of storage areas. The boot is a massive 521 litres with all seats in place and can expand to 1,630 with the rear seats tumbled.

Shane O' Donoghue Shane O' Donoghue

If you need even more room and want to make the Karoq even more practical and flexible, you can opt for the VarioFlex seating. This €503 optional extra allows the rear seats to slide, recline and be removed totally – essentially turning the Karoq into a van. The VarioFlex seating also allows for the middle seat to be removed to create a more executive rear seating arrangement.

Shane O' Donoghue Shane O' Donoghue

Overall, the Skoda Karoq is a family-friendly compact SUV with a practical cabin and a safe and surefooted driving experience. It is competitively priced and comes well equipped.

If you don’t need four-wheel drive or a large towing capacity, test drive one of the petrol models on 17-inch wheels. If you are looking for a car with a better cabin, check out the Peugeot 3008 and if you want a better ride, and can stretch your budget, take the Volkswagen Tiguan for a test drive.

READ: 5 of the best road trips to take in the UK and British Isles >

READ: Review: The new Ford Focus is the cream of the crop of family hatchbacks >

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