Karoq Sportline Carsales Review

July 1, 2020
Karoq Sportline

The Skoda Karoq mid-size SUV line-up has been updated and expanded in Australia with the long-awaited introduction of the 140TSI Sportline. Two years in the making, the newcomer brings hot hatch levels of power and torque, all-wheel drive grip and sharper dynamics. But as with anything sporty, there is a price to pay.

Two-pronged attack

When the Skoda Karoq first landed on Australian shores in 2018, it read like the automotive equivalent of the Swiss army knife.

Practical, versatile, safe and efficient, the mid-size European SUV also won plaudits for its clever, removable seating layout and aggressive pricing. However, one thing missing from the outset was a competent dynamic variant. Until now.

The new Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline spices up the Czech car-maker’s mid-size SUV line-up, bringing more power and all-wheel drive grip.

It also ups the ante on street presence and standard equipment. Though like most things, those features come at a cost.

Upping the ante

The Skods Karoq 140TSI Sportline headlines Skoda’s updated mid-size SUV range for 2020, taking the number of variants on offer to two.

Pricing for the flagship is set at $39,990 (plus on-road costs) – a $7000 premium on the entry-level Karoq 110TSI ($32,990), which itself has had a light overhaul and is the recipient of a new eight-speed automatic gearbox for 2020.

All Karoq variants get as standard keyless entry/start, dual-zone climate control with rear air-vents, automatic headlights and wipers, and tinted windows.

Infotainment is facilitated by an 8.0-inch touch-screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the safety suite includes seven airbags, city-speed autonomous emergency braking, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, among other features, helping to achieve an official five-star ANCAP safety rating (in 2017).

The Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline justifies its $7000 premium with larger 19-inch wheels, full LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, sports seats, piano black decorative trims, ‘carbon’ door inserts, black headlining and pillars, stainless steel pedals and a Drive Mode Select function.

Aesthetically, the 140TSI differentiates itself from the 110TSI with specific front and rear bumpers – the latter with a lower diffuser – plus tinted windows, Sportline badging and a black finish for the grille frame, side mirrors and roof rails.

The flipside of its sub-$40K price tag is that many features are only available if you purchase additional options packages.

The $4100 Tech pack adds a 9.2-inch touch-screen with hardwired satellite navigation, automatic parking function, premium sound system, digital radio, wireless smartphone charging and a personalisation function with three keys.

The $2600 Travel pack brings adaptive dampers with dynamic steering, heated front and rear seats, and electronic driver aids including side assist blind spot detection, lane assist, traffic jam assist and emergency assist.

Fully loaded, our Velvet Red test vehicle sits in the carsales driveway at close to $50,000.

All Karoq models are backed by Skoda Australia’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and available with optional capped-price service packs spaced across 12-month/15,000km intervals.

A five-year/75,000km service pack sets buyers back $1400 if purchased up front, while a three-year/45,000 pack costs $800.

Skoda Australia also offers a guaranteed future value scheme, addressing concerns of poor resale down the track.

The Karoq 140TSI Sportline features a 1.9-tonne braked towing capacity and a space-saver spare tyre.

Excellent ergos

With the ‘SKODA’ moniker emblazoned on its tailgate, it’s natural to assume the Karoq is full of clever ergonomics and storage options. Thankfully, the Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline doesn’t disappoint.

Inside resides the same spacious and storage-laden five-seat layout, replete with nifty extras like an umbrella, bins in the door pockets, plus a flash light and more cargo nets than a fishing trawler. Simply clever, as the marketing boffins would say.

The Sportline’s positioning is likewise reflected inside with a dark styling treatment across the key contact and visual points – dark headlining, piano black highlights and splashes of ‘carbon’ doors inlays across both rows.

The front buckets are large, accommodating and figure-hugging, flanked by a strong selection of open cubbies and bins.

Quality materials adorn most face-level areas, matched by an excellent digital instrument cluster that offers clear and legible readouts and is easy to navigate. Ditto the centre screen.

One bone of contention is the omission of Skoda’s excellent Varioflex rear seats, owed in part to the Sportline’s sports seats.

