Believe it or not, this is the new Skoda Karoq. I know, it looks exactly the same as last year’s model, but the one you’re looking at here represents the first time you’ve been able to buy the Skoda mid-sizer with all-wheel drive and with the bigger engine.
We liked the Karoq when it first launched as a sort of quirky but very practical alternative to the mainstream mid-sizers, even though it had just a single variant. So, aside from the aforementioned headline features, what does this top-shelf version add to the Karoq’s newly expanded range for 2020? And is it worth the jump in price?
I sampled the 140TSI Sportline at its Australian launch to find out.
With its more premium drivetrain and more high-end look inside and out, you’d think the top-spec Karoq Sportline would be a pricy SUV, but it turns out that’s not really the case at all.
With prices starting before-on-roads (MSRP) at $39,990, the Sportline strays well away from the budget end of town, while also getting nowhere near the circa $50k pricing of many top-spec rivals.
Our car also had every option box ticked (much to tester Richard Berry’s chagrin; he got the 110TSI), consisting of the Tech pack ($4100 – bigger screen with sat nav, park assist, premium audio, digital radio, wireless charging and three memory keys), the Travel Pack ($2600 – blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, adaptive chassis control, heated seats, traffic jam and emergency assist), as well as the most premium paint option (Velvet Red - $1100).
The 140TSI Sportline features 19-inch alloy wheelsThe 140TSI Sportline features 19-inch alloy wheels At a grand total of $47,790, then, the $7800 worth of options essentially create another, higher-spec, variant altogether, one which is much closer to those top-shelf rivals.
It’s worth noting thatthere’s simply no way to option the Sportline with more luxury-oriented features, like leather seat trim or a panoramic sunroof, which you can get on the lower-end 110TSI. Food for thought.
Standard equipment, however, is beyond good. The Sportline gets its own blacked-out-aesthetic trim, full LED adaptive front lighting, 19-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, the virtual cockpit digital dash (borrowed from elsewhere in the VW Group, and a feature that always oozes cool), interior LED ambient lighting, a leather D-shaped steering wheel, keyless entry and push-start ignition, dual-zone climate control, and an electric tailgate.
Standard equipment includes an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen.Standard equipment includes an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen. I really like the Sportline-specific bucket seats. They’re in this special, breathable plaid-pattern trim, so they look cool, and they’re comfortable, too. The only caveat being that there’s simply no way to get leather trim or powered seats on this almost $50,000 SUV.
On the plus side is the Skoda’s long list of neat practicality features, which we’ll explore later, as well as a fairly thorough safety suite.
Indeed, you can pay roughly the same amount to get a similar but slightly less practical set of features on the popular Mazda CX-5 (Akera AWD - $50,830), or potentially pay more to get less out of a Euro rival like the Peugeot 3008 (GT - $51,490). Size-wise, though, the Skoda competes more closely with the Renault Kadjar (Intens - $37,990) which, while a smidge cheaper, doesn’t reach this level of spec.
Pricing & Specs
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10 I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this thing just a VW Tiguan with a slightly different body? The answer is yes, but also no. You see, the Karoq is actually quite a bit smaller than its VW cousin, roughly 100mm has been chopped from the length and 50mm from the height, making it a bit more city friendly.
The Karoq is a quietly attractive car.The Karoq is a quietly attractive car. It also plants it in a kind of odd, segment-bending space alongside the Renault Kadjar and Nissan Qashqai.
Its design is perhaps a little less angular and cutting-edge than the Tiguan's, with a more traditional curved bonnet and slotted grille, compared to the VW's contemporary honeycomb and geometric patterns. The 140TSI Sportline has a more traditional curved bonnet.The 140TSI Sportline has a more traditional curved bonnet. The Karoq is a quietly attractive car.
It might not turn heads, but look a little closer and there are a bunch of nice details to be found. Like all Skodas, really.
