Deciphering old riddle with Skoda's Karoq crossover
Nice engine and touches but MPG only fair
It's funny the way the mind works all the same. There I was driving the new compact SUV from Skoda, the Karoq, and a riddle my father told us flashed into the old brain. It went something (stress something) like: "A man walked up a hill but yet he ran. How can this be?" Of course it was a play on the words 'yet he'.
The answer was: "Yeti (!!) was his dog's name." I know it was childish in the extreme but being young and innocent, we loved being able to puzzle visitors with it for a while. (I admit I taught it to my own children, but it never held much fascination for them.)
Anyway, there I was driving the new Karoq and I distinctly remember thinking: "Old Yeti left a big footprint all the same." In this specific case, of course, it was Yeti the blocky, upright utility crossover/SUV that Skoda made from 2009.
Maybe as a reflection of the really tough times back then, people bought into its hard-wearing ability and overlooked the finer points of design. It quickly earned itself a cult following. But now it's gone; disappeared into the mists of time like a different Yeti. Creating new footsteps is its Karoq successor.
And I think the Karoq's arrival offers a perspective of the mountainous change and expectations we have witnessed in motoring (and everywhere else for that matter) in less than a decade.
Skoda were relatively late getting to the new-world, exponentially expanding SUV market, but one benefit was the opportunity to see, and improve on, what others were doing.
Its first major SUV, the large 5/7-seater Kodiaq, was such an instant hit that people had to wait many, many months to get one.
So the Karoq, a smaller version in many ways (rivals: Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Qashqai) should have nearly everything a modern crossover/SUV needs? Well, yes and no.
Just for the record the five-seater Karoq is 160mm longer, 48mm wider and boasts a 60mm bigger wheelbase than the good old Yeti. There is 40mm more room at front, 14mm at the rear and a 521-litre class-topping boot.
It is, of course, far more than a series of bigger-n-better attributes. It's a sculpted, stylish, modern-looking crossover (2WD, 4WD) too, with a cabin of not just decent space but sensible dash layout/instrumentation design and integration.
It's a cliché, but pertinent nonetheless, that there's a great driving position, the sort people expect - it is one of the main reasons SUVs are so popular.
Others aboard are well catered for too, though rear-seat room in practical application was a bit disappointing for some. That was even with the rear seats pushed back to the limit (the car has the optional Varioflex seating adjustment system).
One long, long day at the wheel to and from the south east showed how important good seats can be (excellent in this), though adjusting the front seat to suit me took long enough sporadically.
The quality of materials around the cabin was as good as most in its class, especially in areas you see and touch frequently. A vast improvement on Yeti, for sure, but an absolute 'must' in today's discerning market.
The central touchscreen for connectivity/infotainment, as well as Voice Control, took care of most demands. Voice Control worked well but I was not 100pc happy with its name recognition compared with Ford's Sync 3 system.
There is a forest of little-and-large stowage and cubbyholes around the cabin while my test car had iPad holders for rear-seat occupants - there's no doubting Skoda know their market.
The engine in the review car was a gem of a 1.5-litre petrol: quiet, smooth and powerful. I wouldn't be madly impressed with its fuel consumption, though. They claim the equivalent of 52mpg: Not a hope in realistic, everyday driving. However, if you're doing 15,000km or fewer it makes real sense. Just remember, fuel consumption isn't the be-all and end-all because petrol cars usually cost less than diesel to buy so you'll do a lot of driving to make up the difference on MPG.
On the road, my Karoq was particularly adept at soaking up bumps and humps and was at ease at motorway cruise speed. There was a steadiness and pliancy that would only have been dreamed of in Yeti times.
Overall then, the Karoq is a good blend of key factors: looks, equipment, drive and convenience. Yet for some reason I didn't warm to it as I did the larger Kodiaq (or old Yeti). That's due to being spoilt with so much in our cars these days - we want more, and exceptional, all the time.
And yet it is easy to answer the ultimate riddle for the Karoq: would I change it for a Yeti?
No, I most certainly would not.
FACTS & FIGURES
Skoda Karoq 1.5-litre petrol compact SUV, 150bhp, 6spd, €270 tax, 5.4l/100km.
Price (excl options, incl delivery: €32,915). Range from €27,715.
Test car spec: dual-zone air con, 18ins alloys, Columbus satnav/ 9.2ins t/screen, WLAN connectivity, infotainment online, DAB radio, SIM card slot, park distance control/rear-view camera, light/rain assist, Smartlink + voice activation, LED headlights, fog lights. Extras: adaptive cruise control, lane/traffic assist. Style Plus Pack: electric tailgate, rear-seat tablet holders, sunroof. Comfort Pack: leather interior, Varioflex seating, reversible bootmat, 'Phonebox'/wireless charger.