Skoda Karoq SE L: long-term test review

Second report:Bump at rear hasn’t dented SUV’s appeal


Mileage: 1,617
Economy: 36.5mpg

CLANG! Our Skoda Karoq has picked up a battle scar. A Ford S-MAX driver at an adjacent fuel station pump carelessly swung a door open and left a small round dent on the rear passenger door of our Skoda. It’s one of those you’d never spot if you didn’t know about it, but since we know it’s there the little dimple is forever catching the eye.

That mishap aside, it’s been plain sailing for the Karoq. The 1.5 TSI petrol engine is being installed in more and more models from across the VW Group empire and with good reason: it does a fine job of replicating some of the flexibility you get from a diesel while staying impressively hushed and responsive from low revs right through to the red line. It helps make our front-wheel-drive, manual Karoq a lively companion on B-roads with the easy, slick gearchange also adding to the experience.

• Best SUVs 2018

You might want a little less body roll and more direct steering in this kind of driving, but Skoda has done the right thing in prioritising comfort in its small family SUV. The ride is supple and the Karoq isn’t thrown off its stride by bumps or undulations, while the major controls work with a deft lightness that reflects the composure the car offers. From a driving point of view, it’s a really well-judged package.

We’ve done just over 1,600 miles in the Karoq so far and it’s been hovering around the 37mpg mark. You’d probably gravitate towards the (£600 more expensive) 113bhp 1.6 diesel if you were doing lots of miles, but our 148bhp 1.5 is superior in terms of performance. It really is a fine engine that brings an extra sparkle to the Karoq driving experience, so we’d say try it before you buy.

Second report: Skoda Karoq

Mileage: 477
Economy: 37.0mpg

We know the Skoda Karoq is good. Not just good in fact, it’s our Best Mid-Size SUV for 2018. It’s blitzed our road tests and faced off against some highly talented rivals to drive away with the big award in what is one of the most competitive sectors of the UK car market today.

What we don’t know yet is what the Karoq is like to live with for an extended period. Will the sheen on Skoda’s all-conquering crossover be dulled once it comes into contact with a few oily bikes, wet dogs and kids’ crayons? That’s the next stage in our ongoing evaluation of the car and the unsuspecting guinea pig that’s set to get both barrels from the Walker family is the new Skoda Karoq SE L that has joined our fleet.

• Skoda Karoq 1.6 TDI diesel review

It’s a £25,000 car as standard with the lively 1.5-litre TSI 150 petrol engine in the front. With 148bhp, you’re looking at a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds and a 126mph top speed, not that the latter even matters. Officially, average fuel economy is 51.4mpg, but it’s always best to take these official numbers with a pinch of salt. The 37mpg figure I’m getting in mixed driving is respectable, and I’m hoping that this will improve further as the Skoda puts on more miles and the engine and transmission loosen up that little bit more.

Our Moon White Karoq isn’t standard because we felt we should try out some of the more popular options for you. That metallic paint shade is an extra £595, and we’ve also gone for Lane Assist with Blind Spot Detection to improve safety for £850; an important factor in any family crossover.

The electric boot with ‘Virtual Pedal’, which allows you to open the powered hatch by wiggling your foot under the rear bumper, is £650, and looks costly at this early stage.

What seems better value, though, is the £120 Family pack that includes heat-insulating glass in the side windows, powered child locks, a little rubbish bin in the front door pocket and a double-sided protective mat for the boot floor. Every Karoq should have one.

With all the options factored in, we have a £27,494 Skoda that includes the impressive (but prone to collecting smudged fingerprints) eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, leather and Alcantara upholstery. It also has LED headlights and the ubiquitous Skoda umbrella stashed beneath the passenger seat, plus an ice-scraper in the fuel filler door. Clever practical touches.

First impressions are that this is yet another tidy, solid and unfussy Skoda that’s extremely difficult to find serious fault with, unless it’s on the basis that you’d rather drive something with a bit more wow-factor.

There’s no doubt that Skoda plays it safe from a design point of view, but those chiselled exterior lines are unlikely to offend anybody, and inside the fit and finish is first class, while the plush Alcantara seating does bring an element of luxury to the Karoq. On the road the 1.5 TSI petrol engine is refined and punchy when you want it to be, offering strong low-down torque and therefore plenty of flexibility.

The six-speed manual gearbox has a really slick shift action, too, which actually makes the Skoda surprisingly good to drive. It’s helped by the supple and controlled ride, which translates to good body control when cornering, meaning the extra height of the SUV bodystyle isn’t really felt.

However, now that we’ve welcomed the Karoq to the Auto Express fleet, the car’s toughest challenges lie ahead. We’ll see just how accomplished it is as a crossover that needs to take everything life can throw at it in its stride.

If the Karoq has distilled the DNA of the larger Kodiaq into a smaller but no less usable five-seat package, then it’s set to be a sure-fire winner. That’s what I’m looking forward to finding out during my time with our Best Mid-Size SUV.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three penalty points.

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