The Skoda Karoq has massive shoes to fill. Pegged as a replacement to the Yeti, it has to be similarly engaging to drive and at the same time conform to the tastes of SUV buyers. Can the Karoq deliver?
Half a decade ago, Skoda wasn’t quite focused on SUVs. The Yeti was the only one they had on offer and it was a highly underrated product. It had great built quality, superb dynamics and decent off-road ability. But the Yeti did miss the boat in a few areas - first, it didn’t have a conventional SUV design. Its van-like silhouette didn’t go too well with SUV buyers. Second, it wasn’t available with an automatic transmission option. And finally, the price-to-size ratio wasn’t the best to say the least.
With limited takers for the Yeti, Skoda was forced to discontinue it in 2017. Later that year, they revealed plans of replacing it with this, the Karoq. It is scheduled to be launched in India towards the end of the year and we’ve got a chance to drive at Skoda’s global Headquarters in Mlada Boleslav.
Fans of the eccentric design of the Yeti will be somewhat disappointed with the Karoq. Shaped like a conventional SUV, the Karoq looks like a scaled-down version of the Kodiaq. Skoda has clearly played it safe in the design department this time around. While the Karoq’s conventional design won’t make you fall in love with it, there is no denying that it’s ‘SUV-ish’ design is sure to appeal to a larger audience – at least in comparison to the Yeti.
At the front, the Karoq gets a bold grille that has become a signature of all Skoda cars, horizontally stacked headlights with LED DRLs and a wide front bumper. It’s when you look at the Karoq from the side, that you notice that it is considerably smaller than the Kodiaq. In comparison to the Yeti though, the Karoq is longer and wider. I’m not a huge fan of how the car looks from the back. In all the sharpness of the design, the boot-lid has a marginally curvy profile – something that doesn’t sync well with the rest of the design.
If you’ve seen the Kodiaq, the interior of the Karoq will surely look familiar. The steering is an identical three-spoke unit, the climate control buttons are the same, and it also gets vertically placed air-con vents. The shape of the dashboard, however, is different. Taking centre stage is a large 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment unit that comes paired to a 12-speaker audio system.
The front seats are well crafted with good support for your torso, bottom and thighs. This should make spending long hours in the driver’s seat a rather comfortable affair. You sit high in the cabin, which gives you a wide view from behind the wheel. The cabin is high on the practicality quotient too. There are a few cubby holes around, door pockets that can hold large 1 litre bottles, and there’s also a tiny trash bin on the driver’s side. The Karoq also comes with wireless a charging function. Build quality feels solid, just like you’d expect from a Skoda offering.
Space at the back isn’t in surplus, but there’s sufficient knee and headroom for comfort. With three passengers at the back, there may be a struggle for shoulder room. Moreover, the transmission tunnel hump and the rear air-con vents intrude into the knee room. But the Karoq shines bright in the practicality department thanks to the VarioFlex seats at the back – a feature that was also in the Yeti. The 40:20:40 split seats of the Karoq allows multiple permutations and combinations. You can fold and tumble the rear seats for more boot space, and if that still isn’t enough for you, they can even be removed completely. The centre seat at the back of the Karoq can also be removed to make more shoulder room at the back. All of this really makes the Karoq a sensible and practical option. Just like the Kodiaq, this one too gets removable boot light and an umbrella too. The Karoq also features a rear-seat facing phone/tablet holder on the front head restraints, a tray for the rear passengers and several hooks to hang some luggage. It, unfortunately, misses out on the other ‘simply clever’ features that we’ve seen on its larger sibling.
Engine, performance and Ride:
In the global market, the Karoq comes with a choice of two diesel and two petrol engine options. The one that we got our hands on was the 2.0-litre diesel, the same as the Kodiaq. In this car too, it produces a similar 148bhp and 340Nm. The Karoq’s torque band is wide, ranging between 1,750-3,000rpm. There is a bit of lag before the torque kicks in, but once you cross the 1,800rpm the car pulls cleanly. The Karoq is around 300kilos lighter than the Kodiaq which really shows in the way it performs. Acceleration definitely feels quicker and it reflects in the 0-100km/h timing too. Skoda claims that the Karoq can do the dash in just 8.8 seconds, one second faster than its 7-seat sibling. The Karoq feels really strong in its mid-range which makes overtaking quite an easy affair. Push the car further and it starts to get a bit noisy and the performance diminishes too.
One of the primary reasons for the limited sales of the Yeti was the absence of an automatic transmission variant. Skoda will not be making the same mistake this time. The Karoq comes mated with a 7-speed DSG. Gear shifts are as smooth as we’ve always known them to be in the other Volkswagen Group models.
Handling isn’t the Karoq’s strongest points – it doesn’t feel as engaging to drive as its larger sibling or even the Yeti for that matter. That being said, it isn’t a complete slouch either. We’d have liked a little better feel from the steering wheel. Switching to the Sport mode does add some amount of weight to the steering, but that still doesn’t make up for the lack of communication. Our test vehicle sat on 20-inch wheels which made the ride quite rough. The India-sped model is likely to sit on smaller wheels and that should improve its ability to tackle bad roads.
With the Karoq, Skoda has made sure that they don’t make the same mistakes they made with the Yeti. They have given it a conventional SUV-like design, added automatic transmission, and kept it relevant in terms of features and equipment too. The engine performs up to expectations and the car feels composed too. Skoda has officially announced that the Karoq will make its way to India around mid-2020. It will be brought via the CBU route, so expect its price to be on the higher side to start with. Leaving the price aside, will the Karoq be a good car to have in the segment? Definitely! But is it a great successor to the renowned Yeti? Maybe not!
- Skoda Karoq
Engine: 1,968cc / 4-cylinder / 16-valves / turbocharged
Transmission: 7-Speed Automatic / All-wheel Drive
Power: 148bhp @ 3,500-4,500rpm
Torque: 340Nm @ 1,750-3,000rpm