Practical, unpretentious and minus personality

Does anyone remember the Skoda Yeti? Probably not. This quirky SUV is as rare and obscure as the mythical primate it was named after. So apart from a small tribe of loyal owners, smitten by its very distinctive and unusual character, the Yeti struggled to find customers. In fact, in the seven years it was on sale in India, Skoda managed to sell only 5,000 Yetis. To put that in perspective, the similarly priced Toyota Fortuner achieves the same sales figure every three months.

The Yeti’s problem was its oddball design. From the front it looked like a hatchback on stilts whilst the upright tail gate was a bit too van-like. It had a small cabin and an even smaller boot and quite frankly, for a typical SUV buyer it just wasn’t SUV enough. So when it was time to replace the Yeti, Skoda took a more conventional approach for its successor, the Karoq.

Practically perfect

The first impression of the Karoq is that it’s bigger in every dimension and more of a scaled-down Kodiaq than a grown-up Yeti. The Kodiaq is Skoda’s flagship SUV and the Karoq uses the same design cues of its elder sibling and that’s no bad thing. Similar to the Kodiaq are those slim, sharply cut headlights, a nicely sculpted body and chunky proportions. The tail light design, though, is unique and gives the Karoq lots of character. And don’t those ‘Crater’ alloy wheels look just stunning!

Practicality is what SUV owners will certainly want and the Karoq has tons of it. You get a large glovebox and lots of generous cubbyholes, which can swallow 1-litre bottles and other odd bits. The boot too is pretty huge and the way the seats flip and fold gives it a high level of versatility. Other clever bits include handy hooks in the boot area to tie down luggage, a sealed rubbish bin in the driver’s door pocket, rear facing tablet holders that clip on to the front head rests, a flip up tray for the rear passenger and oh yes, no Skoda is complete without an umbrella, which stows neatly under the rear seat.

Cabin fever

The upright seats are the highlight of the Karoq’s high quality cabin. Not only do they give you an elevated view of the road but have a well cushioned base and adjustable back rest to keep you comfortable for hours on the road. However, space inside the cabin isn’t in abundance and two six footers sitting one behind the other could face a shortage of knee room.

The Karoq doesn’t have the agility of the Yeti and doesn’t involve or engage the driver in the same special way. So keen drivers who enjoy twisty and challenging roads will be disappointed with the Karoq’s steering, which though light and accurate, is a bit numb and doesn’t give great feedback.

However, the Karoq redeems itself with its strong 2.0 TDI diesel, the same tried and tested engine that has powered a wide range of models, including the Kodiaq. The big difference here is that the Karoq is over 300kg lighter than the Kodiaq, which translates into even better performance. Once you get past the initial ‘turbo lag’ or sluggishness at low speeds, this TDI engine feels extremely responsive and there’s a nice swell of power that builds up, which makes the Karoq an effortless cruiser. This engine is a bit noisy at high revs so it’s best not to rev it hard and drive a notch down, where it feels most relaxed.

Price of performance

The Karoq won’t come to a showroom near you until early 2019 and it won’t be that cheap either. Packed to the roof with features and equipment, the Karoq could set you back upwards of 25 lakh rupees. The bigger issue is that Skoda has to get its house in order before then, especially its sales and service network, which has long been the bane of the Czech brand.

Still, this shouldn’t detract you from considering the Karoq, which is a very well rounded and capable SUV, even if it’s lost the Yeti’s personality along the way.

From HT Brunch, July 15, 2018

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