As the first product to come out of Skoda’s India 2.0 strategy, the Kushaq has a lot riding on its shoulders. Does it have enough substance to match the expectation?
The latest offering from Skoda – the Kushaq – gets its name from the Sanskrit word kushak, which means ‘king’. Having worked on its development for more than three years, Skoda is quite positive and confident that the Kushaq will live up to its name. The Kushaq, then, just like a king, has a huge responsibility to shoulder – that of leading the India 2.0 strategy’s assault and establishing a stronghold in the mid-size SUV space. The real question, however, is whether the Kushaq has what’s needed to dominate the segment? We spent some time with the top-spec 1.5 TSI variant of the SUV, with a 6-speed manual transmission, to find out the answer.
Inspired by the Vision IN concept, the Kushaq has an uncluttered and clean-cut exterior design. The new butterfly grille with a thick chrome surround gives it a very distinct face, while the ridges on the bonnet, culminating into the front-end, give it a signature Skoda appeal. Certain design elements also seem to be influenced by the larger Kodiaq – for instance, the vertically stacked twin-light setup and L-shaped faux air dams on the bumper. The black and silver details on the bumper add a sense of sportiness to the overall design, and the prominent character lines and 17- inch Atlas alloys (on our test car) do well to make the car look lean. The neatly chiselled tailgate is further embellished by the intricate detailing on the LED taillight, which also adds to the overall elegance of the Kushaq.
A quick glance at the Kushaq is enough for you to notice that it’s shorter in length and width than some of its rivals. While it doesn’t quite affect the space inside the cabin – we’ll come to it in a bit – it does have an impact on the boot capacity, which is considerably smaller than that of its rivals. Now, give that size is a major influencing factor amongst SUV buyers, it’s possible that the Kushaq’s relatively compact dimensions may drive away a few buyers.
Interior and Features:
While the Kushaq’s exterior does feel a bit compact, its interior is surprisingly spacious. The 2,561mm wheelbase translates into an ample amount of space, even for taller passengers, at the back. Old Skoda cars had compromised leg room, owing to a large transmission tunnel, but the Kushaq, thankfully, has done well to get rid of it. The smaller dimensions of the car, however, do reflect in its boot capacity, which is just 385 litres – nearly 50 litres less than that of the segment’s best-seller, the Hyundai Creta.
The multi-layered dash gives the Kushaq’s interior a unique appeal, and the use of different textures adds to the overall sportiness of the cabin. However, the use of grainy plastics at the bottom half of the dash and on the door pads diminishes the richness of the interior a bit.
The front seats offer reasonable comfort, but the side bolstering could have been better. Just like the Superb and Octavia, the Kushaq, too, gets a two-spoke steering wheel, which really makes the cabin look premium. While the Kushaq gets analogue speedo and tacho read-outs, it has a digital MID in the centre. We got our hands on the Style trim of the Kushaq, which comes with a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, equipped with wireless SmartLink and some basic connected tech via the mySkoda app.
In terms of features, the Kushaq gets LED lighting, ambient lighting, ventilated front seats, climate control, and a sunroof. It does, however, miss out on some basic tech like electrically adjustable driver seat and some new-age connectivity features, like remote starting / cooling function. In fact, it even misses out on meaningful ‘Simply Clever’ features. While it does get a ticket holder on the A-pillar, phone pockets on the front seatback, easy-open bottle holders, and some more, they are simply not clever enough, especially in comparison to other Skoda offerings. Safety, however, remains a priority for Skoda – the Kushaq comes with a long list of safety equipment, like six airbags, ISOFIX, hill-hold function, multi-collision braking, and tyre pressure monitoring. Skoda also offers ESC as standard on all variants of the Kushaq – a first-in-class feature.
Engine and Transmission:
The Kushaq is offered with two petrol engines – a 1.0-litre TSI unit borrowed from the Rapid and a larger 1.5-litre TSI. There is no diesel engine on offer. Both engines come paired with a 6-speed manual as standard. While the 1.0 TSI gets an option of a 6-speed torque converter, the 1.5 TSI can be had with the renowned 7-speed DSG.
We only got a chance to test the 1.5-litre TSI with the 6-speed manual. The engine makes 148bhp and 250Nm – the same as that of the Karoq – but this is the first time we’ve tested this motor with a manual. From a standstill, you notice that there is a bit of turbo lag, and the engine only starts to feel sufficiently punchy once the tacho needle crosses the 2,000rpm mark. From there on, however, the power delivery is meaty, and the Kushaq feels amply spirited. Skoda claims that the Kushaq can cross the 100km/h mark in just 8.6 seconds. And although we haven’t tested it yet, we think it could get pretty close to that figure in the real world. While the engine offers plenty of pulling power and is eager to go right up to its 6,000rpm redline, it tends to get a bit noisy beyond 4,500rpm.
The 6-speed manual transmission does well to compensate for the lack of poke in the lower rev range. You can really move up the gears quickly and maintain speeds of around 50 – 55km/h in fifth gear, without the engine quivering in discomfort. This nature of the transmission does demand a downshift or two when you need to make a quick overtake. Its short and precise throws, however, make shifting between cogs quite a breeze. The clutch action is light but a bit springy for my liking.
Ride and Handling:
The ride quality of the Kushaq is indeed a pleasant surprise. Our shoot location demanded a drive over some seriously rough terrain, but the Kushaq cushioned everything amazingly. The 188mm of ground clearance was sufficient enough, with the exception of one unusually large hump – the underbelly, however, suffered no scrapes throughout our drive.
The Kushaq is based on Skoda’s MQB-A0-IN platform – a heavily adapted version of the popular MQB platform, which also underpins cars like the Octavia and the Superb. The rigid chassis and well-tuned suspension make the Kushaq surefooted and confident around corners. You do feel some lateral movement around bends at high speeds, but it doesn’t feel loose or disorderly by any means. The steering is predictable but a little too light for my liking – a little more heft would have been welcome. The top-of-the-line Style trim that we drove was fitted with 17-inch alloys wrapped with 205 / 55 Goodyear Assurance Triplemax 2 rubber. During our drive, even in the wet conditions, the tyres seemed to perform their duties without much drama.
The Kushaq is the first product to come out of Skoda’s India 2.0 strategy, and it’s mighty impressive. It looks the part – both outside and inside – and is amply comfortable. The 1.5 TSI offers good performance and tractability. Yes, it does have a few downsides, like the fit-and-finish of certain parts in the cabin and the absence of some key features, to name a few.
And while the lower-spec 1.0 TSI variants are priced reasonably well, the presence of the 1.5 TSI could have made them even more competitive. Overall, it’s the ride-and-handling balance that gives the king enough power and strength to hold its ground in the mid-size SUV battle and makes it a force to reckon with.
- Skoda Kushaq 1.5 TSI
Engine: 1.5-litre / four-cylinders / turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual / Front-wheel drive
Power: 148bhp @ 5,000rpm
Torque: 250Nm @ 1,500rpm
X-Factor: Easily the most well-balanced and surefooted offering in its class.
• Ride & handling