Skoda Karoq: A small SUV with sense and sensibility
The Karoq distils Skoda's rational 'simply clever' approach in to a practical small SUV package, says William Scholes
HAVING abandoned the characterful Yeti nameplate, you may have noticed that Skoda has now settled on a strategy of giving its SUV models badges that start with a K and end with a Q, writes William Scholes.
Deciding what to call a new vehicle is a bit of a minefield for car-makers. A mix of letters and numbers can bring its own internal logic to a manufacturer's line-up - Audi epitomise this - but can sound a bit emotionless.
If you don't want your new model to share its name with a ream of paper or sound like it might be a computer chip or the latest Samsung smartphone, then you need to come up with a proper word.
This is fraught with difficulty. Cars are sold in many markets to customers who speak lots of languages.
You may remember that the Vauxhall Corsa was originally called the Nova. This would never have worked on that car's Opel-badged twin in Spain, where 'no va' means 'it doesn't go'.
Then there can be intellectual property issues. The Porsche 911 was meant to be the 901, until Peugeot kicked up a fuss.
Anyway, there's no danger of Skoda getting into bother with its trio of SUVs. These arrived in descending order of size, starting with the jumbo Kodiaq, followed by the family-size Karoq and, most recently, the smaller Kamiq.
These aren't just random letters sandwiched between a K and Q, however.
"The name Kamiq comes from the language of the Inuit people living in northern Canada and Greenland and means 'something that fits perfectly in every situation', like a second skin," explained Alain Favey, Skoda's sales and marketing boss, at the car's launch.
As we've detailed many times on these pages, SUV-style cars have rapidly boomed in popularity, to the extent that the bodystyle accounts for 40-plus per cent of all new cars registered in Europe.
An elevated driving position - one of the highlights of a car like this - gives a sense of space and safety, as well as making the Kamiq easier to get in and out of. There's substance to back up the Skoda's impression of space, too
The Volkswagen Group sell more of these things that just about anyone else. Skoda's small, medium, large arrangement of Kamiq, Karoq and Kodiaq mirrors Seat's Arona, Ateca and Tarraco and VW's own T-Cross, T-Roc and Tiguan.
That means the Kamiq has much in common with the Arona and T-Cross, though with more than enough Skoda-ness to keep those who buy into the brand's sensible and unpretentious 'simply clever' approach happy.
Something like a Renault Captur, Ford Puma or Peugeot 2008 might have more visual flair and seem generally more interesting, but plying a solid, straightforward path has not done Skoda any harm.
All of the SUV tropes that buyers demand these days are present and correct on the Kamiq. That means elevated ground clearance compared to a regular hatchback like Skoda's own Scala and the hint of ruggedness to its styling.
An elevated driving position - one of the highlights of a car like this - gives a sense of space and safety, as well as making the Skoda easier to get in and out of.
There's substance to back up the impression of space, too. It's genuinely roomy in here, for a car with the Kamiq's relatively diminutive footprint - it measures 4,241mm long, 1,793mm wide and 1,553mm tall, up to its roof rails.
Skoda claims class-leading rear headroom, elbow room and kneeroom. The boot's seats-up volume of 400 litres betters some hatchbacks from the next size segment up. Fold the 60/40 split back seat and that volume swells to a useful 1,395 litres.
The front passenger seat can be ordered with the ability to fold flat, which allows the Kamiq to carry objects measuring just over 2.4 metres long.
A bunch of storage options in the cabin further emphasise the Kamiq's practicality and versatility.
You can order the Kamiq with a diesel engine - a 1.6-litre unit with 113bhp - but one of the petrol options better suits the car.
There's a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with either 94bhp or 113bhp, which is a very pleasant engine.
Better yet, though, is the VW group's superb 1.5-litre engine, offered here with 148bhp.
The 94bhp car has a five-speed manual gearbox, while the more powerful models have a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed double-clutch automatic transmissions.
As is common with almost all of its competitors, the Kamiq - despite the allusions of rufty-tufty off-road ability - is resolutely front-wheel-drive and road-biased.
There's an easy-to-understand range of trim levels, climbing from S through SE and SEL to Monte Carlo.
The S comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps and tail lights, air conditioning, DAB radio and a 6-5-inch touchscreen. SE trim gains 17-inch alloys, body-coloured bumpers, an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen, rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and wireless Apple CarPlay.
The SEL gets bigger 18-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav and a 9.2-inch touchscreen, keyless engine start/stop, blind spot detection and plush 'microsuede' upholstery.
The Monte Carlo is the most visually striking Kamiq, with sporty trim such as gloss black detailing and badging, a panoramic glass roof and chunky 18-inch wheels.
Prices start at £18,295 for an S, with the SE model priced from £19,730, the SEL from £21,780 and the Monte Carlo from £23,905.
As is often the way, the mid-range SE and SEL represent the sweet spot for value for money and equipment.
The Kamiq is another finely-judged Skoda, solidly constructed, sensibly equipped and thoughtfully practical.
It might not be the most exciting small SUV on offer, but it's perhaps the most rational - a small SUV for the thinking man and woman.