Skoda Karoq: Saving fuel in style
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According to those who distribute the vehicle, the state-of-the-art petrol powertrain of the new Skoda Karoq is so frugal that owners can look forward to substantial fuel cost savings.
But can the new 1.5 turbocharged four-cylinder engine really sip its preferred tipple of premium-octane at a similarly impressive rate to its 5.5litres/100km lab test result when plying New Zealand roads?
Time for a 538km road trip to find out. The chosen route is Orewa to Mount Maunganui and back, and given all the traffic and small towns about to be encountered upon the drive, not to mention crawling through Auckland traffic, it’s about as close to combined city/highway driving conditions as you can get.
Two big differences need highlighting: first, this fuel consumption measurement would take more than six hours rather than 20 minutes; second, yours truly would be at the wheel, not some well-programmed lab auto-bot.
Now, before the Karoq’s distributors worry about the somewhat legendary heaviness of my right foot, let me state that the new compact Skoda SUV is one of those rare vehicles that can supply brisk performance at lighter throttle inputs. That’s because the full 250Nm quota of driving force arrives at just 1500rpm, or just 300rpm above the idling engine speed of my Ducati motorcycle.
This near-instant access to grunt makes the Karoq a relaxing drive, and the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox processes that energy promptly with all the anonymous efficiency of a good movie projectionist.
Wide-open throttle would therefore only be required to shorten the intervals spent on the lethal side of the road while overtaking slower traffic.
At all other times, the $42,990 Karoq Style TSI would supply a satisfying amount of go-forward without the pedal meeting the metal.
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The cabin is also a nice place to spend a day in the saddle, especially when the Karoq is equipped with the “Varioflex” seating option ($1750) that adds leather upholstery and more versatile seat/luggage arrangements. This lava-blue example had the Varioflex seating packaged with leather-trimmed wheel and gear lever, and polished driving pedals with grippy rubber strips. Given all the other stuff you’ll find in a Style Karoq, it seems a no-brainer to tick the box next to the $2500 package that increases the versatility and comfort while adding a few touchy feely extras.
The Style specification does add just about everything else you could wish for in a Karoq except a heads-up display. The large touchscreen naturally occupies a position at the top of the dashboard, and the “Smartlink” software lives up to Skoda’s “simply clever” ethos by being pensioner’s play to use.
A heap of features can be found in the safety locker including blind spot monitors, lane-keeping assist, radar-enhanced cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, parking assist, and a high-end reversing camera. There’s also an autonomous emergency braking system that will deploy itself when travelling at urban speeds, although Skoda has talked it down by merely calling it “Front Assist”.
Once the Bombay Hills were breached, the Karoq’s “sport” setting was selected to firm up the steering assistance, the lane assist was given the day off (why not take a year off, instead?), and the clever cruise control locked into a 110km/h trajectory towards Tauranga.
A detour down Old Tauranga Rd to avoid Waihi gave an opportunity to explore the chassis performance of the Karoq in more detail. “Sport” mode does add a bit more resistance to driver input while still not requiring any great effort, but there’s little increase in road feel.
The Karoq’s suspension generally rides the bumps well, but on bigger road scars, the stiffness of the stabiliser bars add harshness. Still, those cross-Karoq reinforcements do a sterling job of containing body roll in the face of lateral-g cornering forces, and the Skoda stays commendably flat, keeping most of its treads in contact with the road surface. It’s a fine enough compromise when it comes to juggling the disparate disciplines of road-holding and ride comfort.
I returned to Orewa feeling relatively fresh after almost 540km of driving. Filling up showed the Skoda had used 40.1 litres of fuel over the distance. That equates to roughly 13.5km of travel for every litre used, or 7.4litres/100km.
Not the magic 5.5litres/100km you’ll find in the Karoq brochure, but still approximately a litre less than most petrol competitors (Sportage, RAV4, Qashqai etc.) use in combined city/highway lab tests.