Skoda SUVs have had a lukewarm welcome in India, right from the Yeti in 2010, which was a car far ahead of its time; to the Kodiaq which was launched in 2016. But there were lessons learnt from both these launches and based on its learnings from the Kodiaq, because it was the better received of the two in the country, Skoda introduced the replacement for the Yeti - the more compact, contemporary and stylish Karoq. Based on the same platform as the Kodiaq (VW's MQB) it wouldn't have been cost-effective for the company to bring the SUV to India via the CKD (Completely Knocked Down) route, as it did with the Kodiaq
However, in 2018, the Government of India revised its import duty policies allowing each manufacturer to annually import 2,500 units of foreign-made vehicles, which already comply with international regulations, without homologation. And Skoda jumped onto the opportunity to bring the Karoq here. In fact, Skoda even invited us to Czech Republic last year to offer us a small taste of the Karoq, at its home turf, and you can read all about it here. Earlier this year, in May 2020 the company finally launched the SUV in India, and we've finally got our hands on the car.
Design and Styling
You look at the SUV and it is clear as day that the Skoda Karoq's design is heavily inspired by the company's flagship SUV, Kodiaq. In fact, one might say it's essentially a downsized version of the latter, and that's certainly not a bad thing. Now the model we drove last year was the special Sportline trim, however, the Karoq launched in India is the regular trim. This means all that glossy black exterior elements, sporty body-coloured bumper, and the deep red paint job, have been replaced by body-coloured or chrome elements, black cladding and a more sober colour palette, respectively. Having said that, the SUV comes in only one, fully loaded, top-spec variant that gets all the bells and whistles.
Upfront, the Karoq gets the signature butterfly grille, flanked by a set of rectangular LED headlights with Skoda's crystalline design elements and integrated LED daytime running lamps. Below, you have the familiar trapezoidal foglamps as well. The bumper houses a wide airdam and it also comes with black underbody cladding that is extended onto the sides as well. The SUV runs on a set of 17-inch dual-tone Aronia alloy wheels that get this sporty twin-5-spoke V design pattern. The SUV also gets a pair of silver roof rails that are very much functional, along with a set of LED taillights that come with distinctive C-shaped guide lights. Also, unlike the model we drove earlier, the India-spec Karoq gets the new brand logo with the large Skoda lettering on the tailgate and yes it's a nice touch.
Also Read: Skoda Rapid 1.0-Litre TSI Review
Interior and Cabin Features
Step inside, and you'll be welcomed by a premium looking beige and black dual-tone cabin that comes with great fit and finish. While the cabin is certainly signature Skoda, the carmaker has made ample use of soft-touch plastic in designing the dashboard and door panels, plus the steering wheel and gear lever too come wrapped in leather. We would have liked a flat-bottom steering wheel similar to the one in the Sportline variant we tested last year because it looks so sporty. Nonetheless, this comes with controls for audio, voice command, cruise control and the rest of the features of the virtual cockpit, which can be accessed by the fully digital TFT infotainment display. However, the centre of attraction is the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which comes with more intuitive animations, live image icons, and the SmartLink system that features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. You also get navigation that can be displayed on the instrument cluster.
Also Read: Skoda Kodiaq TSI Petrol BS6 Launch Delayed
The SUV also comes with a dual-zone Climatronic air conditional system with Air Care function the uses sensors to measure the interior air quality and humidity and automatically recirculates the air if excessive air pollution is detected. Oh yes, the Karoq also comes with a large panoramic sunroof. As for the seats, they are well-bolstered and come draped in beige leather upholstery. You also get a 12-way electrically adjustable driver seat with programmable memory functions and lumbar support.
However, Skoda has missed out on features like ventilated seats or even a wireless phone charger, which are now offered in lower segment SUVs as well. Also, there are no media buttons at the rear, which means if you are going to spend more time at the back seat, then you will need the help of your chauffeur to control the audio system, Air-Con system or even the sunroof. The rear seats comes with a 60:40 split with adjustable headrest and three-point seatbelts for all three passengers, although if only two people are sitting at the back then you can pull out the foldable central armrest for a bit more comfort. The armrest also comes with cup holders, and below the rear AC vents, there is a 12-Volt charging socket as well. There is ample amount of leg, knee and headroom at the back, and the larger windows certainly add to the sense of roominess.
The Karoq comes with a large, 521-litre boot space, which is big enough to fit a couple of large suitcases, plus it also comes with additional side hooks to hang your shopping bags. If you need more space than the luggage area can be extended up to 1,630-litre by folding down the rear seats. In comparison, the now discontinued Skoda Kodiaq used to offer a 270-litre boot space with all 7-seats in the upright position, but with an option to expand it up to 630-litre or 2005-litre, by folding the 3rd and 2nd rows respectively.
