CarAdvice 2021 KAMIQ 85TSI Review

December 31, 1

The Skoda Kamiq joins the Czech brand's line-up of SUVs and crossovers as the smallest member of the family.

When ancient Greek fabulist Aesop first said “good things come in small packages” sometime in the sixth century BC, he probably wasn’t thinking about the 2021 Skoda Kamiq. But his famed and fabled words ring true when regarding the latest – and smallest – addition to Skoda’s line-up of crossovers and SUVs.

It’s four years since Skoda debuted the Kodiaq, a medium SUV with seven seats. That was followed in 2017 by the smaller Skoda Karoq.

Now, the incumbents are joined by the compact Kamiq, a high-riding crossover playing in a segment where buyers have plenty of choice. Needs to be pretty compelling, then.

The Kamiq name continues Skoda’s tradition of taking inspiration from the indigenous people of Alaska and the northern reaches of Canada, the word ‘kamiq’ originating from the Inuit language meaning 'something that fits perfectly'.

And that’s certainly true of this urban-focussed crossover, small enough to not dwarf city environs yet large enough to still offer plenty of space and comfort. Skoda has been masterful at packaging in the past, and as we shall see, the interior designers at Skoda’s Prague studio have been able to work their magic again.

Australia will get a line-up of three Kamiqs. The entry-level Kamiq 85TSI kicks off the range and is powered by a charming little 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol with outputs of 85kW and 200Nm. It’s available with either a six-speed manual gearbox ($27,990 drive-away) or a seven-speed dual-clutch auto ($29,990 drive-away).

The more powerful Kamiq Monte Carlo ($36,990 drive-away) scores a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol making 110kW and 250Nm mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. No manual option for the Monte.

Nor is there a manual option for the Kamiq Limited Edition ($36,990 drive-away), which features the same seven-speed dual-clutch auto as the Monte Carlo married to the same 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol making the same 110kW and 250Nm.

Even the entry-level Kamiq is resplendent with standard equipment: 18-inch alloy wheels, LED tail-lights with animated turn signals, privacy window tint, automatic tailgate, double-sided luggage compartment mat, and a set of carpet mats.

In terms of safety equipment, there’s a full suite of seven airbags, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, fatigue detection, rear parking camera with sensors, hill-hold assist, as well as traction control, stability control, anti-lock brakes, and electronic brake-force distribution.

Inside, the 85TSI is clothed in cloth trim. It’s an interesting mix of materials providing an urban edge to the interior. There’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, a digital instrument cluster, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and heated side mirrors.

If you want a more upmarket look and feel to the inside of your 85TSI Kamiq, you’ll need to option the Driver Support Pack that, for $4100, adds synthetic leather and suede seating, heated seats front and rear, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and parking assist.

If technology is your bag, you’ll want to tick the $3800 Tech Pack box that brings a 9.2-inch infotainment screen with voice control, an upgraded sound system, satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay (wireless Android Auto capability to come by the end of the year, according to Skoda), LED headlights with cornering ability, and animated front turn signals.

Stepping into the Monte Carlo adds black 18-inch alloys, black exterior trims and badging, a panoramic roof, sports seats finished in synthetic leather and suede, sports pedals, LED headlights with cornering ability, fog lights, animated front turn signals, Drive Mode Select, and lowered sports suspension (by 15mm).

The Monte Carlo's optional Travel Pack costs $4300 and adds a 9.2-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation, a beefier sound system, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, heated front and rear seats, blind-spot monitoring, and park assist.

The Limited Edition 110TSI scores body-coloured exterior highlights, a different design of 18-inch alloys, the synthetic leather and suede seat trim, front and rear heated seats, an electric driver's seat, a 9.2-inch infotainment screen with voice control and satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay, and park assist with front and rear parking sensors.

The Kamiq Monte Carlo and Kamiq Limited Edition sound good on paper, but we’ll have to wait until they cycle through the CarAdvice garage, as Skoda launched its latest addition to the Simply Clever stable with the entry-level Kamiq 85TSI only.

There’s no disguising the Kamiq as anything other than a Skoda. And that’s no bad thing, as Skoda has long offered resolved packages that are proportionally pleasing to the eye. There’s also no disguising it’s from the same family as the Kodiaq and Karoq; a set of Babushka dolls in the shape of a Czech-designed SUV.

Inside, the Kamiq presents an urban edge, starting with the cloth seat trim that is both textural and funky. The seats are comfortable, while the glasshouse provides a commanding view of the road. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels nice and chunky in hand and perfectly frames the digital driver display. It’s not as multi-faceted as similar systems found in the wider VW-Audi family – think of it as Virtual Cockpit Lite.

The 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen standard in the 85TSI is crisp and sharp, although in this trim is a bit light on functionality. There’s no DAB+ radio (only AM/FM) and no sat-nav, which means you’ll be relying on smartphone mirroring for route guidance, provided you have a USB-C connection. All told, there are four USB connections in the car, all of them the more contemporary USB-C type. Good news for future compatibility, but potentially in need of an adaptor during this changeover phase.

