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Will this Yeti replacement shake-up the market?

PROS

  • Comfortable ride quality
  • Practical and flexible cabin
  • Efficient enging range

CONS

  • Not as distinctive as the Yeti

Verdict

Skoda is replacing its practical, Tonka Truck-styled Yeti SUV with the considerably more svelte Karoq, featuring shrunken looks from the firm’s larger Kodiaq model.

With a shared focus on both function and form, this new car should compete more directly with family crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage – big business in the UK.

It’s an area of massive growth too; projected figures show 10.3 million SUVs are expected to be sold by 2024, a 430% increase over 2010. Now’s a good time for a new crossover, then.

What’s with the name?

Skoda decided the new car needed a new name, and in the case of the Karoq, the Czech brand also wanted to establish a closer link to the larger Kodiaq. That meant the name had to start with a K and end with a Q.

Kodiak Island in Alaska was the source of the new badge – where the population refers to a car as a ‘kaa’rak’, while an arrow (like the one on the Skoda badge) is called a ‘roq’. And so, Karoq was born.

Regardless of etymology, the new car will need to stand apart from the Yeti because for a brief time the two will be sold alongside each other - production of the older model will stop when the new car starts – but you’ll be able to buy both in later this year, while dealers still have Yeti models left well into 2018.

Did the Yeti need replacing?

There’s no denying the Yeti, introduced in 2009 and facelifted in 2013, was an enormously successful car for Skoda – on average 100,000 models were sold annually and in the UK 2016 was its best year to date.

The problem was it was built on an old platform - the latest Volkswagen Group SUVs such as the Tiguan and SEAT Ateca are based on the Golf’s underpinnings, meaning better handling, more interior space and access to high-tech driver assistance systems.

Now Skoda has produced its own version on these underpinnings, and in terms of size it sits in between the smaller, sportier Spanish car and larger, premium German – offering a more pragmatic proposition synonymous with the brand.

The theory is that it won’t steal sales from those models; there’s little cannibalisation between the Superb and Passat for example, so the Skoda will instead be looking to convert buyers in the market for a practical family SUV from South Korean or Japanese manufacturers.

What’s new?

To distinguish this from the SEAT Ateca, the Karoq will resemble the larger Kodiaq up front, with a chrome windowline on the side and the brand’s trademark C-shaped rear lights at the rear.

In terms of shape the Karoq is longer than the Yeti with a lower roofline and extended wheelbase – you get more interior space, better aerodynamics and a bigger boot.

Up-to-date technology includes LED front and rear lights, 13 new safety systems and Skoda’s first digital instrument binnacle. This has four different display modes with more or less space given to the speedometer and information screen, which can feature sat-nav maps and media information, for example.

For added glamour there is jazzy new ambient lighting on offer, plus multimedia displays up to 9.2-inches in size, featuring VW’s new tile-based operating system and gesture control.

With four infotainment systems available, the most basic Swing system comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, two USB slots and four speakers. The Bolero has an 8.0-inch screen, Bluetooth, Skoda’s SmartLink+ mobile connectivity and eight speakers.

The Amundsen system builds on the Bolero system with the addition of sat-nav, live traffic updates and an in-built Wi-Fi hotspot. The range-topping Columbus system features the largest 9.2-inch touchscreen, featuring gesture control and a 64GB-flash drive space to store music.

Other optional tech includes blind-spot monitoring, park assist, lane-assist, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control that functions at speeds up to 130mph.

Skoda’s optional Care Connect service means you can remotely access the car from the Connect app on your smartphone to check on the car’s status, including fuel levels, whether it’s locked or if the windows are open. The Emergency Call button will provide assistance for emergencies or breakdowns.

You can also programme a range of settings for each key and tailor various settings for up to three drivers - including the driver’s seating position and air conditioning settings.

What’s it like to drive?

Somewhat predictably, it’s neatly positioned between the sporty Ateca and the refined Tiguan. It’s softer and more comfortable than the stiff Spanish car so you get a bit more body-roll and less agility. As a result it’s a more relaxing thing to drive, something that’ll please your passengers.

Like the Ateca the Karoq features a different suspension set up for front- and all-wheel drive cars. The latter is more sophisticated and better, frankly, in terms of both ride comfort and road noise.

Helping to configure the car for its desired use are five driving modes that alter the throttle response and gearshift - adaptive suspension is available for the more powerful engines but we didn’t get to test this.

Is it still practical?

In some senses even more so - the boot is bigger by 105-litres, totalling 521-litres of space with the seats up and 1,630 litres with them folded. The loading lip is lower too.

There’s a VarioFlex rear seating system featuring three individual seats which can move forwards and backwards by up to 150mm, varying the boot space between 479 and 588 litres.

All three seats come out too, meaning 1,810 litres of room, or there’s the option to stash the middle seat away and push the two outers into the middle of the car.

Heated rear seats are available (even with VarioFlex) and you get a pair of aeroplane-style tray tables with cupholders (the only part of the interior borrowed from the Tiguan).

Being a Skoda there are also some ‘Simply Clever’ additions - the doors cover the sills so you don’t get muddy legs when exiting, there are puddle lamps and a separate light unit in the door that beams a Skoda logo onto the pavement, and the front seats feature little pockets on the sides to stash things in.

Those familiar with Skoda will still find trademark features such as the torch in the boot, ice scraper and hidden umbrella.

What engines can you get?

We got early access to camouflaged pre-production cars in a quiet corner of Estonia to find out, experiencing a variety of road – and weather – conditions to thoroughly test these early Karoqs.

The Karoq will feature four engines, two diesel and two petrol, with five power outputs ranging from 115hp to 190hp. All but the three-cylinder 1.0-litre TSI have four cylinders, and the 1.5-litre TSI features clever tech which means it can shut down half its cylinders when not needed to save fuel.

All are turbocharged and can be had with a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, except the 2.0-litre TDI with 190hp. This is all-wheel drive and auto only – other cars featuring 4x4 as an option include the 1.5-litre petrol and 150hp 2.0-litre diesel engines.

Engine figures at a glance:

  • TSI –115hp, 175Nm of torque, top speed of 116mph, 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds, 53.3mpg, 123g/km of CO2*
  • 1.5 TSI –150hp, 250Nm of torque, top speed of 127mph, 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds, 55.4mpg, 119g/km of CO2*
  • 1.6 TDI – 115hp, 250Nm of torque, top speed of 117mph, 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds, 62.8mpg, 118g/km of CO2*
  • TDI – 150hp, 340Nm of torque, top speed of 129mph, 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds, 62.4mpg, 115g/km of CO2*
  • TDI – 190hp, 400Nm of torque, top speed of 131mph, 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, 53.3mpg, 138g/km of CO2

*Front-wheel drive and six-speed manual models

Having driven the 1.5-litre TSI 150 and the 2.0-litre TDI 150, both with automatic gearboxes, at times it was hard to pick them apart.

The latter is the projected big seller but they felt broadly similar in terms of power delivery, with a strong mid-range pull that meant readily available acceleration without the necessity of a gear change.

Whichever you pick, it’ll be quiet on the move - the petrol is predictably hushed and there’s not much to give it away when two-cylinder mode is active. The diesel doesn’t sound like one unless it’s really pushed, offering very little clatter at low speed.

When can I buy one?

With production starting in July, orders for the Karoq open in the autumn of 2017 with deliveries expected soon after.

Skoda reckons the price should be broadly similar to the outgoing Yeti, and there’s no reason to doubt this – the new Superb and facelifted Octavia models were actually cheaper than their predecessors.

We’ll be among the first to drive the production-ready car so check back with Parkers for a full Skoda Karoq SUV review.

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