Once upon a time the word Skoda was considered more of a punchline to a joke than a serious contender in the new car market, but since being absorbed into the VW Group a number of years ago, Skoda has firmly established itself as a popular and high-quality manufacturer of family cars. Skoda is now a top contender in the market, and those who think otherwise are sorely missing out.
In addition to its now iconic vRS badge denoting its performance models, Skoda has become renowned for building SUVs to meet the public's insatiable demand for tall and rugged-looking cars. For this reason, Skoda has enjoyed great success with the Skoda Karoq SUV since its launch in 2017. It sits right in the middle of Skoda's SUV offering, between the smaller Kamiq and larger Kodiaq SUVs; cars which all have names with Inuit origins.
The Skoda Karoq has an appealing formula of good value, reliability, style and practicality. Skoda has also recently added the all-electric Enyaq to its SUV selection, but for now, the Skoda Karoq is focused on its strong selection of petrol and diesel engines.
Skoda has given the Karoq one very light facelift since its introduction and is about to have a second tweak with the launch of a new Skoda Karoq during 2022. However, Skoda has avoided interfering with its winning formula too much, because the Skoda Karoq is already a market-leading family SUV. As the saying goes: if it isn't broken, don't fix it. This new Skoda Karoq review will delve into the details of the Karoq range, to help you choose the right version of this talented family car for you.
There is no denying that the Skoda Karoq SUV is a handsome car. It is perfectly proportioned and cuts a classy profile on the road. The Karoq follows the Skoda brand design language perfectly and is almost indistinguishable from its larger Kodiaq sibling.
The Skoda shares a lot of its design, technology and mechanicals with the Volkswagen Tiguan and Seat Ateca from elsewhere in the VW Group, and all three are recognisable as siblings when parked together. However, in keeping with the Skoda formula, it sets itself apart from the others by being focused on value for money, conservative but edgy design, and seemingly endless practicality.
The exterior of the Skoda Karoq is tall and chunky in profile, but also stylish and sophisticated. The narrow LED headlights are one of the first things you will notice about the Karoq; they are attractive and modern and give the car a premium appearance. There is nothing loud about the Karoq, even on the more assertively styled Sportline trim. This car is designed to look good but also blend in, and it achieves that balance perfectly. Speaking of Sportline, Skoda has made the decision not to include a vRS model in the range and instead offers the new Skoda Karoq Sportline model to cater for those who enjoy the sporty touches.
The good design extends into the interior, with well thought out ergonomics which ensure that everything is within reach and exactly where you would want it to be. There are also plenty of clever features inside, such as an umbrella inside the door for when you get caught in the rain, and a useful storage tray underneath the front passenger seat. We will look at some more of these little gadgets later on in the review.
The interior style of the Skoda is consistent with the outside, which is to say that it is conservative and discreet, but also attractive and pleasant. The leather steering wheel is chunky and nice to hold, and the switchgear is lit with white backlighting which gives everything a premium feel.
A prominent digital touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard controls the infotainment system, and higher-spec versions of the Karoq also have a virtual cockpit display, which looks good and makes everything feel very modern inside.
The style of the Skoda Karoq changes as you go up the range; the SE L adds luxurious Alcantara front and rear seats and piano black dash trim, and the Sportline model brings sports seats with contrasting stitching.
When you climb aboard the Skoda you will immediately notice the raised driving position, giving you a good view of all corners of the car, and of the road around you. The front and rear seats are comfortable and supportive and are made with high-quality materials.
There is plenty of room inside the Karoq for five people, with lots of headroom and rear legroom for passengers. Even the tallest of people will be able to get comfortable in the rear seats of this car. There are also some extra neat touches for those in the back such as a centre armrest and lunch trays, depending on which trim level you opt for.
The Skoda Karoq is a strict five-seater, so if you need seven seats then you would need to look to the bigger Kodiaq for that. However, for most families, the Karoq's combination of cabin space and cavernous boot space will be more than enough.
Practicality is the order of the day in the Skoda Karoq interior. Higher spec models come with the clever VarioFlex rear seats which have lots of adjustments to give a balance between boot space and passenger space and can be removed entirely to provide a van-like load capacity if you need to transport something large. Skoda is on to a winner with these innovative seats.
