Skoda Karoq Review: Hard To Fault, But Tricky To Love

Skoda has replaced the much-loved Yeti with the larger, less quirky Karoq. But is it any good?

The Skoda Yeti is one of those cars that’s impossible to hate. There’s something refreshingly honest and unassuming about the way it carries itself. From the Yeti’s quirky styling to its utilitarian nature, there’s a lot to love about the thing.

But the modern car buyer doesn’t want a utilitarian work horse. He or she wants premium. And preferably packaged up as a mid-sized crossover.

Hence, the car that replaces the Yeti isn’t a direct replacement at all. It’s called the Karoq, and is best thought of as the Kodiaq’s little brother, or a cousin for the also-MQB-based VW Tiguan and Seat Ateca. In fact, it looks hilariously similar to the Ateca in the side profile - surely a little more distinction between the two wouldn’t have been that difficult? On the whole, it’s an exercise in massively conservative styling.

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Thankfully, the Seat-iness falls away when you climb in. The cabin’s immediately recognisable if you’ve been in any recent Skoda, plus it looks and feels nicer than the Ateca’s (note to self: stop mentioning Ateca). Extra points should be awarded for the rather lovely, textured fabric seats, which I’d genuinely have over the optional leather chairs.

On the move, the first thing that hits you is just how smooth the ride is - the Ateca (oops) feels surprisingly brittle over rougher surfaces, but there are no such issues here. Even on the less-than-perfect roads of our test route in Sicily - where the road surface randomly breaks apart every now and then - it wasn’t rough or jarring once.

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The steering’s about the right speed for a car like this, but offers pretty much no feedback. But you already knew that. Curiously, there is a Sport mode, although it seems to do little more than make the steering slightly heavier.

It will roll and understeer when pushed, but not excessively. It’s competent yet exciting, but in the absence of a vRS model (which may actually happen at some point), that’s to be expected.

There is a 2.0-litre turbodiesel available with 148bhp, but it’s a surprisingly clattery thing, much as the Karoq’s sound proofing tries to smother the din. The one you want is the 1.5-litre, also 148bhp ‘TSI Evo’. It lacks vim in something like Seat’s semi-sporty Ibiza FR, but in the Karoq, its smooth, eerily quiet modus operandi is a perfect fit.

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It’s more than quick enough too, getting you from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds if you opt for the six-speed manual. And on the subject of the manual, it’s the usual MQB ‘box used in many a VAG product, meaning it’s slick and satisfying to use.

Those aforementioned seats compliment the silky smooth ride by being nicely comfortable, and you’re certainly not wanting for space. Planning a hardcore Ikea session? The Varioflex seats are on your side.

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Fitted as standard on SE L-trimmed Karoqs, they see the rear bench split into three separate units that fold in myriad directions and can even be taken out entirely to give 1810 litres of boot space. Just don’t publicise that to your mates, unless you want to be roped into every house move that occurs in your friendship circle over the next few years.

Add in the usual practical Skoda touches like an ice scraper neatly hidden behind the fuel filler cap and boot netting, and you have a car that makes all the boring bits of life that bit more bearable.

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If you want a break from said boring bits of life, the Karoq does have some limited off-road ability for you to play with, which we did exploit on a reasonably rough set of tracks. Ground clearance is decent, and there are four-wheel drive versions available with an ‘off-road mode’. You can even spec a ‘Rough-Road’ option with underbody protection and various plastic covers to stop important things from getting slashed to bits or covered in mud.

There’s really not much to call the Karoq out on - it does everything well, and for anyone who really must buy a crossover rather than a conventional hatchback, it’s a thoroughly competent model that can be recommended, safe in the knowledge you’re saving the world from being further spammed by the Nissan Qashqai’s tedious ubiquity.

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But it’s not a car you’re likely going to pine for. It’s not endearing like the old Yeti. It’s not something different like the Yeti, just Skoda’s - admittedly better thought-out - version of two existing cars from the same group of companies in an absurdly crowded corner of the market. The bigger Kodiaq up until recently had no other equivalent elsewhere in VAG, and wins you over by being a big ol’ dependable family bus.

Karoq equipment levels are healthy, and it’s a well-priced car with the range going from £20,875 to £31,690. But don’t expect this car to represent anything more than a ‘head’ kinda choice, rather than heart.