The Skoda Yeti and Kodiaq were two of my favourite cars of last year. The Yeti, despite some flaws was a characterful utilitarian compact SUV while the Kodiaq simply nailed its blend of space, practicality, comfort and value better than any rival.
Now weâ€™ve got the Karoq, which is a sort of amalgamation of the two.
Despite the Yetiâ€™s continued appeal it didnâ€™t fit with Skodaâ€™s brand direction and was also getting long in the tooth. The Karoq aims to address that by taking a different approach.
From the outside Skodaâ€™s departure from the Yeti is obvious. That carâ€™s boxy, individual looks have been replaced by a shape that looks like a shrunken Kodiaq. Thatâ€™s not a bad thing â€” the bold, sharp lines look good â€” but the fun appearance was one of the Yetiâ€™s big draws.
Bigger than the Yeti, the Karoq is roughly Qashqai sized and priced, looking to take on the Nissan and Seatâ€™s Ateca in the C-SUV segment.
Two of the Yetiâ€™s biggest problems were a poor driving position and some lowish-rent cabin materials. Both issues have been thoroughly sorted with the Karoq.
For a start, the driving position and visibility are excellent. You sit high in comfortable, supportive seats and visibility all around is great.
The interior follows the Skoda pattern of logical layout and high-quality construction. Even SE spec cars get squishy dash tops as well as a pleasantly high-grade mix of high-gloss plastic and metallic details.
As good as the cabin is, our test car suffered from tyre roar from its 19-inch wheels. The ride also felt stiff at times but cars with smaller wheels donâ€™t seem to suffer either problem.
Those issues aside, the Karoq is a great drive. The steering is nicely balanced and body control is impressively flat.
Price: Â£29,265 (as tested)
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed DSG auto
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
CO2 emissions: 127g/km
Unlike the large SUV sector, the Karoqâ€™s class is all about petrol and Skodaâ€™s 148bhp 1.5-litre is expected to be the best-seller. Itâ€™s a great fit â€“ quiet, smooth and packing plenty of punch. The fact that cylinder deactivation allows it to offer real-world economy in the mid-40s is a bonus.
The Karoq is available in three trims: SE SE L and Edition.
Priced from Â£20,875, the SE has plenty of equipment, including 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, front assist with pedestrian detection and autonomous city braking, and an eight-inch media screen. Further up the range come bigger wheels, sat nav, panoramic roof, leather seats and bigger media screens.
It might seem dismissive to describe the Karoq as looking and feeling like a scaled-down Kodiaq but itâ€™s not meant that way. The Karoq has all the qualities of its big brotherâ€” sharp design, solid construction, space and comfort â€” but in a more compact package. Given how well the Kodiaq has done itâ€™s hard not to imagine the Karoq following suit.