Year-on-year tweaks have improved the rear three-quarter view significantly. While the original car didn’t get it wrong, I much prefer the Skoda text emblazoned across the back instead of the button badge. It’s somehow cleaner and more sophisticated.
Inside, things haven't changed much, but the Sportline brings those awesome seats in the front and rear. The interior design is symmetrical, and paired back. It lets things like the impressively sized screens stand out, with a distinct European panache delivered by little detail accents, like the chrome strips around the air vents, and carefully applied gloss and matte inserts.
The interior design is symmetrical, and paired back.The interior design is symmetrical, and paired back. It's an impressive effort overall, considering Skoda is positioned as more of a budget offering in Europe…
How practical is the space inside? 8/10
The Karoq is a practicality wizard, and that goes for this Sportline, too, but there are one or two important things missing that could ultimately sway you back towards the regular Karoq and its smaller engine.
Those sports seats, which are oh-so-aesthetic, extend to the second row, and don’t bring with them the ‘varioflex’ rail-based configurability that comes on the base car.
It’s a real shame, because if you’ve had rear seats on rails before, you’ll know how surprisingly often you’ll use them when moving around bulky objects. Also, it gave Richard something to gloat about in his 110TSI review…
Thankfully, the second row is set in what would normally be the furthest back position, so legroom is still great for an SUV this size, and despite it being 50mm shorter than a Tiguan, the headroom isn’t bad, either.
Front passengers are treated well in their big comfy seats, and score plenty of arm and legroom. The Karoq manages to feel bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.
Amenity-wise, you get a centre console with some variable-depth cupholders, some slots for cards and coins and a shallow but long centre-console box for loose items. Under the climate controls, there is a bay (in our case a wireless-charging one), a 12v power outlet and a USB 2.0 port. There are bins in the doors with an actual removable bin caddy on the driver’s side, which also have built-in cupholders. A neat and very Skoda touch, these are lined with an elastic rope you can use to prevent vessels and items from making their way across the cabin in the case of… enthusiastic driving.
Rear-seat passengers get smaller bottle holders in each door, pockets on the back of the front seats and dual cupholders in the drop-down armrest.
Extra features for rear passengers include the rare addition of heated seats, as well as directional air vents. Annoyingly, there are no USB ports back there, with a single 12V outlet being the only means for charging devices in the second row.
Boot space is great for the Karoq’s overall dimensions, at 521 litres (VDA), although this is notably smaller than its 110TSI sibling, which can slide the second row forward for a truly gigantic 588L space. In typical Skoda form, there are adjustable nets, hooks, and walled-off areas for securing objects and almost the entire space is useful, with plenty of room left after putting our largest (124L) CarsGuide travel case in there. Space can be expanded to a total of 1630L with the second row folded flat.
The Tech pack on our car also added the ‘virtual pedal’ gesture control for the electric tailgate, which seemed to have mixed success on our test (to be fair, most of these systems do).
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
Finally, you can now get the Karoq with a healthy dollop of power, thanks to the 140TSI drivetrain, which has been applied with great success to other VW group products, like the just-launched T-Roc.
On tap are 140kW and 320Nm from the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol and the peak torque is available from a wheel-scattering 1500rpm.
Rather than the base car’s eight-speed torque converter Aisin auto transmission, the 140TSI gets VW’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and drives all four wheels, via a variable all-wheel-drive system.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
The official numbers have the 140TSI consuming 6.9L/100km, although your mileage will vary quite a lot depending on how you drive it.
My brief launch drive required some of the aforementioned enthusiastic driving, and as such my first three days with the car had the computer returning a less-impressive (but perhaps not truly reflective) figure of 10.1L/100km. I have absolutely no doubt this number will be much lower by the end of my test week.
Helping the Karoq with its fuel usage is a selectable Eco mode, as well as a stop/start system, which, for some reason, is much less invasive with this drivetrain.