Ordinarily, the Varioflex system offers tilt, tumble and removal options for all three rear pews, along with 150mm worth of front-rear adjustment. It means the Sportline’s boot swallows 479 litres of cargo instead of the maximum 588 litres of other Karoqs.

Rear air-vents and two ISOFIX attachments for the outer rear pews (there are top-tether anchorage points on all three rear bleachers) cement the Karoq’s amenity for little ones. One criticism is the high-set window line, which tends to obscure outward vision for smaller occupants.

Makings of a hot hatch

The Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline’s sharper visual cues are matched by what’s underneath its skin: the Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous EA888 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, which shuffles drive to all corners via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Volkswagen devotees will note the engine shares its origins with the Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch, among other models. In this application, it makes 140kW of power and 320Nm of torque – enough for Skoda to quote an unofficial 0-100km/h time of about seven seconds.

The Sportline also brings a petrol particulate filter, a relatively new technology for Australia. It means the Karoq 140TSI must be refilled using at least 95-octane premium unleaded fuel. Using sulphur-rich regular unleaded risks destroying the engine within a single tank.

The Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline’s all-wheel drive system is predominantly front-biased, though it will apportion all drive to the rears if front tyre slip is detected. The all-paw system is complemented by an electronic front differential, which essentially brakes the spinning front wheel to maintain traction.

Elsewhere, the Karoq rides on MacPherson front suspension and a multi-link rear-end. As we’ve mentioned previously, you can option adaptive dampers.

Sporty by name and nature

Too often in the new car landscape we’re presented with tarted-up sports models that fail to inspire. We’d argue that’s not the case with the Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline.

From the outset of pressing its starter button and ambling away from the kerb, it’s clear there is a tangibly sporty theme on show here.

Compared with the 110TSI, throttle response feels a bit sharper, variable-ratio gearing for the steering rack imbues the wheel with more precision and immediacy, and the ride has a firmer edge to it – especially on our model fitted with optional adaptive dampers and 19-inch wheels.

Even with said dampers in their softest setting, there’s no mistaking the sporty bent of the Karoq 140TSI Sportline on Australian roads. It jiggles over small amplitude imperfections and thuds over harsher obstacles.

These traits are more pronounced in Sport mode, and aren’t helped by ever-present road noise on coarse-chip bitumen. But faithful steering and admirable levels of body control ensure the Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline remains controlled through faster corners.

Ultimately, the high-riding stature and 1550kg kerb mass do limit its athleticism, with a tendency for vertical pitch and body roll through short, fast apexes, so for that reason this SUV won’t match the dynamics of a Skoda Octavia RS wagon.

Though it is all-wheel drive, the Karoq feels inherently front-driven, too. That said, the Karoq retains its nippy turning circle and offers excellent outward vision –augmented by clear displays and senses – helping minimise its 4.3-metre length.

The engine, too, does an admirable job of straddling comfort and performance duties. After a signature hesitation upon taking off – a virtue of turbo lag and the dual-clutch automatic going through its motions – power is both accessible and plentiful, with peak torque coming on song from just 1500rpm.

With its links to the Golf GTI, it’s little surprise to find the Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline will happily rev to its circa-6200rpm cut-out, at which point the rapid-fire gearbox quickly finds another cog.

The seven-speed auto allows the engine to settle into an excellent mid-range cadence, where performance is heightened and easily accessed.

By the same token, the gearbox will push for efficiency in the desired setting, de-coupling itself from the engine to provide a coasting mode during small throttle applications. For this reason, we easily managed to match or beat the claimed 6.9L/100km fuel claim on an extended journey.

The Karoq verdict

Subjectively speaking, the Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline looms as one of the Volkswagen Group brand’s more appealing SUV options in Australia and has the potential to attract a fresh wave of buyers.

It looks striking, yet it sings from the same song sheet as the rest of the range, thanks to excellent storage, considered ergonomics and redeeming comfort. The only real caveat is the sheer expense of optional extras; as evidenced by our test car, it’s not hard to balloon the $40K sticker price.

If anything, the Sportline’s more athletic premise may be too much for some buyers; in which case, the softer, less powerful, cheaper and slightly more vanilla 110TSI beckons.

Either way, the added choice is welcome and helps diversify the accomplished Skoda Karoq line-up.

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