The arrival of the Kushaq marks the beginning of Skoda’s ‘India 2.0’ program. To give us a taste of what to expect from the Kushaq, Skoda India took us on a short drive with two of its testing prototypes.
The Kushaq is the first product to be launched by Skoda under their India 2.0 program. Based on an India-specific version of the much-acclaimed MQB platform, the Kushaq features a wheelbase of 2,651mm, and we expect it to be around 4.3 metres in length. Of course, the prime target of the Kushaq will be the highly successful Korean duo – the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos.
Powering the Kushaq will be a petrol-only powertrain with a choice of two turbocharged engines, 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre. Both engines will be available with 6-speed manual gearboxes, and while the 1.0-litre will offer a 6-speed torque converter automatic, the 1.5-litre will be offered with a 7-speed DSG gearbox. Sure, fans of diesel engines will be disappointed to know that the Kushaq will not be offered with a diesel variant, but with emissions regulations tightening up, Skoda India says that launching a diesel version of the Kushaq doesn’t make sense in the long term.
To address some concerns with Skoda products – mainly cost of spare parts and ownership – and to reduce overall cost, the Kushaq will be highly localized, featuring 92% localization at its launch and going up to 95% at a later stage. This, of course, will mean that customers can expect an improved ownership experience with the Kushaq. At the same time, the Kushaq will not skimp on standard equipment with the Kushaq featuring up to 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control as standard on all variants, automatic headlights and wipers and much more.
In our brief test drive, we drove the 1.0-litre manual and 1.5-litre DSG automatic versions and I’m happy to say that from the get-go, the Kushaq feels like a terrific car to drive. Even though the cars we were driving were pre-production and the final setup was still being tweaked, the overall ride and handling balance of the Kushaq were on point. I was particularly impressed with the 1.0-litre engine, which features excellent refinement and is quite powerful.
The other thing that impressed me was that right from the minute we started driving, is that the Kushaq feels really nimble on its feet and doesn’t feel like it’s carrying extra mass. This naturally means that the dynamic setup of the chassis and suspension is quite well done, and the body roll is very well controlled. And while the ride can be slightly on the stiffer side, but I think that’s a good compromise given the advantages it offers in the handling department. And talking about comfort, the interiors of the Kushaq offer quite a bit of room, and the rear seat features what I think will be class-leading leg and headroom.
In fact, I would go as far as saying that if my initial driving impressions are correct, the Kushaq at the time of its launch could easily be the Driver’s car of choice in its segment. And, you won’t have to wait very long for the Kushaq as it will make its global debut in late March this year, followed by the official launch in India in April.