The Sportline has a 55-litre fuel tank (an extra 5L over the 110TSI for a theoretical 797km distance between fills) and requires mid-grade 95RON unleaded petrol.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
Technically, the 140TSI Sportline has not been tested by ANCAP, but Skoda assures us it should be eligible for the same maximum five-star rating that applies to the base car, given its identical safety suite.
On the active front this means auto emergency braking (works up to freeway speeds, detects pedestrians and cyclists) with forward-collision warning, reversing sensors and camera with rear auto braking, driver-attention alert, and adaptive cruise control.
Equipping the tech pack ($2600 – and worth it) adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keep assist.
Expected items include seven airbags, electronic stability, brake and traction controls and dual ISOFIX mounts for the rear seats, as well as three top-tether mounts. The Karoq also scores tyre-pressure monitoring, hill hold, and an anti-slip feature via the all-wheel-drive system for low-traction environments.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
Skoda offers a competitive five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty, on par with its sister brand VW, as well as its European, Korean, and Japanese rivals.
The brand has a ‘Guaranteed Future Value’ program on top, as well as three- or five-year pre-packaged capped-price-service programs, which can be bundled in with finance at the time of purchase.
Doing so seems to be the best option for your servicing needs, as the five-year program includes two free services for a total cost of $1400 (an absurdly cheap average of $280 a year – Skoda says this will save you $1052 off normal service pricing), while the three-year program includes a single free service and costs $800 (for a yearly cost of $266). These services include all fluids and filters, as well as software and map updates.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
The Sportline’s 140TSI drivetrain, all-wheel-drive system, and adaptive chassis control as tested, makes for one confident little SUV.
While the 2.0-litre turbo might not provide the hot-hatch levels of excitement it does in the smaller and lighter VW T-Cross, I’m willing to bet I had a lot more fun than Richard did in his 110TSI.
Launching off the mark is quick, but not unsettling, with the AWD doing its work to keep the wheels from spinning. It also does God’s work in the corners, keeping what would otherwise be understeer well in check. You can feel the extra forces at play from the Karoq’s weight, which makes its efforts all the more impressive in corners.
This latest high-torque combination also removes the most annoying traits of VW group drivetrains, like low-speed jerkiness from the dual-clutch auto, annoying start-stop shuddering (this car’s was more or less seamless), and occasionally fiddly gear changes at speed.
Selecting ‘Sport’ mode transforms the Karoq further, and does much more than just forcing the transmission to stick around in each gear for longer. It works with the adaptive suspension and steering to make for a genuinely firmer, more engaging experience.
A quick corner-carving drive through NSW’s Ku-Ring-Gai national park showed off the best traits of a DSG transmission, with lighting-fast shifts triggered manually through the paddle-shifters (which Richard’s 110TSI doesn’t get…).
The engine does sound a little odd, but I soon discovered this is because the Karoq actually features a microphone in the engine bay that plumbs engine noise into the cabin. I suppose the goal is to enhance the aural experience, particularly when driving with enthusiasm.
On the flip side, the Karoq is nice around town in Eco or Comfort modes, with the adaptive suspension undulating nicely over bumps and filtering out the nastier ones. If you ask me, the $2600 pack is looking well worth it.
Parking is a cinch with a nice, wide camera and sensors combined with decent visibility. The Karoq will always be an easier friend around town compared to its Tiguan cousin. A 100mm change in length goes a surprising distance when it comes to the ease of reverse parking. Ask yourself if you really need something larger before overlooking the Karoq.
The 140TSI Sportline finally brings a healthy dose of excitement and attitude to the Karoq range. If you’re going to pick this variant, we’d strongly recommend the travel pack to make the most out of its extra power and the available safety items.
Keep in mind, however, that choosing the Sportline brings with it some significant compromises in terms of practicality and customisation. You can have a far more flexible and luxurious car for the same price by optioning the lesser 110TSI version up instead, if you can live without the extra power.
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