The VW T-Roc arrived first and was followed soon enough by the Skoda Karoq – both compact to midsize SUVs – depending how you see them – either by size or price. It was last year when I first told you about the Volkswagen Group's SUV offensive for India, which was to be led by Skoda India. VW Group brands Skoda, Volkswagen and Audi had planned to bring us least 10 new SUVs in India between 2020 and 2021. The Tiguan AllSpace, Audi Q2, and our two protagonists are the first four. So these are very important models for each of their brands. More in terms of reputation, setting benchmarks and getting the buyers' attention, than actual sales.
Both SUVs are based on the versatile MQB platform, and both come to India as completely built units or CBU models
We have had examples of platform-shared products from the VW Group in the past with the Skoda Rapid (+Fabia) and Volkswagen Vento (+Polo). They were pretty much the same car with just a few things changed around to turn them into different models. It's not the same story here with the T-Roc and the Karoq – thank God! They do share a platform; their drivetrain too, but there is a whole lot that separates them. So while they are related they are certainly not identical. Both SUVs are based on the versatile MQB platform, and both come to India as completely built units or CBU models. Luckily their pricing is still reasonably competitive despite that.
The T-Roc is compact and more cross-over like
These SUVs look nothing like one another. The T-Roc is compact and more crossover-like. It is very stylish and urban in its look. The Karoq is bigger and borrows its styling from Skoda's flagship SUV Kodiaq. That gives it the more conventional SUV proportion and stance. The Karoq is longer by 148 mm, wider by 22 mm and taller by 51 mm. Significantly, its wheelbase is also longer by 48 mm, which ultimately translates to more cabin space, but we'll get to that in a bit.
he Karoq is bigger and borrows its styling from Skoda's flagship SUV Kodiaq
Both come with excellent paint finishes and build quality, and both have LED headlights, daytime running lights (DRLs), and taillights. They each have some chrome exterior detail to help highlight their premium appeal. The Karoq looks more muscular and as I said has the SUV presence, while the T-Roc with its two-tone roof makes for more individual style and flair. Both cars get 17-inch dual tone alloy wheels.
Now let's get them on the road. Here too the two could not be more different. The Karoq has a great driving position and gives you a commanding view of the road. The steering is particularly great and you also get excellent ride quality. It is really comfortable, and yet you instantly feel like you are in an SUV. The Karoq is also very sporty and energetic in its feel, but the only downside that comes from having a bigger, slightly heavier car is that the mileage gets affected. Claimed fuel efficiency on the Karoq is 15 kmpl – a lot lower than the T-Roc's 17.85 kmpl.
Both SUVs are powered by the same 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine
Both SUVs are powered by the same 1.5-litre TSI, turbocharged petrol engine, which is tuned to make about 148 brake horsepower, and 250 Newton metres of peak torque. Both also come mated to a 7-speed DSG automatic transmission as standard.
The T-Roc and the Karoq both come with a 7-Speed DSG
The engine likes to be revved hard, and maximum power is achieved somewhere around 6000 rpm, while peak torque kicks in from as low as 1500 rpm, going all the way up to 3000 rpm. The low- and mid-range performance is pretty good, but the T-Roc suffers from a slight hestitation in instant acceleration on the downshift in lower gears. It is not noticeable enough to bother you.
The whole focus though is on comfort in both cars. You have great ride quality, it's a very smooth and refined experience the way the gearbox and engine perform as well, and so the big difference is how the T-Roc feels. You really feel like you are driving a car, a sedan or a hatch – but not so much an SUV! A lot of people who are accustomed to driving smaller compact cars or even sedans will actually appreciate about the T-Roc more.
The larger proportions of the Karoq are apparent in its very spacious cabin. It feels airier as well because of its larger windows and the panoramic sunroof that extends all the way above the rear seats. The dash is simple and clean in its design layout. The equipment is well configured to match the big the SUV feel and design. The functionality and other in-car operations are similar in both cars, however, you might like the pictoral colour display on the Karoq a bit more compared to the slightly more conventional infotainment system screen on the T-Roc.
The functionality and other in-car operations are similar in both cars
Similarly, the layout of the instrument cluster is more dynamic, while the T-Roc gets a varied display options so you can change the look of the instrument cluster display. The space inside the T-Roc is certainly more constrained by comparison. The seating angles are pretty much the same, but the Karoq gets a more premium feeling upholstery and better bolstered seats. Both get adjustable headrests and 3-point seatbelts for all 5 passengers though.
In additon to those seatbelts, both cars do well on safety. The Karoq gets 9 airbags, while the T-Roc gets 6 – as standard. Both offer a rear parking camera but oddly, neither of them come with dynamic guidelines. The T-Roc however also comes with hotkeys for SOS, and road-side assistance. The Karoq also gets an electrically adjustable driver seat and fatigue alert.
At almost ₹ 25 lakh the Skoda Karoq is about ₹ 5 lakh more expensive than the VW T-Roc; and that's not a small amount. However the Karoq is bigger, it offers more cabin space, and more premium creature comforts compared to its German cousin. It would have been smarter for Skoda to go more aggressive on pricing. But given the limited allocation of units to India, the Karoq and T-Roc too for that matter – are currently sold out. Another batch of each car is expected though at the start of the new year.
The Skoda Karoq is about ₹ 5 lakh more expensive than the VW T-Roc
So if you want a big premium SUV, with most of the latest bells and whistles, and powerful turbo-petrol engine, then the Karoq is worth considering. However, if you do not mind missing out on a few creature comforts, and are looking for a premium SUV with a car-like driving ease – and at around the ₹ 20 lakh price point, the T-Roc would be a wiser choice.