2018 Škoda Karoq 110TSI Review
In a nutshell: It is technically ŠKODA’s medium SUV entrant, but really The KAROQ 110TSI leverages all the advantages of its light, efficient front-wheel drive wagon-range siblings.
There is a big difference between needs and wants in life. Nobody needs a heavy, indulgent luxury SUV – but many people merely want them these days. On a less grand scale, families could just use a fuel- and space-efficient wagon, but alas even a mainstream SUV is a must.
Enter the ŠKODA KAROQ 110TSI, which is a sort-of adjudicator in the debate between wants and needs.
If (smaller) families were true to themselves, they’d actually just buy a ŠKODA FABIA wagon priced in automatic form from $21,490 plus on-road costs. Why? Because it gets a huge 505 litre boot that beats almost every medium SUV – including the 466L Kia Sportage, 488L Hyundai Tucson, and 442L Mazda CX-5 – for pram-swallowing space all for thousands less.
But alas the market dictates that people don’t want wagons, and so the KAROQ 110TSI auto costs $10,000 more but gets an even bigger 588L boot plus more power than the FABIA. Yet while this Skoda manages to look like the SUV people want, really it’s a wagon in drag…
What’s The Price And What Do You Get?
Priced from $32,290+ORC the KAROQ 110TSI already starts with a strong equipment base. As standard are 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, keyless auto-entry plus push-button start, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, vanity mirror lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, dual-zone climate control, plus an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
This is no impoverished base model, especially given that forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is included too.
ŠKODA also offers three option packages with which to mix-and-match, and all were fitted to our test car. The most compelling is the $3200 Tech Pack, adding an electric tailgate, front parking sensors, automatic reverse-parking assistance, a 9.2in screen, digital radio, integrated satellite navigation, wireless smartphone charging and 10-speaker Canton audio.
You could walk away with all you need in a brilliant mid-spec model for $35,490+ORC right there. But maybe you want the $3600 Premium Pack with full-LED adaptive headlights, perforated leather trim, front parking sensors and larger 18-inch alloy wheels. And maybe you want the $1700 Travel Pack with an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, a blind-spot monitor and active lane-keep assistance. All three total $40,790+ORC.
What’s The Interior And Practicality Like?
To understand the practicality of the KAROQ 110TSI, you first need to understand that this is not an all-wheel drive medium SUV that demands bulkier hardware under its boot floor. As with the FABIA wagon, it doesn’t even utilise less space-efficient (but more sophisticated) independent rear suspension (IRS) but rather a simple, low-mounted beam axle at the back.
What this means is this ŠKODA can offer the space of the aforementioned Sportage, Tucson and CX-5 within a substantially smaller body. At 4382mm long, we’re talking 93mm shorter than the Hyundai, 98mm shorter than the Kia, and 168mm shorter than the Mazda, although they are all similarly wide.
Unlike those rivals, or any in the class, the KAROQ uses three individually reclining and sliding rear seats that can each fold independently of each other or – with a quick tug of a lever – be removed from the vehicle altogether. So that already huge 588L boot can be expanded to 1605L with the seats down and 1810L with seats removed. Even the best of the above trio, the Tucson, can manage only a 1478L maximum.
This is the most practical cabin the class, it’s as simple as that. There is one caveat, however, and that’s in the rear seat. While the front seats feel airy and spacious, although the driver sits notably lower than in taller SUVs, there’s a lack of rear legroom even when each seat is moved right back. Here, the lack of body length is slightly exposed. On the upside, rear riders get air vents plus headrest-mounted twin tablet/smartphone holders as standard.
What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like?
The emphasis is on practicality over pampering passengers, for sure. The tactility of controls in this ŠKODA is generally decent, as is the soft-touch plastic dashboard, but there’s no premium pretense here. This is why the 110TSI probably feels better at sub-$40K, and also why adding that aforementioned Tech Pack can be used to affordably lift the ambience.
While the standard 8.0-inch touchscreen is reasonable, the 9.2in screen quite literally expands the amount of colour in an otherwise grey cabin, and having digital radio, nav and decent Canton audio further helps lift the feeling of being in a mid-grade not base-grade.
What’s The Performance Like?
Although it is technically a medium SUV – ahem, sure thing… – this wagon-esque, front-wheel drive 110TSI weighs just 1353kg, at least a hundred kilograms less than any rival.
Therefore, a ‘small’ 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine can quite rightly be used to achieve similar performance to heavier rivals.
Where most of the front-drive cohort claim at least 9.0 seconds from standstill to 100km/h, the SKODA puts its seven gears and 110kW of power plus 250Nm of torque to good use, achieving an 8.6sec time. Claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 5.8 litre per 100 kilometres also bests the others in the segment by at least a litre per 100 kays.
So Are There Any Downsides?
Well, the dual-clutch automatic Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) can stutter very lightly at low speeds, and at high revs the turbo-four can feel a bit strained and breathless. It feels nippy and energetic around town, but when overtaking on the open road it can be felt working really hard. We couldn’t drop below 6.5L/100km even on the freeway, despite a ‘combined’ claim of 5.8L/100km, yet around town it stayed in the ‘low 9’ bracket – which is very good.
What’s It Like On The Road?
As with its performance, this KAROQ feels right at home around town. The steering and handling feel agile, light and dainty, while the suspension soaks up bumps with aplomb.
Even on the open road, and through country corners, this model from the Czech Republic remains keen and eager, and nothing like a bloated SUV. However, beyond urban duties a couple of chinks can be exposed as a result of this medium model being a relative lightweight, using that simple torsion beam rear suspension and lacking all-wheel drive.
Road noise, surprisingly, is decently subdued despite the lack of mass that might indicate a lack of sound deadening. But when roads really get rough, where an all-wheel drive CX-5 steps up and encourages its driver to continue at brisk pace, this 110TSI can bounce around and eventually run out of suspension travel, signaling that slower progress is needed.
The point is, this SUV focuses on the simple values families use most of the time, rather than being engineered for the driver to exploit on a rare occasion beyond the suburbs.
Does It Have A Spare?
Yes, but only an 80km/h-limited temporary space-saver spare.
Can You Tow With It?
Yes, but only a maximum of 1500kg with a braked trailer. Bigger SUVs can tow 2000kg+.
What About Ownership?
ŠKODA offers a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which is standard these days. A capped-price servicing package costs $790 for three check-ups over three years or 45,000km, or $1650 for five dealership visits over five years or 75,000km, which is superb and cheaper than CX-5, Tucson and Sportage, among others.
What About Safety Features?
Seven airbags (including for the driver’s knee) combine with ABS, traction control and electronic stability control (ESC), plus forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. A blind-spot monitor and active lane-keep assistance are added in a $1700-optional Travel pack.