Sunday drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: The Skoda Karoq is waiting to be whisked away
There are a bunch of cars waiting to be ‘unlocked,’ their launch plans scuppered by the Covid crisis and entire countries caged with strict lockdowns. So whilst these new cars are ready to hit the showrooms they have to just wait till the world starts rotating again. One such car is the Skoda Karoq, which I managed to drive in mid-March, just before the brakes were slammed on life as we know it.
The original plan was to launch the Skoda Karoq in mid-April, soon after its public unveiling at the Auto Expo earlier this year. The plan for now is to get it on the road sometime in mid-May if (and that’s a big if) lockdown restrictions are sufficiently relaxed. What’s for sure is that social distancing isn’t going away soon, so there won’t be a big-bang media launch in a five-star hotel, no scrum of photographers jostling to get a shot of the car as it emerges onto the stage from a smoke-filled backdrop and no photo ops with the top management.
The Karoq will be launched digitally and that means a message from the Skoda India brand head announcing the one thing everyone wants to know, which is the price. Our guess is that being an import, the Karoq is unlikely to be priced under ~24 lakh. So, is that a good deal for an SUV that’s significantly smaller than the pricier Skoda Kodiaq?
For starters it looks like a baby Kodiaq with all the design elements suitably scaled down. The large squared off wheel arches add the requisite muscle, the sharply-cut headlights and tail lights are typically Skoda. In fact, it’s the origami-like folds and creases in the bodywork that give the Karoq so much character and the glints of the sharply-cut lines give a nice interplay between light and shade.
Skoda’s marketing tag line of ‘Simply Clever’ is also what comes to mind when you look inside the boot of the Karoq. There’s stuff here you don’t find anywhere else, all of which is genuinely useful. There’s the magnet-equipped, rechargeable LED torch, there are Velcro-coated angled brackets you can fix on the boot floor to prevent luggage from flying around, and another nice touch are boot rails and sliding hooks, which help you secure luggage even more. Boot space, at 521 litres, is also plenty, and then there’s the fact that the rear seats can be folded if you need more space.
The seats themselves are nicely sculpted, if on the firm side, and the rear seat space is pretty good too for a car that is just 4.4 metres long. For the asking price, which is north of Rs 24 lakh, owners may expect more room especially when vehicles like the MG Hector and Tata Harrier are more spacious and cost less.
But the reason to buy the Karoq is the sheer quality it offers, which is leagues ahead of locally-built SUVs. All the materials have a premium feel. Skoda designers have added to the appeal of the cabin with a liberal dose of high-quality chrome.
All chilled out
And now to the driving. With a 150hp TSI petrol under the hood and a 7-speed twin-clutch automatic, the Karoq has enough torque. Flooring the accelerator pedal delivers a stronger shove and the
Karoq takes a swift 10 seconds to reach 100 kph. However, this engine doesn’t like being revved too hard and gets a bit boomy the harder you push it, so it’s best driven in a more relaxed manner.
The beefy suspension makes light work of bad roads without upsetting the passengers. It’s a really easy and stress-free SUV to drive with its combination of compact dimensions, a responsive engine and easy handling. What it misses is some key equipment like wireless charging and cooled seats, but if you are looking for a fun-to-drive, high quality SUV, the Karoq fits that bill perfectly.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
Sunday Drive appears every fortnight