In terms of storage, there are a pair of cupholders and a smallish central storage bin with a padded lid; a cosy place to rest your arm. The Kamiq makes up for the smallish bin with cavernous door pockets that include bottle holders.

The second row is where the Kamiq starts to really surprise. I’m no giant, but my 173cm ideal driving position can still impinge on second-row space in plenty of cars I’ve reviewed over the years. Not so the Kamiq, where there is ample space in all key areas – toe, leg, knee and head. It’s long been a hallmark of Skoda interior packaging, so really, we shouldn’t be surprised.

The second-row seats are comfortable, while passengers have their own air vents (although no controls) and two USB-C connection points. There’s no fold-down armrest, though, thus no cupholders, but like the front the door pockets are cavernous and can hold bottles.

For those with little ones, there are ISOFIX anchors on the outboard seats and three top-tether points. The seats fold 60:40 to free up cargo space, which Skoda quotes at 1395L (measured to the roof). With the second row in use by people, there’s still a decent 400L. The boot itself is accessed via an electric tailgate, which isn't typical of the segment, and comes equipped with a cargo net and a double-sided floor mat. A full-size spare lives under the floor.

Hit the start button and there’s that familiar and delightful thrum of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine. There’s something delicious about a good three-banger, and this 1.0-litre unit is a cracker. Sure, there might only be 85kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (2000–3500rpm) sent to the front wheels, but there is plenty of zing from the compact crossover.

The Kamiq moves away briskly from standstill, although if you’re too firm with the accelerator, there’s the merest hint of turbo lag. It’s not bad by any stretch, but worth pointing out. Once the tacho hits 2000rpm, though, all 200Nm are in use and that gives the lightweight Kamiq (1211kg tare) some vim and vigour. Certainly around town, the Kamiq is happy zipping along at city speeds, with the occasional burst of acceleration for overtakes or merges completed effortlessly.

Cruising on the highway at 110km/h again highlights the willingness of that little three-cylinder to just gruffly purr along, the tacho sitting at 2000rpm as the Kamiq settles in for the long run. Overtakes are completed easily, too, with rapid and linear bursts of speed on hand when needed.

The Kamiq’s adaptive cruise control works well, maintaining the set speed with accuracy. However, a minor gripe is that the system only allows you to change your set speed via a stalk on the left side of the steering column, whether up or down, in 10km/h increments. If you want to drop a couple of kilometres under your set speed, you’ll have to get there the old-fashioned way by coasting down, then hitting the ‘set’ button at the moment you hit the speed you want. It’s an inexact art.

The seven-speed dual-clutch auto is fine for the most part, although it’s not the smoothest example of this type of transmission we’ve experienced. There’s no lag or lurching, but some of the changes can be a bit clunky, particularly down-changes. You can mitigate this somewhat by selecting Sport mode via the gear lever, which then lets the Kamiq’s three-cylinder engine rev out a little more.

The Kamiq’s idle stop/start system isn’t the smoothest either, the compact crossover displaying a propensity to judder at both shutdown and start-up. Switch it off is our tip and hang the extra expense at the bowser.

The steering does feel a little light, although with this not being a performance car (0–100km/h in 10 seconds), this is less of an issue. That light steering simply makes it nice and easy to manoeuvre around tight city streets while, thanks to the Kamiq’s diminutive dimension, parking is a cinch.

The Skoda Kamiq’s road manners are decent, the ride firm but without being jarring. Even Sydney’s crappiest roads are dispatched with composure, while speed bumps and similarly sized obstacles see the Kamiq settle down without agitation. The Kamiq’s suspension set-up strikes a nice balance between firm and compliant.

The cabin remains nice and quiet, too, the Kamiq isolating a decent amount of tyre roar and wind noise. A shame, then, the ambience is broken up by a combination of the indicators and the AM radio. With the radio set to AM, every time you use the indicator, the sound system emits a nice burst of static hiss, keeping perfect time with the ‘blink, blink, blink’ of the indicators. DAB+ would fix the issue and really should be standard in a vehicle asking for close to $30K.

Skoda claims the Kamiq 85TSI will use just 5.0L/100km of 95RON unleaded. Our extensive and varied test loop encompassing traffic, urban runs and long highway cruises returned 6.1L/100km from the 50L tank. Acceptable.

ANCAP awarded the Skoda Kamiq a five-star safety rating in 2019, with a 96 per cent score for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant, and 80 per cent for vulnerable road-user protection. It’s worth noting the 85TSI misses out on two key active-safety measures – blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert – both available as part of the optional Drive Support Pack.

Skoda supports the Kamiq with its five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty along with one year of roadside assistance. Service intervals are every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first, and Service Packs can be pre-purchased for either three ($800) or five years ($1400).

And the burning question asked of every Skoda: Where’s the umbrella? It’s in the driver’s door in its own compartment, which is designed to allow any residual water to drain away and maintain a dry interior.

At its core, the entry-level Skoda Kamiq is a decent compact crossover. It’s not quite the perfect fit as its Inuit-derived name suggests, but with a decent level of standard equipment and a perky little three-cylinder engine, the Kamiq does live up to Aesop’s famous quote that ‘good things come in small packages’.

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