Even without this, there is plenty of load-carrying space in the boot, with underfloor storage on some models. All of this combines to place the Skoda Karoq boot space among the most flexible in the sector.
All models feature flip-out lunch trays for rear passengers, and there are plenty of storage bins including huge door pockets, and an extra storage box on the top of the dashboard. Skoda has definitely designed the Karoq with practicality in mind and has achieved this objective perfectly.
The Skoda Karoq SUV does not yet offer electric or hybrid power, but this is not too much of an issue because Skoda has given it the best selection of the VW group's petrol and diesel engines, which offer a great balance between performance and economy. Whatever your engine choice, you will be sure that the Karoq will deliver.
The car comes as standard with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, but on most models, you can also specify four-wheel drive or an automatic gearbox at extra cost.
Entry-level cars come with a peppy Skoda 1.0 TSi turbocharged unit, which initially sounds unappealing given the size of the car until you actually try it. This engine offers 109bhp, which allows it to accelerate reasonably swiftly and keep up with traffic while returning almost 50 miles per gallon. If you don't need any more performance, this is a very flexible and economical choice.
The next petrol engine up the list in the Karoq is the popular Skoda 1.5 TSi turbo, which offers 148bhp and delivers its power smoothly and undramatically. It is clearly much more powerful than the 1.0 litre and this is noticeable through its better acceleration and less effortless performance. The trade-up is that your fuel returns will be nearer the 40mpg mark.
For those who want more performance, look to the Sportline trim level which offers a 2.0 turbocharged unit that returns a lively 187bhp. This isn't available in any other version.
The entry-level Skoda diesel engine offers 114bhp and performs similarly to the petrol equivalent, but with more low down torque as you would expect from a diesel. In return, you will get almost 60mpg if you drive it carefully.
The top-spec Skoda diesel engine is the perennial 2.0 turbo with 148bhp, as seen across the entire VW Group range. It has plenty of grunt for acceleration and overtaking, and will give you around 50 miles per gallon.
All but the entry-level petrols and diesels are also available with a DSG gearbox, for those who like the car to change gears itself. The benefit of the DSG over a traditional automatic is that there is minimal impact on the fuel economy, so it is a largely guilt-free choice, aside from the extra cost.
Some versions of the Skoda also come in four-wheel drive, offering sure-footedness in harsher driving conditions. The extra weight and driven wheels do impact on fuel economy and performance a little
In short, the Skoda is lovely to drive. The elevated driving position from the front seats gives you a great view of the road, and the comfortable cabin makes you feel ensconced in a pleasant environment. The gearchange in the manual gearbox is light but positive, and the optional automatic DSG gearbox is effortless to use. There is also plenty of performance on tap for most situations, thanks to the car's flexible choice of engines. The Skoda is so easy to drive that you can just get in and go without a second thought, and still feel fresh after long journeys. The Karoq also drives nimbly in a way that belies its size and tall profile.
The steering wheel is nicely weighted and gives plenty of feedback, providing confidence without becoming tiresome when you're nipping around town. Skoda have done great things with the car's handling and ride quality, which is smooth and supple without feeling too top-heavy or floaty as you sometimes experience with tall SUVs. Body roll is minimised by slightly stiffer suspension, but this feels perfectly tuned to avoid crashing into bumps or offering a hard ride. However, cars with larger wheels will naturally offer a firmer ride, so if comfort is your priority then look for versions with slightly smaller wheels.
The cabin is well damped and is surprisingly peaceful, with little road, wind or tyre noise, except in really windy conditions when the tall body lends itself to a bit of buffeting. The interior trim materials come into their own here, with little evidence of any rattles or squeaks that might take the edge off the Karoq's peaceful driving experience.
All the controls on board the Skoda Karoq SUV are intuitive, with plenty of tactile switches and an infotainment touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard which is easy to operate. The door mirrors are also notably large and useful, with heating and electric folding functions on most trim levels.
One of the best things about the Skoda Karoq SUV is that, whichever trim level you choose, it will be surprisingly well equipped. This is one thing that Skoda is very good at doing with its cars, and this gives the Karoq a bit of extra appeal over many of its rivals.
Generous features such as sat-nav, DAB radio, connected services, parking sensors, alloy wheels, climate control and folding tables behind the front seats are provided by Skoda as standard across the range, as well as a raft of safety equipment including airbags and ABS. Depending on their tastes and needs, prospective Skoda Karoq owners can then choose from the five main specification levels, and can also sample the options list for some extra toys or packages.
