Skoda unveils all-new Karoq

Skoda unveils all-new Karoq

SKODA unveiled its all-important, all-new Karoq mid-size SUV in Stockholm overnight, which will hand Volkswagen’s Czech brand its best chance yet of making its presence felt in one of the biggest-selling market segments in Australia.

Due on sale here early in the second quarter of next year – a little earlier than anticipated when official spy shots of the vehicle appeared a few weeks ago – the Karoq will supersede the small-medium Yeti in showrooms, stepping up as a bona fide mid-size SUV, and a vastly improved vehicle, in the same way that the closely related new Tiguan has done for Volkswagen.

Volkswagen Group Australia, which is responsible for Skoda, has confirmed that the Karoq will be launched in Australia with a 110TSI 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, with the choice of either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while a 110TDI 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is also anticipated.

A higher-output 140TDI variant is expected to bolster the range further down the track.

At this early stage, the Australian subsidiary has not produced full specifications but is committed to offering a high level of specification, including standard fitment of autonomous emergency braking with front assist.

Other features to be available on the Australian Karoq line-up include the Active Info digital instrument display – not currently available in local-spec Skodas but to be rolled out to other model lines once it arrives with Karoq – plus full LED lighting (including headlights, tail-lights and ambient interior lighting), a Drive Mode Select system (with ‘Snow’ mode on AWD variants), the individually adjustable and removable Varioflex rear seating system, and wheel sizes up to 19 inches.

The Czechs might look with disdain at the vendors selling Matryoshka dolls to tourists throughout Prague, bemoaning their lack of relevance to the country’s traditional arts and crafts, but there is no mistaking the Russian doll influence inherent in the Karoq’s design as it emerges as a shrunken version of the all-new Kodiaq seven-seat large SUV, which launches in Australia at the end of this month priced from $42,990.

Even Skoda Australia managing director Michael Irmer describes Karoq as “Kodiaq Junior” – a five-seat version of the bigger model and one which is “definitely not a replacement for the Yeti”.

“It is a new direction. Karoq’s chief commonality with Yeti is that it will roll down the same production line,” he said.

The company will have high expectations that the Karoq – which has a much bigger footprint than Yeti – will improve on the sales performance of its current compact crossover, which is only managing a paltry 20 units a month this year and accounts for just 5.2 per cent of Skoda’s overall sales.

Last year, Skoda sold 489 examples of the Yeti, down 42.8 per cent on 2015. Its best year was 2013, when it shifted 1129 Yetis, but the company has only managed 4870 sales of the small SUV in total since launch in October 2011.

The Karoq will find itself in a segment that draws lots of attention from Australian consumers but is incredibly competitive, with all the big-name brands competing with some excellent vehicles led by Mazda’s new-generation CX-5.

Other volume sellers include the Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Nissan X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander, Kia Sportage and, not least of all, VW’s Tiguan.

Karoq stands taller than CX-5 but is slightly smaller in other dimensions, measuring 4382mm long, 1793mm wide and 1691mm high. It is built on the same MQB platform as the Tiguan, but its wheelbase is a little shorter at 2638mm (in two-wheel-drive form) compared to the VW’s 2681mm. The AWD Karoq’s wheelbase is shorter again at 2630mm.

Despite these apparent shortcomings, Karoq nonetheless promises to have competitive cabin accommodation – the only measurement provided thus far is kneeroom of 69mm – and offers a luggage capacity of 521 litres with the rear seats in place, increasing to 1630L with them folded or 1810L when all three seats are removed.

In comparison, the CX-5 offers 442 litres with the rear seats upright, or 1342L with them folded down.

Compliant with the Euro 6 emissions standard, all powertrains available on Karoq are turbocharged, direct-injection units with automatic engine idle-stop and brake energy recovery systems.

As seen on the Tiguan, the 110TSI petrol that will be the volume-selling variant in Australia also has cylinder deactivation technology and, according to preliminary specifications, can return fuel economy as low as 5.1 litres per 100km on the European combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 118 grams per kilometre.

Producing 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque, the 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine enables the Karoq to accelerate from 0-100km/h in a claimed 8.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 204km/h.

These figures apply to front-drive variants with a six-speed manual gearbox; a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission will also be available, if not fitted standard.

The 110TDI, which is also found on Tiguan, can take fuel consumption down to 4.4L/100km and CO2 emissions to 115g/km.

The 2.0-litre diesel, which is likewise compatible with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG, produces 110kW and a muscular 340Nm, the latter available from 1750-3000rpm. It can reach 100km/h from standstill in a claimed 8.7s, on its way to a top speed of 196km/h.

Another engine that is available in Tiguan, the higher-output 140TDI 2.0-litre diesel on the agenda for Australia offers 140kW and 400Nm, combining only with the seven-speed DSG and AWD drivetrain and capable of reaching 100km/h in 7.8s. Top speed is listed as 211km/h, while economy and CO2 emissions come in at 5.3L/100km and 138g/km respectively.

Depending on the trim level, the Karoq’s Drive Mode Select system allows the driver to shift between Normal, Sport, Eco, Individual and, when AWD is specified, Snow and Off-road modes. The Dynamic Chassis Control system also has three modes – Comfort, Standard and Sport – that automatically adjusts damper settings based on the driver’s preference.

Safety and convenience technology will be a highlight of the package, with Karoq developed to include a range of driver-assist systems such as park assist, lane assist, traffic jam assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, front assist with city emergency brake and predictive pedestrian protection, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition.

The so-called SmartLink+ platform sees higher-tier Karoq variants compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink functionality, and, as previously reported, a wide variety of other modern conveniences were also developed such as wireless phone charging, internet connectivity and personalisation of various operating areas: assistance systems, indoor and outdoor lighting, climate control, seating, and so on.

Other notable features include a foot-operated electronic tailgate opening system (dubbed ‘virtual pedal’) and an electrically retractable towbar.

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