Considering the Skoda Karoq comes in only one top-spec variant, the list of standard safety features on offer is extensive. For starters, the SUV comes with 9 airbags in total, including dual front airbags, side airbags at front and rear, driver knee airbag as well as curtain airbags at front and rear, which itself is a segment benchmark. Then you have features like ABS with EBS, Electronic Stability Control MBA (Mechanical Brake Assist), MKB (Multi Collision Brake), HBA (Hill Brake Assist), ASR (Anti Slip Regulation), EDS (Electronic Differential Lock), and an electromechanical parking brake with Auto Hold function. You also get tyre pressure monitoring system, front and rear parking sensors, rear camera, keyless entry and, of course, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps as well.
Engine and Transmission
The Skoda Karoq is powered by the same 1.5-litre turbocharged TSI petrol engine that we had tested last year in Prague, however, the difference here is that the engine is now BS6 compliant. Having said that, the engine makes the same 148 bhp, however, it likes to be revved hard, and it feels alive only above 3000 rpm, while peak power is achieved somewhere around 6000 rpm. As for the torque, the engine develops a peak out of 250 Nm, and it is available from as low as 1500 rpm and goes all the way up to 3500 rpm, thus offering a good low- and mid-range.
The Karoq also nicely bridges the gap between being a comfortable highway cruiser and a convenient urban SUV. The engine feels bulletproof and can cover long kilometres, all day long, without breaking a sweat, and at the same time, it also maintains its refined nature in stop-and-go-traffic of the city. And all this is brought together by the tried and tested 7-speed DSG automatic transmission, which also comes with a manual mode with paddle shifters. While you do feel it when the gear, but the gearbox is quite precise and it does a fine job of sending power to the front wheels. That's right, the India-spec model is not an all-wheel drive model.
While driving in the city you can just leave it in automatic mode and let the DSG unit do what it does best. But out on the highway there's a desire to engage yourself more with the car and that's where the paddle shifters come in handy. Oh, before I forget, the SUV also comes with Idle Stop-Start function, which should help you conserve some fuel.
Ride and Handling
In terms of ride and handling, we have to say, the Karoq just feels perfect. Initially, you might feel that the suspension is set a bit on the stiffer side, but after spending some time driving the car you get used to it. That's also because the Karoq literally glides over rough patches easily, and unless it's a big pothole, you barely feel the undulations on the road. The SUV feels planted, especially around corners, and its compact proportions make it very manageable in traffic and narrow roads. Furthermore, the steering also weighs up nicely and offers good feedback, imparting more confidence in the driver.
As for the NVH levels, I have to say, it's certainly one the quietest cabins I have experienced in recent times. Skoda has done a fine job of insulating the SUV, and there are times when you can barely hear even the engine noise unless you were flooring the accelerator to listen to that beautiful rumble of the turbocharged motor. However, as already mentioned, unlike the global spec model which also gets All Wheel Drive (AWD) option, the India-spec Karoq is Front Wheel Drive (FWD) only.
The Skoda Karoq comes to India as a completely built unit and thus has a premium price tag attached to it - ₹ 24.99 lakh (ex-showroom, India). In comparison, its counterpart from Volkswagen India, the T-Roc, is cheaper by ₹ 5 lakh, however, it is smaller and looks a bit crossover-ish in front of the Karoq. Also, the T-Roc's cabin is not as premium and spacious as its Czech cousin. On the other hand, the top-spec petrol variants of the Jeep Compass and Hyundai Tucson are cheaper by ₹ 3 lakh and ₹ 1.5 lakh respectively. So, yes, the Karoq is the most expensive petrol SUV in this segment. However, for that price, you get a capable and very comfortable SUV that offers a host of premium features, and a powerful turbo petrol engine. To top it all, the carmaker is also offering its 4 years / 100,000 Km warranty and the Skoda Shield Plus that offers 6 years warranty, 6 years road-side assistance and 4 years maintenance package with the Karoq.
While the SUV does make a strong case for itself, Skoda could have certainly gone with a more aggressive pricing strategy given the fact that the Karoq is the only SUV in its portfolio right now and the competition is tough. So yes, the Karoq is a bit expensive, and if that's a deal-breaker for you, then the Compass and the Tucson facelift offer more value on paper, and if you do not mind missing out on some features then the T-Roc is worth considering as a cheaper alternative. However, we'll soon test the Tucson and the T-Roc as well, and then, we'll be able to tell you which is the best option.