Baby SUVs are booming - on sales charts and in showrooms.
Skoda's new Kamiq has joined the fray, riding on the same platform as Volkswagen's Polo hatch and its T-Cross compact SUV sibling. The new Kamiq is the smallest SUV in the Skoda family, sitting beneath the mid-sized Karoq and seven-seat Kodiaq.
It's a replacement of sorts for the discontinued Yeti, but more in size than spirit, as the Kamiq is a conservatively styled machine with little of the Yeti's oddball charm. That's a shame, as the commercial success of Nissan's Juke and the Toyota C-HR suggest small SUVs don't need to be boring to sell well.
It may look plain but it's always fun to go hunting for Skoda's "simply clever" inclusions. There's a parking ticket holder on the windscreen, an ice scraper in the fuel flap, an umbrella tucked into driver's door and a detachable torch in the boot. European buyers can get a foldable scooter in the spare wheel well, though Aussie models come with a space-saver spare instead.
Local examples also benefit from a powered tailgate, inductive smartphone charging, a digital dashboard and four USB outlets as standard. That's a good level of kit for a compact SUV priced from $27,990 drive-away in six-speed manual form, or $29,990 drive-away with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission powering the front wheels.
A five-star safety rating is made possible by seven airbags and standard features including front and rear auto emergency braking, lane keeping assistance and active cruise control.
Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a self-parking system join heated front and rear leather seats with electric driver's adjustment in a $4100 driver support pack.
An 8-inch touchscreen brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera and climate control as standard. Satnav features in a tech pack offering a 9.2-inch display, beefed-up stereo, wireless Apple CarPlay, LED headlights and other niceties for $3800.
Power comes from a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine that uses 5.0L/100km of premium fuel to make 85kW and 200Nm peaks. Drivers who want more gear and grunt can plump for 1.5-litre four-cylinder "Monte Carlo" or "Limited Edition" variants that use 5.6L/100km to produce 110KW and 250Nm, both available for $36,990 drive-away.
Both bring plenty of extra equipment, with the Monte Carlo geared toward sporty types and the LE aimed at those with a taste for luxury. All variants are backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. A five-year maintenance pack costs $1400, which represents $800 in savings compared to pay-as-you-go servicing.
We tested the Kamiq in entry-level 85 TSI auto form. It has a high driving position compared with regular hatchbacks such as its Polo cousin. As is the norm for Skoda, the extra gear is offset by slightly cheaper cabin materials along with more storage than you might find in an equivalent Volkswagen.
The back seat offers surprising generous leg and headroom, though the sliding bench of VW's T-Cross is missing. And your first port of call leaving the dealership will be to buy adaptors for USB-C power outlets that aren't as "universal" as their name suggests.
But you'll enjoy the drive, as the Skoda is a thoroughly well-sorted machine. The latest iteration of VW's three-cylinder engine brings decent acceleration, impressive fuel economy and a charming off-beat warble. The dual-clutch auto hesitates moving away from rest, but does an otherwise impressive job of working in the background to keep the motor in its sweet spot.
The Kamiq's grown-up looks translate to a mature, refined driving experience.
While ride comfort is a little firmer than the VW group's hatchbacks, it pays off in impressive composure when cornering. As with the T-Roc and T-Cross, the new Kamiq offers one of the better drives in its class, though it isn't as sporty as Ford's surprisingly athletic Puma.
Spacious, clever and well-appointed, the Skoda Kamiq is a worthy - if somewhat anonymous - addition to the baby SUV brigade.