The entry-level model in the Skoda Karoq range is known as the Karoq SE, which comes in a number of versions. First up is the Karoq SE Technology. It comes as standard with 17" alloy wheels, privacy glass, LED daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation and adaptive cruise control. A chunky black front bumper and rear bumper give it a hardy and capable image.
The Skoda Karoq SE Drive comes in at a very similar price and adds some extra gadgets including a rearview camera and both front and rear parking sensors.
The Skoda Karoq SE L steps up the luxury over the SE Technology and SE Drive a bit with 18" alloy wheels, full LED headlights, Alcantara upholstery, the endlessly useful VarioFlex seats, heated driver and passenger seat, electric heated and folding door mirrors, and keyless entry and start.
Unfortunately, Skoda has not added a vRS model to the Karoq range as it has done with the larger Kodiaq, but worry not. There is more to this car than just the Karoq SE version. Those hankering after some performance touches will be catered for by the new Skoda Karoq Sportline model, with extras including 19" anthracite-coloured alloy wheels, sport front and rear bumpers, a panoramic sunroof, sports seats with bespoke stitching, aluminium pedals and an electric tailgate.
The range-topper is the Karoq Edition, with individual 19" alloys, leather upholstery, electric adjustment for lumbar, an upgraded satellite navigation system, a panoramic sunroof, lane assist with blind-spot detection, and wireless phone charging.
Skoda also launched the Skoda Karoq Scout 4x4 in 2019, which was pitched just above the SE L. It came with more rugged off-road styling and wood interior trim panels, but otherwise had the same ride height and similar equipment to other models in the Karoq range. The Skoda Karoq Scout proved to be a bit of a niche car and there aren't many about, but if you've had fond experience of the Skoda Yeti or Skoda Octavia Scout in the past, this may be right up your street (or dirt track, if you prefer).
The new Skoda Karoq is made using tried and tested parts from the VW Group, so it has an excellent pedigree for reliability. The owners have spoken out about this popular car, with Skoda regularly featuring in the JD Power top ten list of the most reliable cars, and the Skoda Karoq itself coming in a very impressive 5th place in the coveted Auto Express Driver Power survey in 2021. These are some fantastic accolades that speak volumes for how good this car really is.
Your Skoda should be a faithful and reliable companion for many years and miles if you look after it. It is essential to keep up with the servicing schedule so that all routine checks are completed and wearable parts such as timing belts are replaced on time. Diesel-powered cars can suffer from blocked diesel particulate filters, so do take the car on a long journey now and then to keep this clear.
In terms of safety, the Skoda Karoq scored the full five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, with an impressive 93% score for adult occupant safety, 79% for child occupants, 73% for pedestrians and 58% for safety assist systems. If the 58% concerns you then Skoda does offer some optional safety systems which you can add to increase safety even more, such as lane assist and blind-spot warning systems.
Overall, if you are looking for a safe, reliable and dependable car, the Skoda Karoq makes for a very sensible choice.
Prices for the Skoda Karoq start at a reasonable £23,720 for the entry-level SE Technology, rising to £24,520 for the SE Drive and to £26,265 for the more luxurious SE L. There is then a larger jump in price point to the Sportline at £29,695, and the Edition at the top of the tree costing £30,890 on the road. These are the base prices, but it is highly likely that most buyers will plump for some extras on their car including metallic paint or some of the option packs.
The medium-sized SUV car market is among the most competitive of all, as buyers seek a combination of style, practicality and safety for their families. Manufacturers seemingly cannot launch and build new cars fast enough to keep up with the sheer demand, and this has led to a massive choice of SUVs in this sector. So, out of all of these, why should you choose a Skoda Karoq over any of the other cars?
The new Skoda Karoq has been in the market since 2017 and has proven itself to be a capable and desirable choice of car. It has won many awards across the industry and has been so successful that Skoda has avoided changing it other than making some minor tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
With its blend of attractive looks, practicality, capability and reliability, the Skoda Karoq has quickly become one of the most desirable cars on the road. Whether you are looking for one of the excellent value Karoq SE cars, or the edgier Sportline car, this good value SUV has the right combination to suit you.