The Karoq marks a neat generational leap over the Yeti. For starters, it’s bigger, better equipped and looks far more stylish than its predecessor. The question is, can the Karoq turn the Czech automaker’s fortunes around? We sample an early prototype to see if it can be a game changer.
When Skoda announced that it’s going to pull the plug on the Yeti, there was a vague sense of bewilderment amongst us. After an eventful eight years – in global markets, if not India – it was time to bid goodbye to the Yeti. The replacement for the Yeti marks a radical transformation. And yet again, it’s changed its skin.
Named the Karoq, this upcoming SUV shares little with the Yeti. While the Yeti had a unique design, which distinguished it from its cousins, the Karoq definitely has a family look about it. As per Christian Strube, a member of Skoda’s board for technical development, its resemblance with other cars from the family is not a problem because “the Koreans are our real competitors.” Yes, there’s internal competition as well, but the Karoq has a raft of smart innovations that’ll help it stand out from the others in the pack. Skoda engineers claim the Karoq features more than 30 “simply clever” solutions. For instance, there’s a little umbrella beneath the passenger seat, a removable flashlight in the boot, an ice-scraper behind the fuel filler, and little tables behind the front seat along with backrests that recline and allow you to place your iPads or tablets on it.
The prototypes available for this first, and confidential, test drive were still camouflaged. They’re still awaiting their final validation. So, naturally, some bits were missing in the cabin – it didn’t have the new optional digital instrument cluster. Although we did catch a glimpse of it back in the workshop.
The top-end variant gets a 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It isn’t really a ground-breaking development, but it works flawlessly – the display is also pretty clear. There are four driving modes, and you can also adjust steering, engine, transmission and dampening for sharper response. The 2.0 TDI 4×4 versions add an extra off-road mode. And the off-road mode isn’t just for the sake of having it, the Karoq will be decent off the tarmac – it has a ground clearance of 183mm, the approach angle is 19.9 degrees, departure angle is 27.8 degrees and the ramp-over angle is 20.3 degrees.
We drove the Karoq prototype through roads that took us through a forest in north Estonia. Our journey was mostly riddled with unpaved roads, but had no traffic whatsoever – a perfect place to test this sort of a car without attracting attention.
Without any exaggeration, we have to say that the Karoq offers a smooth driving experience on all kinds of terrain. How does it compare to its predecessor? First up, this new Skoda is more comfortable, wider, quieter, and, overall, a better product. Actually, truth be told, we couldn’t really find any faults with the Karoq during our first experience. If Skoda manages to price it well, they will have a winner on their hands.
Any complaints? Maybe it’s lost a bit of its compactness – the Yeti was 4.22m long, which made it easy to drive within the confines of a city. The Karoq measures 160mm more at 4.38m. But, this also means that there’s now a place for a smaller SUV in the range. Rumour has it that there’ll be a new compact SUV that will sit below the Karoq. Expect it to be the same size as the Audi Q2, VW T-Roc and Seat Arona – around 4.2 metres that is.
There are no gripes with the Karoq, except for the dilemma we faced whilst choosing engines. There were two 148bhp powertrains that we tested – a 1.5 TSI (petrol) and 2.0 TDI (diesel) – two of the five engines offered within the range. It seems like there has been a role reversal between the engines. The turbo-petrol unit, featuring cylinder deactivation, is eager and responsive at low speeds, while the diesel is refined and silent.
We’re among the first ones to drive prototypes of the new Skoda Karoq. We tried both the two-wheel drive 1.5 TSI and the all-wheel drive 2.0 TDI, both generating 148bhp, and mated to a DSG automatic transmission. The bigger photo showcases the range-topping 187bhp 2.0 TDI 4×4 with DSG. The latest SUV from Skoda will go on sale in Europe by the end of 2017.
Among its main highlights is its boot capacity. In standard configuration, it ranges between 521 and 1,630 litres, while with the Varioflex option (in which case the back seats can slide, and are removable) its capacity varies between 479 and 588 litres, with a maximum space of 1,810 litres with the rear seats removed.
The pictures above show the new Skoda Karoq’s interiors in its top-of-the-line trim. It features an adjustable digital instrumental panel, which relies on a 10.25-inch TFT monitor. Meanwhile, at the top of the central console, sits a 9.2-inch touchscreen. Both are optional.
INUIT INSPIRATION KAROQ
The bonding between Skoda and Eskimos has become even stronger. After having named its new flagship SUV the Kodiaq – which apparently comes from the Kodiaq bear (originally from Kodiaq isle, where Kodiaq city is located) – Skoda has once again made use of Inuit vocabulary (Inuit are Eskimos from North America) for its mid-size SUV. Karoqis is the union of the words “kaa’raq” and “ruq,” which symbolises the way the indigenous tribe of Alutiiq named bows and arrows (remember Skoda’s logo?). We can bet that all other upcoming Czech SUVs will have names that start with a ‘K’ and end with a ‘Q,’ derived from an Inuit language expression. The Yeti, on the other hand, got its name from the abominable snowman from the Himalayas – a completely different part of the world.
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